(5/11): Acts 10:44-48 • Psalm 98 • 1 John 5:1-6 • John 15:9-17
This week's readings are all about love. I think it's a hard concept – it's been so trivialized, so overused – and besides, it's complicated! Jesus, though, doesn't seem to have this problem. He's clear about the idea, and says what he thinks. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one's life for one's friends (v. 13).
My church does an Easter sunrise service at a nearby cemetery. Walking around after the service Easter morning, I saw verse 13, inscribed on a tombstone. I knew nothing else about the person buried there, but I had an instant reaction: What a brave thing to do!
Love is not usually described as brave. Usually, it's thought of as kind, or sweet, or thoughtful. In our culture, at least, it's about feelings or the expression of feelings. In essence, though, it's about doing. Starting the coffee is a small act of love. Love must act; otherwise, it's something else besides love.
The comfortable feeling of being together with others can be confused with love. The pressure to be together at the holidays begins with the naïve assumption that the all-too-squishy togetherness is love. Add the belief that the more togetherness, the better, and a holiday disaster has already begun. Along the way, the pressure to agree is huge, raising the eternal question: How can a family be together for a holiday without everyone having to agree on everything?
When families can become more open to one another, they are more able to be resourceful. Emerging tension somehow becomes more manageable. Perhaps part of what's happening here is that being open to various views is a way of strengthening the family, which can always benefit from a widening of its lens on the world. The openness and respect for one another enhances the family's resilience, as each person may become calmer and less anxious. In such an atmosphere, people are more likely to be together and still be themselves.
During this covid year, togetherness has been tight with a few, perhaps, but minimal with all others. Finding ways to stay in touch has been the challenge, with joining a zoom call or texting a friend often the only options. I wonder what's been learned from the year. Intentional conversations about what was really missed, and what can just as easily be left behind, will be important.
Conversation is nothing, though, without action. And here I think it's useful to consider the ultimate sacrifice of giving up of one's life for another. We all know people who routinely give up their own life responsibilities to focus on others. In my view, this is not love, but rather a 'glomming on' to another which prevents a person from developing a self. Living one's life in a way that is responsible for oneself, and responsible to others, is the beginning point of loving others. Then, if the moment comes when a sacrifice is called for, a person has a self to offer.
Morning: How can I balance my responsibilities for myself and my responsibilities to others today?
Evening: When does my family pressure others to agree? When do I notice this pressure at work? How can I be my most mature self in it? How can people be together and still be themselves?
Psalm 98:1 O sing to the LORD a new song, for he has done marvelous things. His right hand and his holy arm have gotten him victory.