“Love your neighbour – have your piano tuned”was the sign on the side of a piano tuner’s van. We appreciate having good neighbours and having good people to work with. When we have to work alongside people who try our patience every day, life can become a misery. It’s not always easy responding with kindness to such people. We fear they will take advantage of our continual kindness.
One of the great evidences that there is something radically wrong with the human heart is our inability to love those around us as we know we ought. There’s a growing gap between our society’s scientific advancement and our world’s moral decline. All around us we see people who need to be loved more than they are. The massive social gap in our society can only be spanned by a love that puts the interests of others before self-interest.
It’s easy to think and talk about love in a sentimental fashion to avoid the challenge to act in a caring and considerate way to those with whom we live and work each day. We may make excuses for our failure to love someone, but such excuses frequently result in a guilty conscience. We try to justify our lack of love for someone by saying “I’ve got nothing in common with that person.” Yet we know that’s not a valid excuse as we read of the Good Samaritan who cared for a man with whom he had least in common. Love is like that!
He helped where there was no obligation to assist. Instead of asking if he had a good neighbour, he sought to be the good neighbour to someone in need of his assistance.
Love is a risky business. But it is better to have loved and lost than to have never cared at all.
It is better that we suffer from a broken heart than from lovelessness. But sometimes we try to avoid love’s adventure by wrapping ourselves in life’s luxuries and keeping ourselves busy with hobbies and pass-times so we don’t see the lonely visitor or newcomer in need of our warm welcome and listening ear. It can be hard to speak with visitors or newcomers in our midst. It can seem hard to be friendly to others and to be more hospitable to newcomers.
Love enriches our lives like limiting our love impoverishes us. We don’t find ourselves or our true identity by looking after ourselves, but in acts of love towards others. In the early Church we read that a person noted that “These Christians love each other even before they are acquainted.” I think he thought that was humorous. But what an insightful compliment that was! What matters isn’t whether a church is big or little, weak or strong, but whether it is loving or not.
The how is the Father, The Son and through the Holy Spirit because we aren’t left to love difficult people on our own, with our own resources. God’s love enables usbefore it obligates us. “We love because He loved us first.”Long before we were aware of it, God loved each of us with an everlasting love. God doesn’t love us because we’re so lovable.
God loves the unlovable beyond all reason or calculation. “In this is love – not that we loved God, but that He loved us, and sent His Son to pay the price for our sins (1 John 4:10).”
His love is creative. It brings love to life in us. The one who is loved, learns to love.
“Dear friends, since God loved us so much, we ought to love each other.”Through the Holy Spirit, God has poured His love into our hearts, so that it may overflow into the lives of those nearest to us each day. The better we know God, the easier we will find it to love others better. The more we hear, read and study God’s love letter – the Bible – the more we will experience the wonderful, overpowering love of God. “I will always love you”,God says to us in Jeremiah (31:3).
What greater love can we experience than to be loved by the Creator of the whole universe? What the Bible says to us about the God of love cannot help but enrich our lives. We listen to God’s Word so that our love for each other may be renewed.
The better we know our Bible, the better we know what love requires of us.
The Ten Commandments, St. Paul says to us, spell out the kind of actions performed by love. In his poem in praise of love (1 Corinthians 13), St. Paul said that there are things love cannot do: “love does not insist on its own way … love is not jealous, boastful, arrogant, rude, irritable or resentful.”Love rules all these out. Love is not a case of “anything goes”. The Ten Commandments were given to those people God had saved from slavery in Egypt. They are still guidelines for us today. Through these guidelines, God seeks to protect family life, marriages, property and reputation from harm and danger. When we love others, we’re not to compare our love with the love of those around us.
The only standard with which we’re to measure ourselves is the love of Christ. Christ our Lord says, “A new commandment I give to you that you love each other as I have loved you.”Miracles happen where we expect more of myself than I do of others and funnily enough, more blessings come from giving than from receiving love. All true love is never fully returned but this lack of return doesn’t dampen love’s giving. Because love constantly delights in doing more than its share. True love is free of all calculation and refuses to attach any conditions to its giving.
A farmer was missing some of his best cows. He thought they were stolen by his next door neighbour. He knocked on the neighbour’s door and demanded “Where are my cattle?” “I didn’t steal them”, his neighbour replied. An argument followed, resulting in the threat “and if you ever come back on my property, I’ll kill you.” The farmer attended a meeting where he was challenged to love his enemy. He drove to the neighbour’s house in fear and trembling. “I have come to ask you to forgive me,” the church-going farmer said. The neighbour replied “You accused me of stealing your cattle. I didn’t steal them, but they did break through the fence and come onto my property and if you hadn’t accused me of stealing, I would have told you.”
Instead of hastily criticising, judging or accusing someone of something, love first of all prays for that person, And Jesus then enables us to see that person in a new light, through His loving eyes. “We who are strong ought to bear the failings of the weak, and not please ourselves. We should try to please them instead of ourselves for their good, to build them up. Christ did not live to please Himself (Romans 15:1-2).”Marked by a spirit of understanding, love makes allowances for others and is full of respect for the least of our Lord’s sisters and brothers. So friends, let our faith be active in love as per 1 John 3:18:
“Let us love not just with our words and when we speak, but also with our actions and our deeds.” Amen.