The Always of Love
A habit is a repetitive pattern of behavior. At night we each have a set of tasks that we complete before slipping under the covers. They may include brushing and flossing our teeth, combing our hair, taking a shower or bath, letting the dog our for her final tour of the yard. Habits are very useful. They allow us to get task completed without having to spend a great deal of time analyzing the situation. Habits can have either a positive or negative impact on our work performance and life.
Steven Covey wrote a best seller entitled, Seven Habits of Highly Successful People in which he presents habits that have enhanced the success of people in their profession. The habit of walking each day will strengthen your heart and improve your chances of living longer. Getting quality sleep each night will refresh your body and prepare you for the next day.
There are also bad habits that our counter productive to accomplishing your life’s goals. Procrastinating encumbers creativity. The tasks is rushed increasing the chance of mistakes. Eating alone can be a very bad habit. We need the stimulation and social affection of others.
Jesus had various habits. He went to the synagogue each Sabbath. He attended the festivals in Jerusalem. He would spend time alone praying. He taught his disciples many things about the Kingdom of God and he expected his disciples to develop good habits. One of them is that we love each other.
Such a simple command but down through the centuries we have made it very difficult and complicated. Even within the Catholic church could not stay unified and divided into two churches about 1000 AD. Five hundred years later Luther and King Henry VIII had unresolved disagreements with the Pope for which they could not find common ground. From 1517 till now church have split and split again with lingering animosity toward the opposition.
Even if we ignore the historical conflicts each of us have felt the discomfort of strained and broken relationships. We thought that we were loving but friendship remained elusive or reconciliation superficial. We wonder what is our responsibility in those relationships? How long do you continue to try? What do you do when a friend turns against you?
Then we also must consider the conflict-free relationships. What is our role towards another person to nurture and sustain the friendship, especially those who are members and regular attenders?
I would like to suggest that the best answer to these questions comes from the letter Paul wrote to the Corinthian
I do not offer this review of the difficulties that the Church has had in fulfilling the command of her Lord to make us feel ashamed of our past. Each member of the Body of Christ has a unique history that includes many emotional scars from past relationship that encumber us from loving others. I offer it as a reminder that their is still much to do.
What is love?
What is love?
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, 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.
The verse that really stands out to me is the last one, especially that word ALWAYS. That is a rather inclusive word. It goes well beyond merely establishing a habit.
Habits do not have to be everyday, every situation occurrences. I can get up late in the morning, not make my bed and still stay I am in the habit of making my bed each morning. I can arrive home late from a meeting and decide not to practice the guitar without jeopardizing my habit. I can fail to take time for reading the scriptures and prayer one morning without breaking my habit of doing so.
But when we are told to always protect, always trust, always hope, always persevere we do not have the option of neglecting our responsibilities to one another even for a day. Therefore I would like to briefly consider those four word.
Love Always Protects
Love Always Protects
Each of us has a reputation. By that I mean in our everyday activities other people will assume that we will behave in a certain way based upon how we behaved in the past. Like it or not people will judge us based upon our actions in certain situations. Sometimes they will judge us based upon what they hear others say about us. This information may come in the form of rumors or hearsay. We display love for another person when we refuse to enter into the muck and mire of critical discussions about others whether they are based on fact or rumors.
In his book Love Within Limits, Lewis Smedes writes “Love will not put out a cent for yellow journalism...” I suppose that means we should all stop reading the daily newspapers and turning off our TVs. I do not know of a single reporter or TV commentator that has not engaged in some form of yellow journalism.
Smedes goes on to quote an old proverb, “Love covers a multitude of sins...”We do not need to know the inside information about a divorce or the drug use and abuse of someone’s teen. Nor does anyone else in our community. We do not need to know the ugly details of a family’s contested will. If we are loving, we have each others back.
Love Always Trusts
Love Always Trusts
There is a careless trust to love. Loving people want to trust that other people are good and will do the right thing. That does not make them gullible. People may be gullible for several different reasons. Lovers know they will be disappointed but they are willing to risk the hurt. They are willing to be vulnerable to others. They are willing to relax their guard. They are willing to still trust.
Love does not worry about being cheated by someone they love. Love does not worry if the other is taking advantage of them. Love may set limits and strongly enforce but those boundaries allow for a great deal of open space.
Love Always Hopes
Love Always Hopes
Love and hope blossom or fade in unison. One cannot hope without love and one cannot love without hope. Love sees possibilities where apathy and cynicism cannot see. Because love is so rooted in trust, love believes that the other person is capable of change. It believes that God can work one more miracle and free the other person from bitterness, resentment or an addiction.
Love is the fuel that empowers hope in bleak and traumatic circumstances. When a person’s world falls apart, offer advice is like spreading salt on a wound. When we love another person we mend and help them rebuild their hope.
Dick was a hospital chaplain stationed in Vietnam. One day 5 young men came through the operating unit with wounds that were beyond the capability of that MASH team. Dick found the surgeon who tried to save all five young men lying on his bunk. For the next several hours all Dick did was hold the man. He did not offer any words of consolation. He did not read Scripture or pray. He just held him in his arms of love. Eventually that surgeon recovered and returned to the operating room with the hope that he could save the life of at least one other man.
Love never gives us, never. Do not tell me you have loved someone when you have walked away from them. There is no time schedule for the healing of emotional wounds. Sometimes people do want to wallow in their pain. It is easier than dealing with the responsibilities of life.
A friend has a cousin who is an alcoholic. My friend is a recovering addict. Once a week he visits his cousin to make sure that he has enough food in the refrigerator and the house is clean. It is a time consuming and sometimes disgusting responsibility but its his cousin. The love of family compels him to care for the man.
The English author C.K Chesterton once wrote:
…does not boast
"Chrisitanity has never been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and not tried.”
People my give lots of reasons for not wanting to believe that God loved them so much that he sent his one and only son to die for die but the real reason they do not want to believe is they just do not want to love others the way God loves them by always protecting, trusting, hoping and perservering.
…not easily angered
...keeps no record of wrongs
…does not delight in evil
…rejoices with the truth