I was interested in the recent news stories about Diana Nyad, the woman who attempted to swim from Cuba to Florida. She was forced to give up the challenge about half way because of severe sunburn and multiple jelly fish … Continue reading
Proverbs 17:17a says “a friend loves at all times”. Well, that sounds easy enough and of course i do that. i love my friends even when they sometimes tic me off i still love them. We share life together, we laugh together, cry together, have meals together–now if that isn’t love what is?
1 Corinthians 8:1 says “love edifies” and 13″4 says “love is kind”. Yes, i know those verses. i encourage my friends whenever i can and i’m certainly always kind to everyone–well almost always–so i have this love thing down pretty well?
OK< so what about Matthew 5:44 which says “love your enemies”?
Yes i’ve read that but it doesn’t apply to me for i really don’t have any enemies. Of course there are people who hate those of certain groups and maybe there are some who hate a group i might be a part of like a race or political party or gender or religion etc. but these haters don’t know me and i don’t know them so i need not be concerned with that “love your enemies” thing.
What about that pesky neighbor who comes over frequently to borrow something and stays for hours telling you about the dysfunctional family in which she grew up and now finds her own family dysfunctional?
That’s different. She’s not an enemy. She’s just a pest and we don’t have anything in common. i wish she would move to some other state or better yet to some other country. Yes, i would like that. Some other country and i would be rid of……Oh, i see what you mean. How can i love an enemy if i cant even love a pesky neighbor. Ummmm. Maybe i don’t have this love thing down so good after all. i realize now that i love those i like but not those i dislike. So what can i do about it?
Love can be experienced. i’m not talking about romantic love–which seems to just happen when we meet someone with whom we connect–or familial love which occurs naturally in families, even in dysfunctional ones to some degree. i’m referring to agape love–the kind God has for us.
i can experience that kind of love? i think that would be a great thing. Tell me how.
i think their are three steps in the challenge of experiencing this kind of love. First we need to get to know ourselves. Now you might say you know yourself. You know what and who you like and dislike and that’s correct. But do you know why you get angry when things don’t go your way? Do you know why you feel resentment when a peer receives a promotion you thought you would get? Can you explain why you are unreasonably offended when you learn you were not invited to a party given by one of your neighbors? And what about that pesky neighbor? Could it be that in each of these cases you are thinking more about yourself than of other people? Perhaps there were reasonable explanations why you were passed over for promotion and not invited to the party but you took things as a personal offense.
Yes, now that you mention it there have been occasions like that when i’ve felt hurt and resentful and certainly unloving. I do need to look inside myself and see why i allow those things to affect me negatively. But these instances don’t have anything to do with enemies. How can i ever learn to love my enemy even if i had one?
This “love thing” as you put it encompasses those around you and those afar, those in your intimate circle and those you have casual contact with, those who are “loveable” and those who are cranky and obnoxious or just pesky neighbors. Even those you have never seen and will never see. This agape love must be all encompassing. It includes all mankind–the good and the bad, young and old, those who are white and those who are of color. Psalm 139: 23, 24 invites God to look into our hearts and minds and see if we have any hurtful (unloving) ways residing in us. Allowing God to search our innermost being is the beginning of knowing ourselves for He will make us aware of our shortcomings. When we see the flaws in ourselves–as well as the good–we can begin to love ourselves and not only that we can begin to see other people more clearly and begin to love them, too. That brings us to the second step in experiencing this agape love. Do you pay close attention to other people when they are speaking? Do you listen to their words, observe their facial expressions, notice their eyes? Or do you think about what you want to say when they finish speaking? We can learn much about others if we minimize ourselves and turn our total attention to them. Philippians 2:3b tells us to associate with others with humility of mind regarding others as more important than ourselves. This does not mean we are less important than the person with whom we are speaking. It means for this time, as we speak with another, that we put ourselves aside and devote ourselves to the other person. Christ emptied Himself as He ministered to His followers. We can make a conscious effort to do the same–to minimize self–when we are interacting with others.
The third, but most important thing, is we must remember what Christ did for us and think about the great love that drove Him to do it. We must picture Christ in the garden agonizing over the events that would soon take place in His life. We must imagine the indescribable pain He suffered as He hung upon the cross to take away the sins of all who believe in Him. We must hear the words He spoke as He suffered there, “Father, forgive them”. We must remember the stone that was rolled away and the Christ who lives today making intercession for sinful man. What a glorious Christ who willingly endured the cross and the tomb to make us who believe partakers of His divine nature and eternal life. How can we not experience all encompassing love when we truly understand how great a love He has for us.
