Love is a tricky word and also a word we use too casually. Time and again, I will use Frederick Beuchner’s definition of love to explain what I mean when I use the word separately from romantic love. Beuchner explains it this way:
“In the Christian sense, love is not primarily an emotion but an act of the will. When Jesus tells us to love our neighbors, he is not telling us to love them in the sense of responding to them with a cozy emotional feeling.
You can as well produce a cozy emotional feeling as you can a cough or sneeze. On the contrary, he is telling us to love our neighbors in the sense of being willing to work for their well-being even if it means sacrificing our well-being to that end.”
from his book Wishful Thinking
This morning on NPR, a teacher talked about why she thought our country is going backwards. The story told was of a tow truck driver who wouldn’t town a car with a Bernie sticker on it. She explained that both people were white, so it wasn’t a racial issue. The story upset me, not for political reasons, but to hear that our basic sense of respect for one another is waning. We all need one another whether we want to face that limitation or not.
Jesus would tell us to love one another, or perhaps tell the story again of the Good Samaritan. Our scripture is filled with stories of the importance of seeing the “stranger” as a guest.
Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it. Hebrews 13:2 (NRSV)
We are strangers in an alien world and it is only through being kind to one another and respecting one another that we can survive. Yes, death comes to each of us. That doesn’t mean we have to be miserable until that end. It doesn’t mean we have to constantly fight each other in words. Our world has come a long way since I was born in the 1960s. I never thought that I would be able to marry in my lifetime. The conversations we are having, I never thought I would hear about them and read about them in public. The conversations are hard, but they are worthwhile.
I’m struggling this morning as the rain falls. How can I express my concern? What does it mean to “love” or “respect” someone we may not even like? I’ve always believed that each person, each creation, is a gift to the earth. As such, how can we view the differences in opinions and ways of getting through life that each of us struggle with in the day to day? I wish I could say I have an answer. My hope in this particular writing is begin a discussion. Perhaps you’ll write me. If not, perhaps you will talk to your best friend about it or your Pastor or Lama. Maybe it means sitting on a park bench and watching all the diverse people walk by as you eat your lunch.
“Have a big enough heart to love unconditionally, and a broad enough mind to embrace the differences that make each of us unique.” ― D.B. Harrop
As I wrote this blog, a Joy Williams song started playing. Over and again, she sings “We can never go back” and all I want to sing to the world is that same phrase. Let’s go forward in love. Let us work together to serve and uplift those in need. What does it mean to STEP UP TO LOVE? All I know is that I don’t want us to go back. Let us go forward in respect and kindness for one another. Let us work together to conquer the world of hatred by respect, compassion, and love for one another. It’s not a pipe dream. It can happen even if it’s only in my little space of time. Even if it only starts with your family. Even if it means only taking time to breathe before we say something hurtful. One breath at a time, we can love.
“The love for the more fortunate is a rare thing–to love those who succeed where we fail, to rejoice without envy with those who rejoice, the love of the poor for the rich, of the black man for the white man. The world is always bewildered by its saints. And then there is the love for the enemy–love for the one who does not love you but mocks, threatens, and inflicts pain. The tortured’s love for the torturer. This is God’s love. It conquers the world.”
― Frederick Buechner from
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