There is a story about a farmer who had a reputation in his community for complaining, and after a great harvest, one of his neighbors felt that he would be able to get some positive gratitude out of the grumbler. So while greeting him he said, “Well, John, you should be happy now! The harvest is the best in many years!” The grousing farmer thought for a moment, and then said, “Yeah, it’ll do, but where are all the rotten ones for feeding the hogs?” Sometimes it is easy to get distracted from the wonderful things happening in our lives because we have patterned ourselves to see the shortcomings in the people and circumstances which surround us, and eventually we find ourselves forgetting that God has created us to meet challenges, not yield or ignore them. But culture trains us with images that point out our lack of success, keep us off balance and riding on waves of turmoil. Let us love each other, for love is of God and everyone who loves is born of God. In most religious traditions, the goal is to have a core, which leads us to love one another. The sacrificial love is more than a nice idea and a noble concept; it is, in fact, a pattern of behavior that is supposed to be displayed by us in action. In the Judeo-Christian tradition, scriptures like I John 3:18 asks how God’s love abides in one who has an abundance of goods and sees a brother or sister in need yet refuses help.
Pastor Clarence Jordan captured the concreteness of this everyday love and compassionate assistance when he translated in his Cotton Patch Version of 1 John 3:18 back in 1973: “My little ones, let’s not talk about love. Let’s not sing about love. Let’s put love into action and make it real.”
Let us love one another. Why, in our present age, does this task seem so hard?
Most of us find it easier to argue and condemn our political opponents than to love and learn something from them. Most of us would rather write a check to a homeless shelter than spend an evening providing job counseling to a person on the streets. We find it easier to live on our assumptions about what people need and who they really are rather than actually taking the time to find out something new about another and assess what they might really need.
We often fail to make love real because we are lazy. Lazy in intellect, awash with excuses and justifications. We take a fairly easy path when we forget the basics and put our energy into fighting about politics, abortion, homelessness, and homosexuality. These topics give us the comfort of a black-and-white view of the world, one in which there are good people and bad people, angels and demons, winners and losers. These things might seem like the basics, but they are not. They are about power, authority, and influence. And when our focus is upon power, the soul of humans is to conquer, to crush, humiliate, discard, and destroy. If we are going to get back into a peace-filled center, we are going to have to take the difficult path of putting love into action by listening more, standing less on our positions and instead speaking from the place where our differences are not denied but cherished. It is much harder to love one another than it is to fight one another.
Our world is in desperate need of a love, of compassion and provision. There are people all around us who are searching desperately for a community that actually practices what it preaches. When we are acting out of love, we do not what is best for the “me” but what is best for the “many.” This means helping one in need and loving one another with a humble spirit and in grace. It is time to return to the core competencies we have as humans. We may not always have the same mind. We might not agree on the causes of poverty, violence, or brokenness. But we can agree that they are real, and as compassionate people we can stop talking about reasons and do something tangible, something real. We give of our time, our talents, and our riches because we actively seek not to be right but to do what is right. Let us not wallow in what is wrong but instead find in our service and love we are helping to make the world once again whole.
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