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Christians grow by caring

by davesandel on May 15th, 2020

May 15, 2020               (today’s lectionary)

 

Christians grow by caring

I have waited for some letters with excitement and fear. (We wrote letters in the old days.) Would I be accepted as a student at Valparaiso University? Would Margaret and I be accepted as students of spiritual direction at the Chiara Center in Springfield? When will our stimulus checks come? (They came!)

And there were letters from girlfriends, and from mom, from Aunt Mary, from my friends in the Unification Church after I left.

My friend recently received a letter welcoming him to a position as county judge. Of course, others received letters thanking them for their interest. Thanks but no thanks.

“The apostles and presbyters in Jerusalem sent a letter with Paul and Barnabas, accompanied by leading men among the brothers, to the Gentiles.” The letter told the Gentiles they were welcomed as true converts to the Hebrew religion, and that the rule of circumcision did not apply to them.

But what did apply?

Break off three traditions: eating meat that has been sacrificed to idols, eating meat which has not been drained of its blood, and immoral sex. These, perhaps, apply to us as well. Or if not these, then others. As Christ-followers, what traditions should we break away from? Which habits of our culture are immoral, incorrect, inadequate, unjust, evil?

Those traditions probably involve  money and sex and other physically tempting things. They might also involve ways of thinking that move me away from God rather than toward God (Ignatius’ desolation versus consolation). They might involve worship or even prayer:  worshipping “Satan,” worshipping a great leader, praying to a person rather than to God. These “traditions” bear little weight before breaking down.

How about accepting news before it’s been vetted, living as if what I hear on the internet is true, even becoming anxious about events far from home when I don’t notice what is going on across the fence or in my own back yard. Tradition! Not always the best thing.

“I will give thanks to you, O Lord, among the people.”

Now there is a tradition which has stood the test of time.

“I will sing praises to you among the nations.”

God’s goodness endures forever.

 

Is it disrespectful to others if I travel to areas where there are fewer COVID-19 restrictions, and then return home? How closely do I follow quarantine guidelines? Does wearing a mask imply respect, or not wearing a mask imply disrespect?

How do I love my neighbor as myself? Jesus said, “Love one another as I have loved you.” But then he got up close and personal: “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.”

Margaret cut her finger today and was unable to use her hand for awhile. She thought of her situation in the context of those who are in ventilators struggling to breathe. And I think every day about my friends who work in nursing homes. Will they choose again today to go to work?

The Bible Knowledge Commentary on John 15 points out that “Christians grow by caring for and nurturing each other.” Duh. But that’s easy to forget, at least for me. It was easier to “grow” when we had three kids, and the house was full. Parents have a built-in opportunity to care for and nurture their kids. What now? Margaret asked me to help with her cut, and I did. I “grew” a little, just by saying yes.

Still, the world is full of hurting people, and I usually do nothing. That is called a “sin of omission.” When I do nothing, I do NOT grow.

But still, I sit unmoving in my chair. This puzzling immorality of my life bends little on its own. So the last word from Jesus in today’s text engages me: “These things I command you, so that you WILL love one another.” He speaks to them not as servants but as friends, who have learned the ways of Jesus and naturally do as he does. Or at least that is where they are headed.

I am on that path, too. My life could be so much more selfish than it is. I could be more cynical, lazy, greedy, careless with others. The “commands” of Jesus in my life do matter. We are friends. The choices I make are shaped out of the quality of our friendship.

Say yes, David.

I can say yes to others, but I usually don’t say yes to the voice inside me that wants to me to go out of my way to look actively for people who need my help, and help them. Is this genetic? I hope not. I look back on the benevolent traditions of my family, and I see many examples of giving.

I also see times when we looked no farther than our own circled wagons. I follow in those footsteps too. And the moral wax that makes me just a little deaf does not dislodge easily.

I believe, Lord, help my unbelief!             (Acts 15, Psalm 57, John 15)

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