I am addicted to Bible study notes. I just can’t seem to help myself downloading or buying them. The intention is always to save them for after I finish the ones I am doing, but then I dabble. I take a quick lick and then I am hooked. They are no longer “saved” but join the current stuff. The morning quiet time is no longer breakfast but a four course dinner with all the trimmings as I dip from one thing to another. I have spiritual flatulence – interesting noises, a peculiar fragrance but no actual movements.
That is all changing, of course – according to my latest download. – 40 days with Dietrich Bonhoeffer. I picked up a book about praying for 15 days with him and liked him so much that I wanted more.
One of the verses to meditate on was John 15:12.
“My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.”
I seem to remember preaching a series of words on the theme of love. I began with “Love your neighbour as yourself” and dissected the parable of the Good Samaritan. As a church family we should be insulted if we were loved as neighbours – our relationship in the church is not a neighbour to neighbour one. We are brothers and sisters – not neighbours and are entitled to love that goes beyond neighbour love.
The series moved on to John 15:12 – loving one another as Christ loves us. Maybe “as I have loved you” should characterise all our actions without distinction between neighbour and brother or sister.
It amazes me that there is always new truth to be found in God’s word – sometimes it’s an old truth with a fresh reminder. Sometimes it is just new.
I was thinking about how Jesus doesn’t ask me to decide who to love. He takes that decision out of my hand by saying “Love each other.” Left to my own devices I would attach numerous strings to the command. Just in case I was ever in danger of loving the wrong person I would have an unspoken list of who qualifies and who doesn’t. Jesus has ripped up the list and cut all the strings by saying “Love each other.”
I was also thinking about how Jesus doesn’t spell out in any kind of detail how I am to demonstrate love. He just says “as I have loved you.” That makes it all rather open ended. Love is an action word and any action that puts the needs of another person before my own qualifies.
Jesus command covers the “who” and the “how” of love. The “who” leads me to people beyond my own small circle of friends and family, to strangers, to people who live outside my comfort zone. The “how” challenges me to act in sacrificial ways – how I spend my money or my time.
At this point I am feeling hot under the collar. I love my comfort zone. The easy yoke that Jesus promised seems to drop on my shoulders with a heavy weight. I don’t think any yoke is an easy one if the posture is all wrong. Drooping, disheartened shoulders will never bear an easy yoke comfortably. It doesn’t fit right on the shoulders but chaffs sorely. There’s nothing wrong with the yoke but everything wrong with the set of the shoulders. So, I am setting the shoulders straight!
I have signed up for a lifestyle evangelism course called “Keep Your Fun On”. I wouldn’t say that it was an instant feeling of “Yes, let’s do it.” The description of the course is just about everything that I would prefer not to do. I’m not inclined to buddy up with folk. I don’t want to dare or be dared to do anything – I take risk assessments seriously. The course really isn’t me…which kind of begs the question “Why would I sign up for it?” It might not be me but how am I to know until I try it?
Years ago I signed on for a creative writing course at the local college curious to see if it was for me. It was the pushing of a door to see what was on the other side. It was so me it was ridiculous. I fell into writing and was so at home in the written word.
I sometimes think I am a finished product that I have seen all the facets in me that exist and I like the person that I am. I like this clay jar the Potter has made on His wheel. But it isn’t the finished product – there is always a new facet to fashion, a different angle for His light to catch.
It’s time to start making some new connections – to other people, to new ways of expressing love and connection with God that goes beyond the next set of Bible notes I download or buy.