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The Requirements of Love
|ARE THEY ALL ANGELS
A Catholic diocese decided to construct a new cathedral. They wanted it to capture the grander of the ancient citadels. Hours were spent brainstorming the design and conceptualizing plan. After months of research, discussion and drawings, they sent their plans to the Vatican for approval. The planning team was surprise by the prompt return of the proposal with only a brief comment scrawled in Latin that read, "Are they all angels?" They were baffled. They did not understand what the Vatican meant, so they reviewed their plans. To their own surprise, they discovered that they had failed to include any restrooms in their plans.
That is the basic problem with the church. We are not all angels. We are human beings who have very real human weaknesses. Jesus knew that the night he said goodbye to his disciples. He knew that they would have to learn how to walk in faith trusting in the power of God to work through their lives. He also knew that they would need to learn how to live together, to put aside differences, to settle conflicts and resolve arguments. He would no longer be there to serve as a mediator when James's mother would try to force her sons into leadership roles, Thomas would make some outlandish statement or Peter would act before the thinking. Jesus knew that the disciples would need to learn how to become a community, so he gave them one guiding commandment. "Love one another as I have loved you."
Love is a nice word that is so commonly used in our everyday speech that we can easily forget or misunderstand the power of the word. I believe that if a group of people are to become community of believers that love one another as Christ loves they must discover the requirements of love.
LOVE REQUIRES SELF EXAMINATION
Even now, ask yourself, am I thinking of someone needs to hear these words or am I asking myself, how should I be hearing these words?
Love will not abound in a community of believers unless each person is willing to examine their own life and consider how their own actions may be upsetting someone. We must remember that whenever we point one figure towards someone in judgement or accusation, three fingers are pointing back at us. Until we learn to examine, our own actions by the unconditional love of Christ, we will never be able to love another person. Before we complain about the actions of someone we should first ask, what am I doing that others may find offensive.
LOVE REQUIRES PATIENCE
Patience is the willingness to generously give another person the time and space to change. It requires us to withdraw our expectations, our demands, our timetables, our agenda and allow God's to prevail. "Patience does not demand; it waits."3
Patience lubricates a relationship that is overheating due to the friction of grinding gears. It stops the "heat" from building up by calming the stress. Patience first seeks to understand. Francis of Assisi once said "Lord, grant that I might seek to understand more than to be understood." We must strive to understand how other people see the issue; to learn and appreciate why they choose to respond as they have do: to discover that source of their anger, hurt, resistance or stubbornness?4
LOVE REQUIRES CONFRONTATION
In April of 1992, a commuter plane nose-dived into the wooden mountains of Georgia killing 22 people including former U.S. Senator John Tower. The government concluded that the cause of the crash was a stripped propeller gear. The pitch of the engine propeller is adjusted by two gears. On was made with a harder titanium coating. It acted like a file and over time, it wore down the teeth of the other gear that controlled the propeller.
Like, the titanium-coated gear that wore away the softer gear engaged to it, so can one abrasive, unkind spouse or friend wear away the spirit of another.6 The disciple who miss applies Jesus command "to love one another" may become hurt in such relationship. As a pastor, I would be deeply grieved to hear that a woman in my congregation who had heard me preach on these words returned to an abusive relationship and suffered serious injury. I am also upset every time a member tells me that they are leaving a congregation because they are tired of the divisive and hostile spirit of certain members. They can no longer deal with the complaining and conflict. There comes a time when the abusive behavior of another person must be confronted.
While a community of believers needs the special gifts and talents of every member, a church cannot allow one member to grind away on another. Each of us must abide by the requirements of love for the community to demonstrate the love of Christ. If one member repeatedly violates those requirements, they must be confronted with a spirit of gentleness, patience and kindness. If the behavior continues, they may have to be removed the fellowship of believers before they seriously damage the peace and unity of the church.. This is the most difficult and painful requirement of love.
1 Thomas a Kempis, Of The Imitation of Christ,
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