Recall the popular Christian song – “They Will Know We Are Christian’s By Our Love“? I do. In fact I’ve sung it over and over again at various times in life.
Over the years, the words of the song and the meaning behind it have struck me as something of an enigma. An enigma because what the world believes about love has crept into Christian thought and actions.
The world may think of love as slobbery wet kisses passionately delivered; but the faith community has all too often turned it into sloppy agape. Sloppy because it is more ‘nice’ than kind. It does little to exhort and much more to excuse. It is less often the love which Jesus delivered during His earthly ministry and much more a slobbery kiss that leaves us wet without wisdom to grow personally and spiritually.
Weeks ago, I began talking about role models. In particular Jesus as the role model. If that’s the case and I believe it ought be for those of us who believe, then we might want to look closely at how Jesus meted out Love in various situations. Some are beautiful and touch our hearts with compassion, i.e. the woman taken in adultery – “Do none condemn you? Then neither do I!“
Others are less so and can cause us to wrench uncomfortably, i.e. His words rebuking Peter for speaking out of turn about the ultimate outcome of Jesus life – “Get behind me satan!” (I deliberately do no capitalize the name of the enemy of our faith as “it” doesn’t deserve such respect!).
So why the difference? Why such tender non-condemning words to a woman whose behavior was anything but respectful; while harsh words for His friend who would defend to the teeth?
Perhaps the answer is so simple, it eludes us. Perhaps it’s nothing more than AUTHENTICITY! Intentional, purposeful and to the point authenticity!
Wow, imagine that! Jesus modeling authenticity so that we too will grow into an authentic response to all of life as He did. Done at the Father’s bidding – whether compassion in the face of rigid religious rules; or firm words of discipline in the face of well meaning exuberance which could disarm the Lord’s firm determination to fulfill the Father’s Will!
I thought about the subject of this post last week. in fact, I started writing it at that point. What prompted it was not the examples above; but a recent life situation and observations following that situation. And the Scripture verses that came to mind relate to the Fig tree. You know the one – the one that did not bear fruit out of season!
Jesus and his party left Bethany for Jerusalem and He was hungry. Lo and behold a fig tree stood in their path so Jesus approached to see if beneath all the leaves there was fruit to eat. None to be found. It was after all, “too early in the season for fruit“. All heard him tell the fig tree, “you shall never bear fruit again!” They traveled to the city and returned at nightfall. The following morning as they passed the fig tree; all noticed it had withered from it’s roots. Jesus strong words of rebuke brought ruin to the tree that had not fed him when He was hungry.
The moral of the story in Scripture relates to the power of faith and that when we ask for anything in faith – it is ours.
But I think of it relative to love. Tough love. Love that loves so much it’s willing to risk everything to set another on the right path. The path to life – not destruction. Love that rebukes and exhorts when that is what Love calls for. Love that withers another’s folly to the roots. Love that rolls from our authentic core – speaking the truth of and from our hearts!
Love in the Christian sense is love that spans compassion to exhortation to rebuke and back again. Jesus didn’t leave the woman accused of adultery with sloppy agape. He called her behavior what it was; and He ended His compassion by exhorting her to change the path of her life! He loved her enough to do that. Likewise, He called out Peter’s exuberance by sharply speaking His truth – “get behind me evil one!”
PAPA’s Love for us spans compassion to exhortation to rebuke and back again. Like any good parent who wants the best for his/her children; He loves us enough to exhort us to change and rebukes when we falter from the course. He does not “bruise the tender reed” but “exhorts us to grow in the image and likeness of His Son”. He calls us to task when we stray but lovingly welcomes us home when we see the error of our ways.
Jesus Love is always intentional; has a purpose and point. Our Love must be the same. It must be intentional; have a purpose and make it’s point – whether it’s the compassion of mercy and grace; or a rebuke that steers others clear of dangerous ways. It will not whither with blistering words spoken in human anger; but the blistering authenticity of who we are and what we experience in our hearts. It will not leave those we love groveling in the dust; but raise them to new wisdom and understanding.
Sloppy agape will never do that. It will fail to love from the heart and be anything but authentic in intention, purpose and point! And it may not always be ‘politically correct’. But it will correct – when those we love experience it as an expression of our authentic love for them!
Let us do away with the slop and turn to that which is authentic love. That which permits the Spirit to work in the lives of those we are called to Love!
Linda S. Fitzgerald, Visionary Partner
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