The Love Chapter
A lemur had a son who was possessed of a truly foul temperment. His father took him into the back yard and gave him a box of nails and a hammer. "Son," he said. "Whenever you get angry at someone, I want you to drive a nail into the fence."
Before the day was out, the young lemur had driven over forty nails. Having this highly visible measure of his anger,not to mention numb hands, the lemur started to learn to control his emotions. The nail-poundings became fewer and further between, until they had stopped altogether.
"Now," said Dad. "I want you to remove one nail every day you keep your temper." Much time passed, and the nails came out one by one, until the young lemur announced that there were no nails left. "That's very good." said the father lemur. "Now look at the fence."
"It's full of holes." said the little prosimian.
"That's right. Every time you lost your temper with someone, it was as though you drove a nail into them. Eventually, the nails came out, but the damage has been done. Your relationship with that person will never be as good as new, just as this fence will never be good as new."
I'm sure those of you who have known me for any length of time are thinking one of two thoughts. Either "He hasn't got much room to talk about controlling anger." or "Well, he's got a lot of experience." Perhaps both.
For those of you who don't know me well, let me give you some background. In real life, I am a huge man. I look a bit like Bluto from Popeye. Back when I was a boy, I was tiny. I was skinny, scrawny and sickly. Consequently, I was always getting beaten up by bullies. When I got bigger, I suddenly found that I not only was able to fight back, but that when I got really angry, my strength trippled and I felt no pain. What better way to use these newfound powers than in the destruction of evil? I studied martial arts and became a crimefighter. I was highly effective. Even my own teammates were afraid of my strength. But I made one chronic mistake. I failed to distinguish between legitimate prey (criminals) and those around me who just happened to tick me off. From my perspective, they were the same, and therefore all to be fought. I still have trouble telling the difference, sometimes, and it has cost me a lot. People who were once my very best friends seldom deign to speak to me, now.
People are perverse. I don't mean gross, I mean they do the opposite of what they're supposed to. Put a sign on a bench saying "do not touch. wet paint." and everyone has to touch it. What, then, can we expect but that there will be times when we don't get along? There are going to be times when I don't do right by you or you don't do right by me. What do we do when that happens? Beat each other up? Yell and scream and do whatever we can to get our own way? Let me answer that question with another question. Is it important to get your own way? Suppose you feel slighted because your friend bought everyone else a... let's make something up. A queeble sandwich. Would it make you angry that you didn't get a queeble sandwich? I think I might be angry. But a sandwich is gone in a few minutes. Suppose your friend borrowed your Rolls Canardly and wrecked it out on the highway. How long does a car last? I don't think they're expected to last ten years. Most of the things we get angry about are negligible in the grand scheme of things because they will pass away anyhow.
To quote Apologetix: "Things that last are few. Things like faith and love and hope. From all these, there's only one thing you need most." An excellent paraphrase of 1 Corinthians 13:13.
Look around you. Every thing that you see will be gone in a little while. The chair you're sitting in will wear out. Your computer will break. Even in here, this place isn't going to last forever. Someday, this web site will be gone and the imaginary setting we kept here will be forgotten. Ultimately, these things have no importance in and of themselves. But take another look. What's the one thing in this room that you can actually see with your real-world eyes? I see a list of names. Draco Dei. Ann Vole. Xyie. Zyborg22. Jude the Rat. Syruss. (I hope these people are here, anyway. I wrote this in advance.) Every one of these people is real. They are immortal. They are what is important. And what you say and do to others has the potential to affect them literally forever. This is why if you don't have love, you have nothing.
How, then, should we treat one another? Let's take a clue from our name. We are Christians. That means "Little Christs". Christ is God and God is love. Therefore, we are to behave as if we are love. Ideally, you should be able to read 1 Corinthians 13 and substitute your own name. If I am behaving as i should, I should be able to say this...
Oren is patient, Oren is kind. He does not envy, he does not boast, he is not proud.
He is not rude, he is not self-seeking, he is not easily angered, he keeps no record of wrongs.
Oren does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.
He always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Oren never fails.
Boy, what a wake-up call it was to type that. I know that I'm not anything like that. I am not patient. I am envious, I'm easily angered, and I have a hard time trusting and hoping. But this is the ideal for which I am to strive. It is the mark that all of us need to be meeting. How can we call ourselves Christians if we can't even manage this short list of sixteen simple things?
Here is my challenge to you for this week. Make this list personal and use it as a daily checklist. Ask yourself every day whether you lived up to it.
Did I keep my cool with those who annoyed me?
Did I act with kindness? Was the way I treated others how I'd like to be treated?
Was I jealous of someone else's blessings?
Was I boastful, illiciting jealousy in someone else?
Was I haughty or humble?
Did I behave with courtesy and sensitivity?
Did I put my own needs above the needs of others?
Was my fuse short today?
Have I failed to forgive anyone?
Did I take pleasure in someone's suffering?
Have I taken pleasure in the truth?
Did I protect those who were counting on me to protect them?
Have I failed to trust today?
Have I maintained my hope?
Did I give up?
Have I failed anyone who was depending on me?
Jesus gave us two great commands. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength and love your neighbor as yourself. THIS is what it's all about. Being a Christian is about being awesome to each other. First God, then everyone else. Our own pleasure is the last thing we should seek, though if we are doing our best to live Christ's two commandments, there is room for that, especially is that pleasure is shared. To quote that great proverb: "Be excellent to each other, and party on, Dudes!"
Writing this sermon has been a major eye-opener for me, and it looks like it's going to be a life-changer. From now on, just as I use my glucometer to monitor my physical health every morning, so I will create a new segment in my daily devotions in which I shall use this chapter to monitor my spiritual health. I invite each of you to do the same.
Today's reading: 1 Corinthians 13
13:1 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.
2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.
3 If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.
4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.
5 It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.
6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.
7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
8 Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.
9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part,
10 but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears.
11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me.
12 Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.