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Without Love We Are Nothing, But Do We Even Know Who to Love?

Photo by Ric Rodrigues on Pexels.com

Devotional Thought of the Day:

After the LORD had finished speaking to Job, he said to Eliphaz, “I am angry with you and your two friends, because you did not speak the truth about me, the way my servant Job did. 8 Now take seven bulls and seven rams to Job and offer them as a sacrifice for yourselves. Job will pray for you, and I will answer his prayer and not disgrace you the way you deserve. You did not speak the truth about me as he did.”
9 Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar did what the LORD had told them to do, and the LORD answered Job’s prayer
. Job 42:7-9 GNT.

13 I may be able to speak the languages of human beings and even of angels, but if I have no love, my speech is no more than a noisy gong or a clanging bell. 2† I may have the gift of inspired preaching; I may have all knowledge and understand all secrets; I may have all the faith needed to move mountains—but if I have no love, I am nothing. 3 I may give away everything I have, and even give up my body to be burned—but if I have no love, this does me no good. 1 Cor. 13:1-3 GNT

Many men and women are experiencing more and more today serious lowliness and neglect as a result of their excessive zeal for autonomy which they inherited from modernity. But mostly they have lost the support of something that transcends them.

It is hard to communicate across Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. It is even harder to develop relationships where we love one another. Yet these odd relationships appeal to so many.

I think part of it is the illusion of safety, the idea that we can have “friends” while still being autonomos. Yet these social media platforms are more addictive and the relationships less satisfying, and more frustrating. It is so easy to write off that person who has a different outlook in regards to religion, politics, sex, etc. And because the relationship is not really a relationship (in most cases) we just unfriend, unfollow, and even block those who annoy us.

Yet we have both a great capacity and a great need to love. It is what we are created to do. To deeply care, be deeply devoted to others, so much so that reconciliation is more important than frustration. That forgiveness is an automatic response rather than a thirst for revenge. ( I do believe that “unfriending” is more often a response of revenge than anything else!)

As St. Paul indicates, without love we are nothing. Without love, nothing is beneficial. Even sacrifice is worthless, if it is not done because of love.

As I was reading these passages this morning, I wondered why Job even bothered allowing his “friends” to hang around. Their words may have been sincere, but they were wrong! (And God let them know it!) They were annoying, they were judgmental, they didn’t offer comfort and support in the midst of some pretty dark times in the life of Job. Yet, he didn’t send them away. He would argue with them, he would struggle with their “help”, but he didn’t turn his back on them

Once Job was justified, he even did something for them that was remarkable. He prayed for their healing! He prayed that they didn’t get what they deserve! They were his friends, and so he did what they needed, no matter how much they had been a pain in the ass while he was suffering.

That is the kind of love that Paul tells us makes all the difference. That is the kind of love that makes life abundant. That is the love that tells us that while there is a time for solitude, we are meant to live in fellowship, in relationships that are deep, that result in our laughing when they laugh, and sobbing when they sob. (see Romans 12)

This is the love that transcends life, that happens because we know we are loved. For it is God’s love that enables us to set aside the zeal for autonomy, to realize the emptiness of narcissism, and risk truly loving those around us.

Even those who treat us like Job’s friends and family.

We need to know that we are loved. To look at the cross, to realize the depth of sin, our sin, that Christ would take on himself. To do so, because He loves us, and therefore could look at the cross and see the joy of reconciliation that would result from that cross, from that pain. His love is infectious, the more we explore its dimensions the more we can love, the more we desire to, and the more unfollowing, unfriending and blocking doesn’t make sense. Laughing and crying with people will be our norm, for that is what happens when we love each other.

And the more we want to see people face to face, and not settle for social media interaction.

Pope Francis. (2013). A Year with Pope Francis: Daily Reflections from His Writings. (A. Rossa, Ed.) (p. 227). New York; Mahwah, NJ; Toronto, ON: Paulist Press; Novalis.

Can You Leave Your Friend there… in danger?

Devotional Thought for our days…

20 “If a truly good person starts doing evil and I put him in a dangerous situation, he will die if you do not warn him. He will die because of his sins—I will not remember the good he did—and I will hold you responsible for his death.  Ezekiel 3:20  GNT

13  The greatest love you can have for your friends is to give your life for them. John 15:13 (GNT)

993         In our meditation, the Passion of Christ comes out of its cold historical frame and stops being a pious consideration, presenting itself before our eyes, as terrible, brutal, savage, bloody… yet full of Love. And we feel that sin cannot be regarded as just a trivial error: to sin is to crucify the Son of God, to tear his hands and feet with hammer blows, and to make his heart break.

