Love, Love, Love

love1 Corinthians 13

If I speak every language, whether human or divine, but don’t speak the language of love, it’s empty talk. If I can tell it like it really is, and I’ve solved life’s problems and really do know it all, and if I’m focused enough to move mountains, but don’t know how to love, I’m just a charade. If I give up everything, my possessions, even my life, so I can feel good about myself rather than because I really care, it’s a hollow gift.

Love is patient. Love is kind. Love isn’t a black hole of need. Love doesn’t brag. Love isn’t crass. Love isn’t about getting one’s own way. Love isn’t grouchy. Love doesn’t run a tab. Love grieves falsehood, but rejoices in truth. Love carries everything, believes in everyone, hopes for everything, and survives through anything. Love lasts forever.

Predictions about the future will run out of time. Languages will run out of words. Encyclopedias will run out of information. Everything we know is a drop in a bucket, and everything we predict is merely a guess. But when it’s all said and done, there is no more guessing.

When I was a kid, I thought like a kid and I dealt with things like kids do. But then I grew up and I stopped acting like a kid. We see life through frosted glass, but someday things will be clearer. We make guesses now, but someday we’ll really know because we’ll have let someone really know us.

Faith, hope and love are the three universal constants. But love is the one to rule them all.

Love, Love, Love. 1,2,3.

  1. Love who you are.
  2. Love what you do.
  3. Love everyone you meet.

Difficult? Yes. But the Beetles really did have it right: “Love is all you need.”

The Hardest Commandment

I'd like to see you love MY neighborMatthew 5:43-48

You’ll recall the old law that says, “Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.” But I say love your enemy, wish the best for those who persecute you. That’s what marks you as God’s children.

The sun comes up every day for good and bad alike. And rain gets everyone wet, righteous or wicked.

If you love only those who love you, so what? Any crooked politician can do that. And if you say hello only to the people you already know and like, that’s totally unremarkable. Every Tom, Dick, and Harry does that.

Stand out! And you will show people how limitless God’s love for everyone is really is.

Lets be clear. There isn’t a law in the Hebrew scriptures that says, “Hate your enemy.” Jesus is clearly referring to Leviticus 19:17-18, which says:

You shall not bear hatred in your heart for your family. You call your neighbor out when you see something wrong, but you’re not to take revenge or hold a grudge. Rather you shall love your neighbor as yourself.

But just because it’s not what the law says, doesn’t mean people won’t interpret it that way. Keeping that kind of law isn’t hard at all. It’s what comes naturally, quid pro quo, all of that. A lot of people like that kind of easy law. But, as is sometimes said, an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth leaves everyone blind and toothless.

What Jesus is asking is much harder. In fact, this is the hardest commandment: Love your enemy. Because, in fact, most of the time when we have enemies, those enemies are are our neighbors. Consider: why is it that it’s often much easier to give $20 to a charity helping people somewhere half way around the globe (victims of earthquakes and famines, for example), but so much harder to help people just across town when the mill shuts down?

The people we are most likely to be at odds with are the people we interact with on a regular basis, our neighbors (if we even know who they are) and our families. Thus, Leviticus. It starts with not holding grudges against those who are closest to you. And not taking revenge on those who have hurt you, who are also more likely to be people nearby. Notice that neither Jesus nor Leviticus says you should be a doormat. “Call your neighbor out.” But that’s it. After that, they’re still your neighbor. Let it go.

Granted: letting go, not holding grudges, not harboring resentment – it’s not easy. Then again, doing something truly remarkable is always hard.

[Bonus observation: If you love only those who love you, so what? Any crooked politician can do that. Herein lies Jesus’ ticket for anyone who wants to be a good politician – and it just might win elections, too. So much for pandering to the religious right (or left).]

Do What Matters Now

Philippians 1:9-11

This is what I earnestly want for you: that you may love richly and discern keenly so that you will be able to decide what really matters. That way you will have no regrets and nothing to hide when this life is over. And then I wish for you to be able to actually do what matters – the way Jesus did. That would be glorious indeed.

Whatever reservations you might have about Paul, he got this one absolutely right.

Love richly. Discern keenly. Decide what really matters. And then, do it. This is how we make something of our lives during the short time we have on the planet. I’ve known a lot of people who have looked back at the end of their life, nostalgic for what might have been. It’s one of the saddest kinds of conversations. But I’ve also known some who have looked back and said, “Yeah, I did that. It was awesome.”

Of all the things in life that you can’t get back, time is one. The people you love are the others. What really matters to you? What are you going to do about it?

Now wouldn’t be too soon.