Sunday, March 12, 2017

Love First


 

We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, “I love God,” yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he hasn't seen. 1 John 4:19-20

Human relationships are funny things. We say that we dearly love others, our spouses, children, parents, siblings, but then they hurt us or betray us and a funny thing happens to that love, it diminishes. It shouldn't. It's perfectly understandable to feel the hurt or anger, to want a time out from the other person. It is not acceptable to stop loving them. On some occasions it seems impossible to give love but it isn't. It's a choice.

I have a few people very dear to me, people who also used to be very near to me but are no longer. If I expressed a decline in my love for them most people would nod and commiserate with me. Many would give me examples of similar relationships in their own lives. Wrong! Yes, my feelings have been hurt. That's an understatement. My heart is broken but it wouldn't be if I didn't love the ones from whom I am estranged.

It is my choice to throw away my investment in those lives and see it as a loss or to continue to invest in them and pray for their best, even if I never see answers to the prayers. It is my choice to focus on what is, the hurt and separation or to remember what was, that in the beginning, for years and years, there was love, fun and joy. I need to remember that the person I loved is still there, though they may appear different, that person still exists. True love wishes that joy, fun and love are still prevalent in the lives of those who used to be near. True love still holds them very dear to my heart.

While it is a choice it is not an easy one. Flesh wants to rage at the hurt and sadness, at the empty space. Grace says no. Grace turns my face to the One who loved me first and loves me still, even when I offend Him or walk away to give my time or attention to something far less worthy. Jesus gave His life for us, for people who would never deserve His life or His love. He makes us worthy to receive the gift He gives so freely.

When you're tempted to hold onto bitterness or hurt, to paint someone with the brush of your anger or disappointment, look to the Cross. We're painted in the blood of the Lamb, drenched in love that we disregard far too often but when we're wise enough to receive it, enables us to love in a similar way.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Passing the Baton


The body is a unit though it is made up of many parts, and though all its parts are many, they for one body. So it is with Christ.

1 Corinthians 12:12

Carry each other's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. Galatians 6:2

Years ago, years and years ago when I was in high school, I dated a boy, Matthew, who was on the track team at another school. He ran cross country in the fall, indoor track during the winter and outdoor track in the spring. Among his events was a relay race. In all his other events he relied only on himself but in that event, he was part of a team. Through him I learned the extreme importance of the anchor and the baton. The anchor has to finish the race. He of course, hopes that his team has set him up for an easy run into the tape but that isn't always the case. Sometimes the anchor has the unenviable task of having to make up for other runners lost time. That is second only in importance to the hand off of the baton.

In one meet one of Matthew's teammates dropped the baton. Feel free to gasp here as that was apparently a monumental moment. Matthew's coach was a retired Marine who had no time for the boys weaknesses in any area and certainly no patience with a dropped baton. For the next week each one of the four of them carried a baton throughout their entire school day. If the coach saw them without it there would be huge consequences. Only one boy dropped it but they were a team and if it could happen to one it could happen to any of them.

Sound familiar? “Carry each others burdens,” says Paul in Galatians 6:2. We are the body of Christ. If one part is weak, the others need to support it.

Picture the four boys during that week. They each carried a baton for a week for two reasons. One, to remind each one that he was part of the team and two that they learn the importance of the hand off. No one at that school had to ask if those boys were on the track team. Their extra appendage answered that question.

So what of us? Do we, who call ourselves Christians, live as a part of a whole? Or do we live to please ourselves? Live out our own agenda without thought to the consequences that means for those around us?

When people look at us, carrying our baton, as we wear a cross, carry a Bible or place a church sticker on our vehicle, when people see that, see our claim that we are part of a team, do they see us pulling for the other members of that same team? We must! What does it say to the rest of the world when we preach “love your enemies” and then shun our own team?