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Friday, July 11, 2014

Love like this...

If someone were to ask you what was at the center of your being, what might you describe?  If you are going to respond with a rather "religious" answer, you might describe the "center of your being" as Christ and him alone.  In reality, I would look at how you live your life to see if that was true.  I would examine your actions to see if they reflect Christ at the center and him ALONE.  In reality, I might just see a little bit of you still left there!  As much as we "think" Christ is the center of all we are, there is probably just a little bit of "us" in the middle of the mix!  But...if Christ is AT ALL in the center of our lives, little by little we will observe less and less of "us" as time goes on. This is indeed good news!

Love from the center of who you are; don’t fake it. Run for dear life from evil; hold on for dear life to good. Be good friends who love deeply; practice playing second fiddle.  (Romans 12:9-10 MSG)

The command to love from the center of who we are is not optional for a child of God.  It is part and parcel with Christ being at the center of our lives.  No greater love can be in control - no greater love can be reflected through the actions we express.  You have probably heard the advice to "fake it until you make it".  I don't think this is the case in our Christian walk - God doesn't want us to "fake" anything.  In fact, he asks for us to be truthful and real in all our dealings - both with him and with others.  This doesn't mean we don't have to make a little effort to love someone when we don't actually "feel" like they are deserving of our love, though.  It just means that our love should be genuine and not "drummed up" in some way.

There are indeed "unlovely" and "unloving" people in this world, some of which are part of our families, friendship circles, and even our work relationships. We have an "imperative" to "love them from the center of who we are".  This means we allow the love of Christ to motivate our actions toward these individuals and we stop asserting the "right" to love individuals who "deserve" our love in some way.  If we waited for some of these folks to actually be "deserving" of our love, they would never be loved!  Truthfully, we ALL have individuals we are called to be in relationship with who have disappointed us, even offended us to some degree.  There are those who have distanced themselves from us because of some "infraction" in the relationship.  These individuals are no more "exempt" from this command for us to love them than the ones we hold the closest to our hearts.

I think this is why the next command is so important - to "run for dear life from evil and to hold on for dear life to good.  If we see this in context, we recognize Paul is building upon the first command in this passage - love from the center of who we are (Christ's kids).  Then because he is at the center of all we are and actually helps to motivate our actions, we are to run from all manner of "relationship evil".  This means we don't hold onto grudges, demanding what we think we were "due" in the relationship, but did not receive.  It also means we release those who have offended us, even when they don't ask to be released, nor show signs of desiring our forgiveness. When we hold out for what we feel is the due penalty for the slight we have experienced, we are actually allowing "evil" to have an inroad into our relationships.  Evil is simply those things which are harmful or injurious in relationship.  

To these two commands, Paul adds a third - to be good friends who love deeply.  This may be easiest with those who are outside our immediate families - because we actually "chose" those relationships!  Yet, there is no exception here - it includes those within our family lines and those who we choose to include through relationships we refer to as friendships.  To love deeply, we first need to make the depth of connection with the love of the one who loves us deeply - Christ himself.  As we make this connection, we learn about how love interacts with those who disappoint us - for Christ didn't retaliate, nor did he hold a grudge.  In fact, as he hung nailed to the cross, bleeding and suffering all manner of physical anguish, he released them.  He didn't hold out for what he felt he was "due" - but he erased the debt he knew they could never repay!

We don't always love well, but when we do, it touches the depths of the other person's soul.  When we love from the center of who we are (Christ's kids), we are more likely to love in ways contrary to what society might expect, but we are loving in ways God is very happy to acknowledge as "good" and "right". Just sayin!