Psalm 119:109 says “my life is continually in my hand”. This means we can live it anyway we choose. But the verse goes on to say, ” Yet I do not forget Thy law”. His law tells us to love God and to love our neighbor. Who is our neighbor? Everyone. Just imagine what peace would reign in the world if all of its inhabitants had agape love for each other. Yet i think God did not command us to love in order to make a peaceful world. Only He can bring that about. He commanded us to love knowing that our own personal peace can be achieved only when our hearts are filled with love. In “Daily Secrets of Christian Living”,Andrew Murray teaches that “the very nature of love is forgetting oneself for the sake of others”. That is Christ’s love for us.
Until next time.
Blessings and peace.
I open my eyes to a pre-dawn morning and sit up on the side of my bed. It is not unusual to awaken while darkness still rules but today is different. This day is my birthday. Actually, this is not my birthday. That happy event occurred more than a month ago but most of what i am about to relate did play out on that day. The aroma of fresh coffee (delay brew is welcome addition to the many conveniences we enjoy) calls me to the kitchen. I pour a full mug, add sweetner and creamer–a habit dating back to my childhood when my Daddy brought a morning cup of “coffee milk” to me in bed. This is one of the few happy memories i have of my Father–but that is for another time. Coffee in hand i head for the sun room and my favorite chair. By now in the east a pale glow is waiting to give way to the rising sun. My birthday. I’ve had others celebrated with family and friends, cake and candles, happy birthday songs, gifts and cards. So would this one be celebrated later today but now I feel the need to reflect on my like. And I’ve had a long one.
When i was born Calvin Coolidge was in his first full term as president; in the year of my birth Winnie-the-Pooh was published, Houdini, the great magician died, and a woman, Gertrude Ederle, swam the English Channel. The year after my birth Babe Ruth hit 60 home runs–a record that was unbroken for 34 years. In the decade of my birth Henry Ford used his new assembly line method of building cars and made the Model T affordable for many people. Jazz was the music of the day and the charleston, the shimmy and the fox trot replaced the waltz and tango on the dance floor. It truly was a decade aptly named the “Roaring 20′s” as old ways of living gave way to a freedom and prosperity not seen before. Women began to challenge traditional thinking about marriage and motherhood as many of them broadened their out look as more and more people enjoyed radio, movies and an expanding economy.
In 1927 many countries of the world signed a treaty promising to never again settle their differences through war like the one fought in the last decade so people believed there would be peace, After all World War I was called the war to end all war.
In 1929 the world became enveloped in what was to be called “The Great Depression”. People who had put everything they had into the stock market lost it all and the prosperity of the Roaring Twenties came to an end. Unemployment and poverty rose. I remember my Mother giving simple meals to men, who were called hobos, traveling around the country seeking work. There was no work in our town so they ate their sandwich gratefully and moved on.
The treaty of 1927 was broken less than a dozen years later when wars broke out in Asia and Europe. Our country was drawn into that war when our naval base in Pearl Harbor was bombed on Dec 7, 1941. i was 15 at the time and neither i, my friends nor my family even knew where Pearl Harbor was. All we knew was that our country was at war again. Soon after we entered the war, rationing of sugar, butter, and gasoline was imposed. These items were needed for our troops. Soon after that leather shoes were unavailable since all the leather went into the making of boots for our soldiers. But no one complained of any of this for we were willing to do what we could to help end this war. Our small town was shocked when we learned that one of our own young men was killed in a far away land. He was the only son of a prominent couple in our town. There were other casualties, too. How heart breaking for parents, wives, sisters, brothers and friends to lose loved ones in wars that are horrible and often senseless. i believe some wars are justified–most are not.
Since the end of that war there have been others: the Korean War, Vietnam War, Gulf War, wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and other less noted conflicts throughout the world. i once read that on any given day there is a war going on somewhere in the world. i suppose there will be conflict as long as men seek power over others.
So-o-o-o-o i have lived through wars, economic depressions and recessions, through the administrations of 15 presidents. i’ve seen the invention and spread of new things like radio, TV, cars, space ships, cell phones, computers, i-pads, smart phones etc. Through all of these years i have observed that in spite of his progress, or perhaps because of it, man has remained the same. From the highest to the lowest, the greatest to the least he is still jealous, greedy, resentful, self-absorbed, filled with pride, hatred, and desire for money and power. Underneath it all he longs for love and acceptance. Only some are secure enough within themselves to experience generosity of spirit, kindness, forgiveness, dignity, love and respect for mankind.There is only one thing that can change our hearts and enable us to live our lives in serenity, peace and love.
Well, my coffee is cold. My reflecting (and some PC research) has extended will beyond the rising of the sun. Another day on the remarkable journey of life has begun. i hope to see you next time. Until then, blessings and peace.