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A CLOSE LOOK AT LOVE

November 6, 2011

A CLOSE LOOK AT LOVE

 

Luke 8:15

15But as for that in the good soil, these are the ones who, when they hear the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patient endurance.

 

Luke 10:25-28

25Just then a lawyer stood up to test Jesus. ‘Teacher,’ he said, ‘what must I do to inherit eternal life?’ 26He said to him, ‘What is written in the law? What do you read there?’ 27He answered, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.’ 28And he said to him, ‘You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live.’

 

          What would you think if I told you that we've lost touch with what religious faith is about? 

 

          What would you think if I told you that being people of faith isn't defined by the pew we occupy during worship, the church positions we hold, and the doctrinal arguments we make and oppose?

 

          What would you think if I said that many people in religious life appear out of touch with suffering and pain around us and the reasons for it?

 

          What would you think if I said that we appear more proud about looking religious than committed to God's loving purposes?

 

          Prepare yourself.  I'm about to tell you.  We've lost touch with what religious faith is about.  Being people of faith isn't defined by the pew people occupy during worship, the religious offices we hold or seek, and the doctrinal arguments we make and oppose.  We in religious life appear out of touch with suffering and pain round us and the reasons for it.  We appear more proud about looking religious than committed to God's loving purposes. 

 

          Jesus taught in the Parable of the Sower that pedestrian morality, superficial devotion, and misplaced trust in materialism and personal pride explain why people aren't doing fruitful living for God.  But people in whom divine grace and truth is planted, well-rooted, and lovingly cultivated will live as agents of divine love, joy, peace, kindness, gentleness, patience, generosity, faithfulness, and self-control (justice).  This is fruitful living for God.  This is what the Holy Spirit will produce in us.  This is the way Jesus showed us to live. 

 

          A religious scholar posed to Jesus at the outset of what we call the Parable of the Good Samaritan that is really a "what should I do and how should I do it" question about religious faith.  What is my role in being alive in God?  How do I go about being fruitful for God? 

 

          Jesus answered that fruitful living for God basically involves loving God, loving ourselves, and loving others.  You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself (Luke 10:27). 

 

          Love is the foundation for Godly faithLove is the first requirement, essential need, and constant demand of life.   Hal David and Burt Bacharach summarized the importance of love in their 1965 popular song, What the World Needs Now is Love, Sweet Love

 

What the world needs now is love, 
Sweet love
It's the only thing 
That there's just too little of
What the world needs now 
Is love, sweet love
No, not just for some,
But for everyone

Lord, we don't need another mountain
There are mountains and hillsides 
Enough to climb
There are oceans and rivers 
Enough to cross
Enough to last till the end of time

What the world needs now is love, 
Sweet love
It's the only thing that there's just 
Too little of
What the world needs now is love, 
Sweet love
No, not just for some, 
But for everyone 

Lord, we don't need another meadow
There are cornfields 
And wheat fields enough to grow
There are sunbeams and moonbeams 
Enough to shine
Oh, listen lord, 
If you want to know 

 

With all due respect, God doesn't need songwriters, poets, politicians, and preachers to tell God the world needs love.  God needs us to join God in the life of love. 

 

          Love demands conduct!  The Good Samaritan parable shows that divine love demands conduct that goes beyond religious rhetoric.   The thieves that robbed the traveler, beat him, and left him wounded, half-naked, and dying alongside the Jericho Road weren't loving.  The religious people who saw the man laying in the road but who refused to involve themselves to help him weren't loving.  

 

          The man needed hands-on conduct from the religious people and hands-off conduct from the thieves.  He needed a road that was safe to travel from the people responsible for building and maintaining roads.  He needed other travelers to care enough about him to get involved and invested in his situation.

 

          The love example Jesus taught in the Good Samaritan parable raises some challenging questions.

  • Do people who abuse and oppress others truly love God?  Did the thieves in the lesson love God when they robbed the traveler?  Did they love God when they beat him?  Did they love God when they abandoned him on the roadside? 
  • Do people who ignore suffering and vulnerable people truly love God?  Did the priest and other religious official conduct themselves as agents of divine love by intentionally distancing themselves from the beaten and robbed man who lay alongside the Jericho Road?
  • Do people who exploit suffering truly love God?  What if the Samaritan had charged the beaten and robbed man?  What if the Samaritan had insisted on the man having a health insurance plan?  What if the Samaritan had insisted that the man share his ethnic, social, political, religious, or other identity?

 

          Divine love always requires that we become involved and invested in what matters to God.  According to the Good Samaritan parable, how people treat each other matters to God. 

  • How travelers are treated matters to God.  So why are some religious people bypassing the plight of immigrants, refugees, and other displaced people?  Why are state and local government officials trying to make it a crime to be from another nation?  Why are religious people allowing them to get away with calling immigrants criminals?  Do we not know God well enough?  Or is it that we don't love God and others enough?
  • How sick and wounded people are treated matters to God.  So why are some religious people bypassing the need for people to have healthcare regardless to their social status and wealth?  Why are government officials more concerned about the bank accounts of insurance companies than sick and wounded people?  Do we not know God well enough?  Or is it that we don't love God and others enough?
  • How poor people are treated matters to God.  So why are some religious people bypassing the plight of unemployed, disabled, and other poor people in our communities?  Why are we so hung up on favoring the wealthy rather than caring for the needy?  Do we not know God well enough?  Or is it that we don't love God and others enough?
  • Peace matters to God.  So why are some religious people bypassing the glaring evidence of violence and cruelty in the world?  Why are we more interested in fighting wars than opposing them?  Why are we more willing to support building bombs and buying bullets than we are in working to resolve differences without killing people?  Do we not know God well enough?  Or is it that we don't love God and others enough? 

          When we look closely at love, it becomes clear that God expects people who call ourselves agents of divine love and truth to do more than walk around looking sanctimonious.  We haven't been called to merely look dignified on worship days. 

We've been called to a life of personal involvement and investment in obedience to the commandment to love God and love others. 

 

          So we have a divine duty to confront and respond to hurtful and hurting conditions and situations.  We have a holy calling to be healers, peace-makers, burden-bearers, and activists for love.  God calls us to invest ourselves, involve ourselves, and even sacrifice ourselves for others as agents of divine love. 

 

          Life in God means life in love.  Life for God means living for love.  In Jesus Christ, God shows that life with God means sharing God's passion and effort surrounding all that is un-loving, hurtful, and unjust in the world.  We've been called to love.  As children of God and followers of Jesus, we've been called to love.  This is how we've been called to live.

 

©Wendell Griffen, 2011