Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Fulfilling the Love Command

I have a friend who's a pretty good cook.  He feeds me lunch most days because I live a long way from where I work and if I didn't eat lunch with him I'd be sitting in my truck eating PB&J.  No, it wouldn't be that dire, but it wouldn't be BBQ chicken with beans, coleslaw and homemade bread.  Sometimes it's the only decent meal I get.  And it's not just me.  He cooks in quantity and invites other people that need some decent food and company or takes food next door, last weekend he was helping with a benefit dinner for someone with cancer.  He spends months away at hunting camp where he is the official camp cook and I think people involve him for that reason.  I hired him to do some construction work for us and he'd have dinner going by the time we got home from work.  It's just his thing.

Last week over lunch we were discussing what it takes to love people, (it takes God's love coming through you, you can't summon it up on your own very well) and he's feeling bad because he's kind of anti-social and doesn't really get out there and meet people and talk to them.  Not exactly spreading the love ya know?  This has actually been an ongoing conversation and it keeps circling back around to him feeling guilty.  But this time when I left, the mail came and he got his order from Penzey's Spices.  He was unpacking the box while still mulling over our conversation and wondering what he was supposed to be doing, when he found this:
Is that not the coolest thing you've ever seen?  You mean it's that easy?  We've been drilled into believing that serving God is toil and drudgery and sacrifice and you just gotta suck it up but that's not what Jesus said.  (Matt 11:28, John 15:4-6)  So he's on the right track.  He's found his ministry.  By feeding people he can actually feed people.

Maybe he is called to the wilderness, like John the Baptist.  (I wonder how Gary would fix locusts and wild honey?)  Not many people would be willing to make that their mission field, but there's no place he'd rather be.  And let's face it.  It's a lot easier to love someone who's appreciating your culinary genius than it is to love someone who's giving you attitude because you're doing the door to door thing and you just invaded their life.

One thing I've been learning, is that being about your Father's business is not hard.  If it is, then you're doing it wrong or doing something you shouldn't.  I'm not saying you don't have challenges and trials, but there's something to doing what comes naturally, what you're graced to do and that you have joy in doing - it's not work. Adam labored, he didn't toil.

The other thing I'm learning, it that if you get your first New Testament commandment (And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment. Mark 12:30) firmly in place in your life, everything else is automatic.  John Crowder said in his book The Ecstacy of Loving God, said "The Christian life is really not that complicated.  If we can get the love part right, everything else will fall into place.  St Augustine said "Love God and do whatever."  Unfortunately our striving little souls even try to make a dead work out of loving God.  Have you ever heard a grumpy old preacher tell you that "Love is not a feeling," and to do good things even when you don't feel like it?  Sounds like stoicism to me.  Many teach that after we have believed in Christ, we should do many things.  But this is not true.  According to the Scriptures, after we believe in Christ and receive His Spirit, we have to love Him.  Perhaps the apostle Paul put it best in 1 Corinthians 16:14  Do everything in love."

And even loving Him is something you don't tackle on your own.  We love Him because He first loved us. (1 John 4:19)  You have to let Him love you first.  You have to receive of His goodness and see Him as a perfect Father who only wants good things for you.  When you get that revelation, it's easy to love Him back, but your ability to give love is always going to be to the degree that you are able to receive love.  You can't give what you haven't got, make sense? 

So if you're having a problem walking in love, then you need to get with God and ask Him to pour His love out on you.  Ask Him for help with your hangups.  When it comes to hangups, our parents can mess us up.  Even good parents.  We tend to view our Heavenly Father through the lens of our earthly father, so it's self-explanatory if you had a lousy dad, but if you had a father who loved you but was reserved even, about expressing it, you're going to have to get past that.  And if you were such a wild child that your parents were so busy disciplining you that there was not much time left in the day for positive interaction, you might view God as harsh and waiting for you to screw up.  You need to ask Him to help you see Him for who He is.

My own Dad was good at fixing stuff and I always had something broken, but I got the idea that I was bothering him when he was busy, so I either learned to live with the broken stuff or I would go to Mom, who would convince Dad and it would get fixed.  For years that was my relationship with God.  Put up with brokenness, or get somebody else to pray because He doesn't pay attention to me.  Thank God I got past that.  I can receive, therefore I have something to give.  Wow, that went off on a tangent!  Anyway, take it easy on yourself.  You're probably doing better than you think.

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