Tag Archives: Loving as Jesus loves

See Christ in Everyone

Advent
December 21, 2017

Scripture Reading: Romans 16:25-27

Now to God who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the proclamation of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages but is now disclosed, and through the prophetic writings is made known to all the Gentiles, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith— to the only wise God, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever! Amen.

I like Russell Westbrook and commiserate with him when he takes his rest with bags of ice wrapped around his knees. Having had both of mine replaced, I understand some of the challenges of dealing with bad knees. Of course, my chosen profession did not require a well-honed body, which his job as a point guard does. I doubt that the injury he sustained to his knee had much to do with his primary characteristic that garners my respect. He has the tenacity to pursue his goal of winning basketball games that is unsurpassed in the sport. Part of that job is enabling other players to excel. Paul is calling all of Christ’s follower to be tenacious in our work to be Christ’s body in the world today including enabling all of God’s children to excel. The promise that God will strengthen us in such an enterprise accompanies that call.

I recently read someone’s disgruntled reaction as he tried to help the poor and found those he worked with to be unappreciative of his work and unwilling to do anything to help themselves. In 50 years of working with the poor, I too have encounters a few folks like that. They are still children of God made in God’s image, and we still must find ways to help them transition from dependence to be self-sustaining, self-supporting adults. I remember well a couple of families with whom I worked who fit this disgruntled helper’s description. In both instances upon returning to my office to write up a plan of service, I found myself writing as a first goal to change the outcomes for the children. Whether we like it or not, our parents strongly influence who we become. Breaking the cycle of poverty is hard. Think how lost you would be if your life turned upside down and you were on the streets with no place to go and children to feed. What would you do? How do you think that experience would impact your descendants?

I moved away from my hometown some years ago and had since learned that some of the children of those parents, I had written off as impossible, succeeded in school and work. One day while visiting my Mom, I took her to the Walmart store to pick up a few things and ran into one of those impossible adults, a father I had determined to be incorrigible.  He was washing the big windows in the front of the store. I spoke to him, and he grinned at me. Clearly, he was not as hopeless as I had judged him to be.

Prayer: God, strengthen us in your love so that we might see Christ in everyone. Amen.

All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights are reserved.

Modeling Love

Living in the Spirit
September 17, 2017

Scripture Reading: Matthew 18:21-35

‘For this reason the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his slaves. When he began the reckoning, one who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him; and, as he could not pay, his lord ordered him to be sold, together with his wife and children and all his possessions, and payment to be made. So the slave fell on his knees before him, saying, “Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.” And out of pity for him, the lord of that slave released him and forgave him the debt. But that same slave, as he went out, came upon one of his fellow-slaves who owed him a hundred denarii; and seizing him by the throat, he said, “Pay what you owe.” Then his fellow-slave fell down and pleaded with him, “Have patience with me, and I will pay you.” But he refused; then he went and threw him into prison until he should pay the debt. When his fellow-slaves saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their lord all that had taken place. Then his lord summoned him and said to him, “You wicked slave! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. Should you not have had mercy on your fellow-slave, as I had mercy on you?” And in anger his lord handed him over to be tortured until he should pay his entire debt. So my heavenly Father will also do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother or sister from your heart.’—Matthew 18:23-35

It is funny, but we waste a lot of time and effort trying to change someone else when the only person over which we have any control to change is ourselves. The paradox is how we respond to others often may result in a shift in their attitude. I worked in a building that housed a separate business from mine, but I met its staff on a regular basis coming and going from the facility. I did not know any of the staff, but we routinely greeted each other except for one woman who never responded to a “Good Morning” or “Have a nice evening.” In fact, she would never even look at me. I did not know what to make of her but just kept smiling and making common greetings when one day she began looking at me and a few days later shyly returned my greeting. Our exchanges continued until she was suddenly not there anymore.

Jesus modeled a way of being in the short time he walked the earth. In the parable today he calls us to forgive as he has forgiven us. It is, of course, futile to send someone to prison to make them pay a debt. If one cannot work, how can he or she earn any money? What difference do you think it would have made in the life of the second slave had the first slave said to him, “The master has forgiven me my debt, so I forgive you the debt you own me?” What difference would it make in the life of one we judge to be a sinner if we simply loved them for who he or she was anyway?

Prayer: God of Grace, give us each the self-confidence to love as you love. Enable loving behavior to be like yeast throughout our land. Amen.

All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights are reserved.