I read an article the other day, that made the argument that a pastor cannot be friends with his congregation.  That he has to stay aloof, separated so that he can call them to repentance when needed, and that they will hear him when he does.

One of my questions in the conversation that followed was, “shouldn’t your friend also care enough, love you enough to call you to repentance”  I had several questions about the concept, but this question is one I think we need to address today.

Should a friend help a person see the error of their way?

Or should we simply ignore the path they were on, letting them move on to perdition?

This job isn’t just a pastors.  It belongs to anyone that cares about anyone else. A parent, a teacher, a co-worker, a son or daughter, a friend.

There are a couple of challenges to this.  

The first is taking sin seriously enough.  St Josemaria helps here, helping us realize that sin can only be reconciled at the cost of life, the life of Jesus.   His brutal death, the shedding of His blood.  We get that about murder, or grand theft, or adultery.  I am not sure we realize that about that little white lie, or lust, or envy or gossip, And what about not treasuring the restful time we call the Sabbath when we gather with other believers and weep and laugh and rejoice together? Do we see this as sin?  

The second is more akin to comfort.  We are afraid to broach the subject, we are afraid our desire to care for our friend will be misunderstood as condemning them (We are trying to stop that!)  We are afraid of that awkward moment when they have to look in the mirror when they have to see their sin and error.

But their salvation, is that not worth the discomfort we might experience in calling them back? 

These are hard questions, and yet, evangelism is not a matter of “Law”, but one of Gospel, one of Love.  One of Joy.  We want people to experience this because we know the difference being forgiven makes.   We know the difference being clean creates in our lives, and knowing the hope of eternal life.

Our friends need this to know about this love of God that can take a sinner and make them a friend, that revive a broken soul, that can restore to its strength.  We can’t-do this because we have to, because it is a duty because it is what good Christians do.  We do this because we love them, and we love the God who is merciful.  For then, our thoughts aren’t about preserving our life or being comfortable.  It is about knowing them.

SO that we all can have the same heart and mind – that of Jesus.

AMEN!

 

Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 4014-4017). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Love Includes Gently Correcting Each Other

Devotional Thought of the Day:
Featured image2  And he is able to deal gently with ignorant and wayward people because he himself is subject to the same weaknesses. Hebrews 5:2 (NLT)

10    Never reprimand anyone while you feel provoked over a fault that has been committed. Wait until the next day, or even longer. Then make your remonstrance calmly and with a purified intention. You’ll gain more with an affectionate word than you ever would from three hours of quarreling. Control your temper.  (1)

It is one of the most challenging parts of being a pastor or a parent, or a good friend.

It takes not only courage, but a level of love for the other person, that embraces the discomfort and the threat of rejection.

Still it is essential, it is necessary, and it can be done with gentleness and compassion. It must be done.

We have to learn to correct each other, and as the priesthood of all believers.  We can’t afford not to be there for each other.

But this correcting has to be done as Hebrews describes the high priest doing it, with gentleness!   Not in anger, not as a reaction to the error. But mourning over it, crying out to God in prayer for the wisdom to communicate the correction completely.

Gentleness doesn’t mean we become a pushover.  The term in Greek there means a measured or precise amount of compassion.  With the coolness and calmness that doesn’t come in the middle of a situation.  But to take a step back, look at the cross, and remember that God desires that the other person to come to repentance.  God wants them to be transformed, to be conformed to the likeness of Jesus..

That has to be the motivation for the correction. To help them, to break down the walls, and seem them benefit from the correction.

It will be challenging, they might reject you for a time, they might get angry, even if you do it as precisely as Christ woul have.  Remember, they nailed Him to the cross.  And that worked out all right, for that measure of compassion is so evident to see.

Walking this way through life will be a blessing to you as well.  For to correct others and to allow them to correct you, takes great faith.  We have to trust in God the Father to at His promises. Which means we have to walk with Him, constantly talking and listening to Him!  And that is a wonderful place to be!

