09 February 2007

Go Sell Shoes?

Recently, Senator Chuck Hegel of Nebraska criticized his fellow Republicans on the Foreign Relations Committee for opposing President Bush’s war plan, but not having the political courage to cast a vote against it and risk their constituents’ support. “Why were you elected? If you want a safe job, go sell shoes.” That quip may capture the realities of political courage for a politician. It definitely describes the reality of a Christian who seeks to live love as Jesus commands.

I’ve spent my weekly study time for Sunday (as opposed to my long-term study time—currently devoted to Luke 10:2-24 for 04.29.07) focusing on what love involves. It really is an elusive word to capture. There is so much that the Bible says about it, yet never altogether and never in a way that is really concise, save one illustration—the cross. Like Jesus talking about what the Kingdom of God is like, the emphasis seems to be little snapshots that reveal aspects of love, rather than trying to develop a comprehensive definition or description.

At the heart of love is action. Love has to do something. It is not content to be a mere affection or attitude. Not one to frequently (ever!) quote Michael W. Smith, I have to on this topic: “Love isn’t love ‘til you give it away” (“Give it Away” from the album Change Your World, 1993, For all you country music fans, I note that this was “stolen” from Reba McEntire’s 1983 song “Love isn’t Love” (‘Til You Give It Away) from her Behind the Scene Album). Love requires initiative, effort, energy, sacrifice, risk, and the potential for pain. The real test of our spiritual health, the true measure of our religious life, is whether or not it compels us to love. Jesus’ statement that “all of the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments” (Mat. 22:40) makes this precise point. The author Jonathan Swift, best know for Gulliver’s Travels, said essentially the same thing in a different way: “We have just enough religion to make us hate, but not enough to make us love one another.”

God has elected (or chosen) you to be a people who actively love. Paul puts it this way, “…we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Eph. 2:10). The writer of Hebrews reminds us that this is our task together, to “consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds” (Heb. 10:24). Without love, for both God and others, we are only noise…we are nothing…we can gain nothing (1 Cor. 13:1-3).

God has elected you to be a people who actively love. This is why you were elected. But, it is a dangerous, hard, costly calling. “If you want a safe job, go sell shoes.” Many of you could be content with the callings you have from 9-5 Monday through Friday, making sales, designing parts, writing code, raising kids, running a home. Yet, many of you make the choice to do more and enter into the real vocation of your life—expressing your love to God by loving others. You get involved in relationships that add to the demands on your life for their sake. You help others in their marital struggles while you try to find the way through your own. You pour yourself into shaping other people’s children when you’ve already spent a lifetime doing that for your own. You meet other people’s material needs when you likely don’t feel like you have enough for your needs. You do what it takes to make love an action.

I have to say that I’m awed by that—by your many examples of love acting, for that is what love truly is. Seeing these good deeds definitely causes me to praise our Father in heaven. Thanks to all of you who set the example Jesus set of not being content with just selling shoes.

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