For The Love Of God Is Contagious
"Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
be acceptable to you, O Lord, my strength and my redeemer."
"For The Love Of God Is Contagious"
(Mark 7:31-36; Luke 5:12-15; 2 Corinthians 5:16-20)
A number of years ago, the computer magazine, PC World did a review of a book entitled The Policeman's Beard is Half Constructed, (Warner Books, New York, 1984). It is a book that was written by a computer program called Racter (short for Raconteur) from Mindscape. The software was developed to help people do brainstorming. The book is filled with essays, poems, limericks, stories and conversations, all of which were written by the computer using this software. Here's a couple of examples which Racter came up with:
Enthralling surgeons will dance quickly with tripping stenographers. They will sing and chant of their passion and their love and their desire. They will yodel their dreams to the stenographers who will answer and respond: 'We ponder that hedges are like bushes.'
Bill and Marcellis skipped speedily down the highway to Bill's cottage crooning, 'Get ready for an ongoing ambiguity.' Instantly they recognized that winging doves were as appalling as their contracts, that sashaying brothers guided their hearts through angry dreams.
I don't have a clue about what any of that means. Racter also came up with a number of questions to ponder: "I'm afraid of idle tapeworms; what are you afraid of?" But one off the questions made me stop and think. Racter asked: "Is having a soul contagious?" (1) Think about it!
I might have just laughed at the article and gone on to something else, except for one thing. Shortly after reading the article, I was unwinding late one Sunday night, riding the airwaves and doing some channel surfing when I ran across a program I didn't even know existed. The title of the program was "The American Atheist" and its host was Madeline Murray O'Hare. I don't really remember what they were talking about, except that she thought everyone involved in religion was deluded. I don't remember the exact words but basically she thought religion was a plague or a disease and should be stamped out.
At first I was appalled but I got to thinking about what she said. She made some very good points about our involvement in certain areas, such as the Crusades, the Spanish Inquisition and things like that. You can find a ton of examples of the things the church has done wrong in the name of God. But for every thing that has been done wrong, there is at least a ton of things which have been done right. And there is a boat load of people whose lives have been changed.
That's what the Church is all about, changing lives. Ms. O'hare was correct in another aspect as well. She described religion as a disease. I don't think it is a disease but it sure is catching. The love of God is contagious. It is contagious because lives are changed; people are changed; the old is made into something new; those who are thought to be worthless by the world find value and love through a relationship with God through Christ. People find meaning, direction and purpose where before there was emptiness. This is what keeps the Church going. This is what keeps people coming and joining. Having a soul might not be contagious but the love of God is.£
One of the reasons the Love of God is contagious is that it is resilient. It has the ability to be flexible and bend and withstand whatever is thrown against it. It withstands the strain without breaking or being permanently damaged. And in most cases it is strengthened rather than weakened.
When the resiliency of God's love fills us, then our lives are resilient as well. We are able to withstand more. We are able to bend more without breaking. It's not us but the power and presence of God in us through the Holy Spirit. And that's an important word to hear, especially since we live in a time of life when we never know when the next storm will hit.
Grandma and Grandpa were driving across Kansas on vacation with their five-year-old granddaughter. They were enjoying the sights, especially the beautiful fields of corn. The wind was blowing hard and Grandma commented: "Looks like the wind could blow the corn down."
Their five-year-old granddaughter piped up, "Oh, no, it's planted deep, Grandma. And you don't blow down when you're planted deep." (2)
They say, "out of the mouths of babes." What a marvelous way of putting it. "You don't blow down when you're planted deep." The love of God fills us and allows us to be planted deep and to grow deep roots. Others notice that and they come in search of what we have. They see the resiliency of God's love and it's catching. They see that God's love is contagious and resilient.
A. Another aspect which makes God's love contagious is that it is communicable. It's Good News so it's easy to spread. It's easy to spread because it's not our message. When we only talk about ourselves, we become boring, trite, egotistical and self-centered. When we talk about ourselves we usually run out things to say after awhile. When we talk about ourselves, we usually turn people off because they want to talk about themselves.
