Readers are certainly entitled to their opinions. Posting a blog, like the one above, it’s expected that some strong opinions will be shared. This comment, however, stopped me in my tracks and has been on my mind since posting.

First, I’m not sure if this person thinks of himself as a Christian or a person of faith. But, if they are a person of faith, the refusal of forgiveness hits me as terribly sad, especially since one of the main themes of Christianity (and most other faiths) is forgiveness.

I’m also sure that if you do a body count of people who have been killed by the United States during the hunt for Bin Laden, it would assuredly pass the life lost on 9-11.

The anger and hate expressed in the comment is bone-chilling.

Am I surprised by the comment? No. This is the world in which we live, where an eye for an eye is the reality. But my point then, as it is now, is that the world can be, and should be, different.

We cannot keep doing what we’re doing and expect to survive, much less live in peace and security.

Let me remind the reader of two quotes from the previous blog:

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. Hate multiplies hate, violence multiplies violence, and toughness multiplies toughness in a descending spiral of destruction…. The chain reaction of evil — hate begetting hate, wars producing more wars — must be broken, or we shall be plunged into the dark abyss of annihilation.” Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Strength To Love, 1963

“When the power of love overcomes the love of power, the world will know peace.” Jimi Hendrix

I guess this where I am going to go from “preaching” to “meddling.”

If we are going to call ourselves Christian, or at minimum an ethical and moral people, then we owe to ourselves, our friends and our families to consider that we need another starting point.

Love is not something one just reads and feels. A rather well known Christian writer says:

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” (1 Corinthians 13:4-7 New International Version)

Love then is something one does. It is an act. The problem with this passage and the whole concept of love is not that it is too difficult to understand; quite the opposite, it is too easy to know exactly what is being asked. The problem is being willing to do it.

If we were far more intentionally in doing what this passage states it would revolutionize our relationships in our homes, our places of faith and society in whole.

Fifteen verbs reveal what makes this a tangible concept and not some pie in the sky philosophy.  We can see what love does and does not do.  Hell, if we just become intentional about the seven “do’s” the world would be a better, safer place.

1) Love is patient

How does this description translate into actions?  Our church had a full-blown drunk showing up to service every week for three years. He was loud and rude.

Offers of help were ignored. Yet the congregation continued to love him, hug him, feed him and let him know “it gets better”.  The patience of the congregation paid off when 6 months ago Stanley had his last drink and he has said over and over again this congregation saved his life.

2) Love is kind

There was once a person from my early ministry days who decided I was a heretic.  They were very intentional in trying to get me fired from the church.  They explained to me their actions were motivated by a love for me.  Needless to say most of us hope we never had a “friend” like that. Love acts kindly; it does not work for the determent of another. Acts of kindness come from recognizing a need of someone and attempting to meet the need without strings attached.

3) Love rejoices with the truth

Ever notice that most arguments have little to do with veracity and more to do with winning? It has been said quite accurately there are three sides to every story: your side, my side and the truth.  As a people of faith we owe it to ourselves to seek the action of that third side…the truth.  It is not always easy to get at because it means we must really listen and respond rather than hear and re-act.

4) Love always protects (some translations say “bears all things”)

No insult or betrayal should sidetrack love from the pursuit of its end.  The prophet Hosea of the Old Testament pictures God as faithful to Israel but Israel turned to other loves.  In the story God asks rhetorically if God should just let Assyria rule over Israel.  Then God answers God’s own question: “How can I give up on Ephraim?”  The heart of God for the person of faith is where we learn to love and continue loving despite rejection, trouble and heartache.  One has to wonder what might have happen to Stanley had love only been a concept and not an action.

5) Love always trusts

Love creates a climate of trust.  There are people who are very suspicious because they have never had the opportunity to trust or be trusted. A climate of trust is put into place when people say what they mean and mean what they say.  Some would say it is “walking the talk”.

6) Love always hopes

For the Christian the very fabric of the faith says separation from God, death and evil have no real or lasting power. It follows then we as a people know that separation from God, death and evil of an individual can be transformed by a life-altering encounter with God. For the Christian this translates to understanding in our soul who and what Jesus taught, lived and died for. For me personally the real power of what is called the “Gospel” is the good news of a second chance, a third chance or as Jesus once said seventy times seven. Therefore even in depravity there is hope.

7) Love always perseveres (in some translations the verb here is “endures”)

The verb means to conquer. Jesus’ entire ministry was based on this concept. When the disciples didn’t get it, he didn’t give up he persevered. When the religious leaders didn’t get it, he didn’t give up he persevered. When he was denied, betrayed, arrested and sentenced to death he didn’t give up he persevered. The love he taught and lived carried all the through to his last breath from the cross.

So here is my challenge to the readers of the blog.  Since the way of the world has not been terribly successful, since the whole eye for an eye thing has not been all that … let’s give love a try.

If that won’t work or seems to radical how about this: Rev. Richard J. Fairchild in a sermon he delivered a few years back had this advice, “In the wonderful little book called “Pocketful of Miracles”, which is a daily devotional and spiritual growth guide, the author (Joan Borysenko), writes:

“Shakespeare said, ‘Pretend a virtue if you have it not.’ Most of us are still locked up in the petty, self-centered concerns of our egos. Nonetheless we feel the ancient longing of our soul to move beyond ego to union with the divine.  It doesn’t matter if our motivation for Divine Union falters, or if selfish concerns predominate.  If we just pretend the virtue of longing for God and being of service to others, eventually those virtues will arise spontaneously.”

 


Rev. Paul M. Turner is the Senior Pastor of Gentle Spirit Christian Church of Atlanta. For more information, please visit www.gentlespirit.org or e-mail info@gentlespirit.org.

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