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Tag: love

as yourself

as yourself

Jesus put it simply: “Love your neighbor as you love yourself.”

As yourself …

How do you love yourself? Out of pity? As a duty? Because you have to?

Or is your love for yourself a desire for well-being and happiness, just because you want well-being and happiness? Don’t you defend yourself because you believe you deserve to be treated fairly? Aren’t you patient and kind with yourself, because you understand your own strengths and weaknesses and know you are still learning, still becoming? And don’t you accept help, when you do, with gratitude, believing it is offered not out of pity, but out of love, because people care about you like you care about them? Because you matter?

Isn’t your love for yourself based on a belief in your own inherent dignity and worth?

A friend shared an article with me today. You should read it. It is subtitled:

We need to change the conversation about poverty and inequality. It starts with compassion and kindness.

We need to change the conversation, to see poverty, not from the outside, but from the inside, to set aside stereotypes and see our neighbors as they are, to lead with compassion, to learn to love our neighbors … as ourselves.

An excerpt from the article …

When researchers at Princeton University showed two groups of viewers the same video of a little girl answering questions about school subjects, they told the first group that her parents were affluent professionals. They told the second group that she was the daughter of a meat packer and a seamstress.

The girl, named Hannah, performed right at grade level on the videotaped test, answering some questions correctly and missing others. But when asked about her performance, the first group, primed to believe she was wealthy, felt that she had performed above grade level. The second group, primed to believe she was not, felt that she had performed below.

It was the same video, mind you — the same girl, answering the same questions in the exact same way. But their conclusions were totally different.

Sometimes we see what we’re looking for …

a safer world

a safer world

“The United States must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes.”
(Donald Trump in a Dec. 22, 2016 tweet)

This seems to me to be akin to saying: “We must pour more gasoline on the fire that threatens to consume us all until the world learns how to put out fires.” You don’t make the world a safer place by making it more dangerous. You don’t protect the people — your own people or anybody else — by exposing them to greater risk.

“I am the first one that would like to see nobody have nukes, but we’re never going to fall behind any country even if it’s a friendly country. We’re never going to fall behind on nuclear power.”
(Donald Trump in a February 23, 2017 interview)

Again, the statement is self-defeating. If it is a inviolable maxim that “we’re never going to fall behind,” then the wish “to see nobody have nukes” is an empty and meaningless and disingenuous desire. Peace, real peace, always requires sacrifice. Jesus showed the way. The unwillingness to sacrifice, the unwillingness to love an enemy — where love means the readiness to trust, or even the readiness to risk betrayed trust for the possibility of a better end for both you and your enemy — that unwillingness guarantees perpetual mistrust, perpetual conflict, the certainty of death.

Were it not for Jesus, that would be our destiny, the destiny of all of us, the destiny of the human race — certain death. But Jesus lives and we live, to live for Jesus, by choosing his way. If the world has hope, this is it: that we will choose another way, not the way of Mutual Assured Destruction (MADness!), but the way of disarming, disarming both our arsenals and our hatreds.

No path to peace can work unless it is a path we all walk together. “Never going to fall behind” is not that path, because if we all walk it ……

who is my neighbor?

who is my neighbor?

Do not mistreat a foreigner; you know how it feels to be a foreigner, because you were foreigners in Egypt. (Exodus 23:9)

Do not mistreat foreigners who are living in your land. Treat them as you would an Israelite, and love them as you love yourselves. Remember that you were once foreigners in the land of Egypt. I am the Lord your God. (Leviticus 19:33-34)

The Lord does not show partiality, and the Lord does not accept bribes. The Lord makes sure that orphans and widows are treated fairly; the Lord loves the foreigners who live with our people, and gives them food and clothes. So then, show love for those foreigners, because you were once foreigners in Egypt. (Deuteronomy 10:17-19)

Do not deprive foreigners and orphans of their rights; and do not take a widow’s garment as security for a loan. Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and that the Lord your God set you free. (Deuteronomy 24:17-18)

Stop taking advantage of aliens, orphans, and widows. (Jeremiah 7:6)

The Lord protects the strangers who live in our land. (Psalm 146:9)