But this isn't about us. This is not our message. This is about God and God's love. It's easy to tell someone they are loved. Good News is always easy to share and talk about. It's like giving someone a present. I enjoy really giving gifts. I get excited just thinking about it. I like seeing the reaction on other people's faces when they open an unexpected present. I believe the Good News of God's love is just that, a gift from God, an unexpected present that gives life and fills life with joy.
B. One of the nick-names given to the early Methodists was "The Enthusiasts." That nickname, just like the word "Methodist" wasn't meant to be a compliment. It was meant as a put down. We were looked upon as being weirdos. We were the fringe element of the faith. We were called "Methodists" because we were so methodical in our approach to the living of our faith. We were labeled as radicals and "enthusiasts" because we were so enthusiastic about our faith and enjoyed our faith so much. But the word "enthusiasm" comes from two Greek words "en" and "theos," meaning "in God." Early Methodists were put down because they tried to live their lives "en theos," or "in God." Just think about how much more joy there would be in the world if we all tried to live "en theos" or "in God" today.
I'm not sure who this guy is, but he has a name that's long enough that he should be important. Edward George Earle Bulwer-Lytton said, "Nothing is so contagious as enthusiasm; it moves stones, it charms brutes. Enthusiasm is the genius of sincerity, and truth accomplishes no victories without it."
Living our faith enthusiastically is one of the ways that the love of God is made contagious. We communicate, through our lives, that God's love is real, that God's love has power, that God's love is not pie in the sky but is important and has effected a change in our lives. The easiest way to spread the Good News of God's love is simply by living it enthusiastically.
A particular women told of her discovery of joy and the true meaning of God's love while Christmas shopping one year.
That Christmas she had been waiting in line to be waited on, in this particular store for what seemed like forever. Her turn was next when a child began to be very unhappy and fretful. The little boy's exhausted mother tried to comfort him but they had just come in and were at the end of the line and were going to have to wait a very long time. The women said she suddenly felt a great deal of love for these strangers. She got this feeling that since Christmas is a time of joy, the situation was an opportunity for joy. So, spontaneously, she traded places with the woman with the boy, voluntarily going to the end of the line. She wrote: "The look on her face was reward enough."
She then went on to say that this experience stayed with her over the years. It constantly reminded her that through our willingness to embrace opportunities for joy and joyful service, we receive joy, ourselves. We learn to know Christ on a much deeper level. We learn to know God's presence with us. We become enthusiastic. And we are able to spread the joy of God's love to others. (3)
When we have the love, joy, grace and peace of Christ residing in our heart, we want to share it. And that is how the Christian community continues to grow and expand. By word-of-mouth. We can do all the advertising in the world, but research shows that two-thirds to three-fourths of all new church members in this country responded because a friend or family member invited them. In fast growing churches, the range is two-thirds to seven-eighths, and in very rapidly growing churches invitations from friends or family members account for more than 90 percent of new members. All this because God's love is both contagious and communicable. (4)
A. One more aspect which makes God's love contagious is that the Good News is infectious. Have you ever noticed how you'll be in a crowd of people, maybe at a party or at the office and everybody is standing around talking. Pretty soon one group gets loud and starts laughing. You don't know what it's about but it makes you want to laugh. Even when you're with the best people, you still get curious about what their laughing about or what's going on over there. In most situations people will drift over to find out. It's a chain reaction that affects everyone. Pretty soon the spirit spreads and everyone is laughing or smiling. That's the way it's supposed to be.
But that's not the way things happen all the time. We spent part of our vacation in New Mexico with Rev. Leroy Elmore and his family. Leroy is the gentleman who preached our Revival. We all loaded up one day and went out to Mesa Verde to see the Pueblo ruins. Leroy and I were walking along, laughing and cutting up with our boys. We were just having a good time. A woman walked up, looked at us and asked, "What gives you the right to be so happy?"