(1)   Escriva, Josemaria (2010-11-02). The Way (Kindle Locations 185-187). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Divine Appointments

 23  Let us hold on firmly to the hope we profess, because we can trust God to keep his promise. 24  Let us be concerned for one another, to help one another to show love and to do good. 25  Let us not give up the habit of meeting together, as some are doing. Instead, let us encourage one another all the more, since you see that the Day of the Lord is coming nearerHebrews 10:23-25 (TEV)

973    Those words whispered at the proper time in the ear of your wavering friend; that helpful conversation you manage to start at the right moment; the ready advice that improves his studies; and the discreet indiscretion by which you open for him unsuspected horizons for his zeal—all that is the “apostolate of friendship.” (1)

I often think of the passage from Hebrews above as one talking about our church gatherings- our worship services, our Bible Studies.
But this week, as those services cause me to struggle – I also think about it as the meals I have shared with others at this convention.  The young teacher from Canada, the pastor’s wife from Detroit, the breakfasts with those from my district.

Those have been the benefot of being here. as some have helped me in my struggles – as others I’ve been able to help.  They weren’t the reason I came – yet…. they are the reason I am here.

As you go through this day – realize God has set your calendar full of people you are to encourage, people you are to gather with, meet with, invest the time God has given you… and rejoice – where you are gathered with them…. God is there as well.

Cry out together, “Lord, have mercy…” and sit back and watch as He reveals the wonders of His love!

 

Escriva, Josemaria (2010-11-02). The Way (Kindle Locations 2253-2255). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

They failed us, they sinned….now what?

Devotional/Discussion thought of the day:

“You have to love your fellow men to the point where even their defects, as long as they do not constitute an offence against God, hardly seem to you to be defects at all. If you love only the good qualities you see in others—if you do not know how to be understanding, to make allowances for them and forgive them—you are an egoist.” (1)

Therefore, to avoid this vice (bearing false witness) we should note that no one is allowed publicly to judge and reprove his neighbor, although he may see him sin, unless he have a command to judge and to reprove. For there is a great difference between these two things, judging sin and knowing sin. You may indeed know it, but you are not to judge it. I can indeed see and hear that my neighbor sins, but I have no command to report it to others. Now, if I rush in, judging and passing sentence, I fall into a sin which is greater than his.

There was once a saying that you must accept one major defect in each of your friends.  I am not sure of where it comes from, or to what extent I agree with it. But if we are to have friends, we have to accept that our friends will be sinners. Including of course, the fact that they will sin against us, and we will sin against them.  We will struggle with this, as we wonder if they will forgive, and whether we will.  Will we count their sins more important than their friendship?  WIll we value them enough to go and ask forgiveness.  And we ask, will they hurt us again?  Does forgiving render us defenseless against future pain, or can we remember – and keep up our guard up.

In Fr. Escriva’s comment, the shortcomings are specifically between you and another, and yes Martin Luther’s are more geared toward general sin against God.  But both have at the heart of them the idea goal of maintaining a relationship that is health and without the walls that come up, when we become egotists, when we place ourselves in Gods position, and decide that wrath and punishment are deserved, and withholding mercy is what is needed.

Except that is not the heart of God.

Remember – the offer of mercy was given to you, before you actually sinned – before you were even conceived in sin. The debt is already paid for, the mercy poured out on you, and the only option we have… is to refuse it, to ignore it, to turn and walk away from it.  As we understand the concept of Justification, as we understand the power of reconciliation, it is while we are yet sinners and enemies of God, that He was working, to draw us back, to make things right, to seperate that sin from us, as the Holy Spirit uses the word of God, the very gospel revealed to us, to cut out the hardness of heart and the egotism that would make us… not extend forgiveness.

Knowing that – can we look at our brothers and sisters with Christ’s attitude towards them?  Can we look at them knowing the mind of God – the attitude we see revealed in passages like John 17 and Philippians 2 and 1 Corinthians 13?   Can we point them to Jesus, always and encourage them to point us there, to the cross, where we are, together, untied in His love, in His grace, because of the great mercy He has for us?

We can… and when we struggle – my best suggestion – remember the sacraments, remember the water poured over you, cleansing you from sin, remember the altar where you go, that you may know and taste and see that the Lord is good?  Can you bring your brother there… and celebrate the goodness of God – who has blessed you with each other?

Such is our calling, such is our ministry.

Lord have the mercy on us, to enable us to do this very thing!

(1)  Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 3365-3367). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

(2)  The Large Catechism of Martin Luther. the explanation of the 8th commandment

 

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