Share your belongings with your needy fellow Christians, and open your homes to strangers. (Romans 12:13)

Remember to welcome strangers in your homes. There were some who did that and welcomed angels without knowing it. Remember those who are in prison, as though you were in prison with them. Remember those who are suffering, as though you were suffering as they are. (Hebrews 13:2-3)

The King will say … “Come, you that are blessed by my Father! Come and possess the kingdom which has been prepared for you ever since the creation of the world. I was hungry and you fed me, thirsty and you gave me a drink; I was a stranger and you received me in your homes, naked and you clothed me; I was sick and you took care of me, in prison and you visited me.” The righteous will then answer him, “When, Lord, did we ever see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you a drink? When did we ever see you a stranger and welcome you in our homes, or naked and clothe you? When did we ever see you sick or in prison, and visit you?” The King will reply, “I tell you, whenever you did this for one of the least important of these followers of mine, you did it for me!” (Matthew 25:34-40)

A teacher of the Law came up and tried to trap Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to receive eternal life?”

Jesus answered him, “What do the Scriptures say? How do you interpret them?”

The man answered, “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind’; and ‘Love your neighbor as you love yourself.’”

Syrian refugee children
Photo by Mustafa Khayat
“You are right,” Jesus replied; “do this and you will live.”

But the teacher of the Law … asked Jesus, “Who is my neighbor?” (Luke 10:25-29)

killing bin laden

killing bin laden

Yes, Osama bin Laden did evil things. Yes, he despoiled the image of God that was put in him as well as in each of us. But if we allow his choices to change our choices, to make us people ready to kill — for the sake of “closure,” for the sake of “justice,” for the sake of “revenge” — then we have done the same. We have despoiled the image of God in us.

Strength, courage, and righteousness mean living the values we hold dear and not allowing ourselves to be transformed in reaction to the chaos and brokenness and evil around us.

When we are better than that, when we can uphold the value of life, all life, when we can love the humanity in any human being, even in a man consumed by evil, then we reveal something truly extraordinary, the likeness of the living God.

And so I did not find reason to celebrate this weekend over the news of bin Laden’s death. It was an occasion not for joy, but for sadness at the ongoing price all of humanity is paying for the hatred and suspicion and vengefulness that set us against each other.

illegal to love your neighbor in arizona?

illegal to love your neighbor in arizona?

Here is an excerpt from a recent report by Jim Wallis from Phoenix, Arizona. May the followers of Jesus in our own day echo the words of Peter and John and the other apostles: “We must obey God, not men.”

I got up at 4:30 a.m. on Tuesday morning to fly to Phoenix, Arizona, to speak at a press conference and rally at the State Capitol at the invitation of the state’s clergy and other leaders in the immigration reform movement. The harshest enforcement bill in the country against undocumented immigrants just passed the Arizona state House and Senate, and is only awaiting the signature of Governor Janet Brewer to become law.

Senate Bill 1070 would require law enforcement officials in the state of Arizona to investigate someone’s immigration status if there is “reasonable suspicion” that the person might be undocumented. I wonder who that would be, and if anybody who doesn’t have brown skin will be investigated. Those without identification papers, even if they are legal, are subject to arrest; so don’t forget your wallet on your way to work if you are Hispanic in Arizona. You can also be arrested if you are stopped and are simply with people who are undocumented — even if they are your family. Parents or children of “mixed-status families” (made up of legal and undocumented, as many immigrant families are out here) could be arrested if they are found together. You can be arrested if you are “transporting or harboring” undocumented people. Some might consider driving immigrant families to and from church to be Christian ministry — but it will now be illegal in Arizona.

For the first time, all law enforcement officers in the state will be enlisted to hunt down undocumented people, which will clearly distract them from going after truly violent criminals, and will focus them on mostly harmless families whose work supports the economy and who contribute to their communities. And do you think undocumented parents will now go to the police if their daughter is raped or their family becomes a victim of violent crime? Maybe that’s why the state association of police chiefs is against SB 1070.