It took us both by surprise. We stood with our mouths open not knowing what to say. And then I said, "Nothing, Ma'am, except for my faith in Christ."
She gave sort of a snort and a "Hurumph" and walked on. We still don't know what her problem was. And we didn't see her again. The experience dampened our spirits a little. Or at least for a little while.
It shouldn't be that way, though. Our happiness should spread. It should lift others up. The Good News we have, the love of God we share should bring a smile and lift the burden. It should never be a burden.
B. Saint Francis of Assisi may have said it best, "Let us leave sadness to the devil. As for us Christians, what can we be but rejoicing and glad." God's love is infectious. The Good News is infectious. It's infectious because it's kind and compassionate just like its author.
The missionary George Buttrick told about the head man of a village in Pakistan. It seems the he came and asked the members of the little Christian church next door to his house in the village to move to the edge of town. He even offered to work out an exchange of properties if they would do it. When they pressed him as to why, it turned out he was concerned about his Muslim wives. He was afraid that they would be influenced by hearing the joyful singing of the Christians. They might even become Christians, themselves.
Ours is supposed to be an infectious faith. One filled with joy and happiness.
The Good News is that the love of God IS contagious and infectious.
The Church is made up of all kinds of people, gifted in various ways. Everyone of us is given the ability to love others. Some do it with a passion that just comes natural. They make everyone around them feel accepted. They make everyone around them feel the love of Christ. Because the love of God is contagious, because we've experienced the love of God. We're called to be lovers of others. That's the job description of every Christian. We know what Christ has done in our lives, and like those whom he healed, we're called to go and tell others, go and love others.
Lovers of others smile a lot. Something caring and contagious flows through them. It's inviting, warm, gentle and kind.
Lovers of others treat you as someone really special. Warmth and welcome quickly turn into genuine friendship. They like you as a wonderful person and do not hesitate to say so.
Lovers of others' faces light up every time they see you. Their hugs and handshakes and personal words make you feel totally accepted. Quickly they invite you into their conversation, group or home. Instinctively you know that you have a place in their hearts.
Lovers of others make knowing Jesus and living in Him attractive. If coming close to Him is something like coming close to them, it has to be wonderful.
Lovers of others are generous with compliments from the heart, quick to see your strengths and tender with your weaknesses.
Lovers of others know God. You sense that they tap into the true source of love often and regularly.
Lovers of others have flaws. They are not perfect, and sometimes their weaknesses hurt us more than those of others from whom we expected so little.
Lovers of others do incredible good to all within their sphere of influence. (5) Why? Because the love of God which flows through them is contagious. Through them we see that God's love is resilient, communicable and infectious. Their lives have shown the resiliency of God's love. They have communicated the message of God's love by loving God and loving us. And they have exemplified the infectiousness of God's love because we have been infected.
You and I are called to be lovers of others. We're called to take the contagious love of God into the world. That's the only way this world will ever change. Our challenge this week and every week, is to be a lover of others. But this week, take it a little more seriously. Slow down a little. Smile at the check out person. Ask how they are doing. Give your place to someone in line. Smile some more. Let someone in line when you're stuck in traffic. Smile again, let your face know what your heart is feeling. Perform random acts of kindness for no other reason then that God loves you and you want to be a lover of others. Leave a big tip and a big "Thank You" written on a napkin the next time you go out to eat. Pray for a friend. Pray for an enemy or someone who has angered you.
Live the joy of your faith enthusiastically. Let others see the love of God alive and living in you. Let them see that the love of God is resilient, communicable and infectious. Having a soul might not be contagious but the love of God is.
Let the love of God be contagious in you this week.
This is the Word of the Lord for this day.
1. PC World , August, 1985, pages 74-76.
2. COUNTRY Feb/Mar 1990 (Milwaukee, WI)
4. Pulpit Resource.
5. Chuck Mylander, Southwest Yearly Meeting of Friends Church, Whittier, CA.