Wednesday, March 10, 2004

A command of love

[For any new visitors, let me explain: I'm reading a chapter a day of this book for a church-wide study program. I'm journaling about each chapter as I go through the book. Some days I find more to say than others.]

Chapter 16 of Rick Warren's The Purpose Driven Life, "What Matters Most," is about love.

"As you have heard from the beginning, his command is this: Live a life of love."
(2 John 1:16, NCV)

Warren says we are to show special love for each other in the family of believers. "Jesus said our love for each other -- not our doctrinal beliefs -- is our greatest witness to the world. He said, 'Your strong love for each other will prove to the world that you are my disciples."

LOVE? NOT DOCTRINAL BELIEFS? GOOD HEAVENS! Warren's sounding pretty radical here. He'd better watch out for accusations of heresy from some in my neck of the woods! But it is exactly what I think. It's in how we treat each other that God will judge us.

But this is Christ's second commandment. To love God first, with all our hearts, all our souls, all our minds, and all our strength, and second, we are to love each other as we love ourselves.

My own aside inserted here:
Not in a kinda, maybe, I would but...sort of way. Rather, to do for each other exactly as we would do for ourselves: The way we feed ourselves, take care of ourselves, protect ourselves, indulge ourselves, pray for ourselves, overlook our own faults, ask for mercy for ourselves.

This, like most of the things Christ asks of us, is not easy to do. I think I'm getting better at it. I encounter someone once in a while that I just cannot like. I do my best to love her with Christ's love, but I know that's not the same as loving her as myself. I think it's a matter of acceptance -- of being accepting -- an area of surrender to God's will that I must work on. I know a priest who sets a great example of this.

Anyway, back to Warren:
Life without love is really worthless, says Warren, who quotes Paul: "No matter what I say, what I believe and what I do, I'm bankrupt without love."

Love will last forever. Warren again quotes Paul: "These three things continue forever: faith, hope, and love. And the greatest of these is love."

The greatest gift we can give is our time, of ourselves. Not giving things, but ourselves and our time to those we love. "Whenever you give your time, you are making a sacrifice, and sacrifice is the essence of love." And the time to do it is now.

Warren asks us to consider whether our relationships are our first priority, and how can we ensure they are.

Can we, can I, be so busy "doing good" I neglect the people around me?

The song "Easy to Be Hard" from the rock-musical Hair asks us to consider:

"How can people have no feelings
How can they ignore their friends
Easy to be proud
Easy to say no

And especially people
Who care about strangers
Who care about evil
And social injustice--
Do you only
Care about the bleeding crowd?
How about a needing friend?
I need a friend."

Let us not take each other for granted.

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