This proposed law is not only mean-spirited — it will be ineffective and will only serve to further divide communities in Arizona, making everyone more fearful and less safe. This radical new measure, which crosses many moral and legal lines, is a clear demonstration of the fundamental mistake of separating enforcement from comprehensive immigration reform. We all want to live in a nation of laws, and the immigration system in the U.S. is so broken that it is serving no one well. But enforcement without reform of the system is merely cruel. Enforcement without compassion is immoral. Enforcement that breaks up families is unacceptable. And enforcement of this law would force us to violate our Christian conscience, which we simply will not do. It makes it illegal to love your neighbor in Arizona.

the furious longing of god

the furious longing of god

I was recently invited to join the members of the TheOOZE Viral Blogger Network. You can learn more about the Ooze online community by following the link listed in my blog’s Links list. Each month, Ooze viral bloggers select from a list of books of interest to Christian thinkers and pilgrims and agree to submit reviews on their own blogs and on the Ooze website. For my first review, I chose, and read in a hour, a new book by Brennan Manning, entitled, the furious longing of God.

Exactly at the midpoint of Brennan Manning’s book come these words:

Until the love of God that knows no boundary, limit, or breaking point is internalized through personal decision; until the furious longing of God seizes the imagination; until the heart is conjoined to the mind through sheer grace, nothing happens.

Nothing happens. Nothing that matters happens in you. Nothing that matters happens through you. Nothing happens to transform you, to heal you, to wake you up to the dawn of the life God has in store for you.

Brennan Manning wants something to happen. Brennan Manning wants something to happen for you. And so he pulls out all the stops — emotional, rhetorical, poetic — to push you and prod you and upset you and compel you to open your eyes and heart and soul to see the love, the real and powerful and vibrant and furiously intense love, God has for you.

But that’s not quite right. It is God that wants something to happen in you! Brennan is merely trying to serve as the messenger, to point, to reveal, to pull back the curtain, to try to express what cannot be rightly expressed, but to hint at it poignantly enough to bring us to look for ourselves.

If the book has a fault, it is that sometimes Manning’s “cuteness,” his toying with language to try to stretch it to say what cannot be said, his use of stories about himself which are mostly rather unflattering, sometimes get in the way and may be distracting, making us think about him instead of the One to whom he points.

And, yet, I cannot really fault him for the way he has done the book. You can’t get at personal relationship impersonally. You cannot hint at, point at, the transforming love of God by being scholarly. You have to get personal. You have to be, not just the teacher, but the messenger, the one who can say, “Can you see what I see?”

The book is not scholarly, not an essay or a treatise, but more a collection of reflections and meditations and prayers and poems. I did appreciate, however, Manning’s frequent use of quotations from other authors, from other Christians, from other pilgrims. One of my favorites was this ironic observation from Gerald May:

The entire process (of self-development) can be very exciting and entertaining. But the problem is there’s no end to it. The fantasy is that if one heads in the right direction and just works hard enough to learn new things and grows enough and gets actualized, one will be there. None of us is quite certain exactly where there is, but it obviously has something to do with resting.

And then there are the lines from Rich Mullins’ song, The Love of God, one of the sources for the title of Manning’s book:

In the reckless, raging fury
that they call the love of God.

That is the relentless refrain of this book: open yourself to the love of God for you! The essence of our faith is not about what we can do for God, but about what God has done, what God is doing for us. It is a book about God, a book that hopes to lead you, the reader, into God’s embrace, a book that urges you and entices you, not to know about God, but to know God.

It is there, in the embrace of God’s love, that our wounds are healed, and it is there that we may become healers, instruments of God’s peace … which is our intended vocation!

thirty-three prayer flags

thirty-three prayer flags

Yesterday, as classes resumed at Virginia Tech, students gathered around a display of thirty-three white prayer flags.

Thirty-three flags … one each for the thirty-three people who died the previous Monday at the hand of a lone gunman. One each for his thirty-two shooting victims … and one for him.

Thirty-three lives were lost. Thirty-three precious human lives were laid waste. All thirty-three people were remembered and grieved. It is a powerful witness that love can rise up over hate, that grace can rise up over bitterness.

Do not let evil defeat you; instead, conquer evil with good.