Jeremiah 1:4-10 Psalm 71:1-6
1 Corinthians 13:1-13 Luke 4:21-30
May these words and our thoughts be acceptable to God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
The New Testament today talks to us of Love and Hate, two extreme emotions. First we will consider Love. The love talked about here is not erotic or romantic love but deep friendship akin to Charity but more than that. In Greek the word is ‘agape’. It is unlike any other love such as familial love, or greedy love, as in a love for money and possessions, and different from lust by a country mile. It’s the self-giving Love that dies on the Cross for others. It is the kind of love we are to have for others, close or not, same race or not, same class or not, same sex or not, same age or not. It’s not platonic love, you know, amicable or just neighbourly, like when you see your neighbour in the morning and say “Hi, how are you ?” perhaps not really caring what the answer is, that’s just politeness, and love only in the sense that you don’t want them to feel offended by being ignored. The Love Paul describes is active, yet patient (not irritable or abusive), kind (not rude or envious), it seeks truth (not lies), it puts up with a lot (especially when things are intolerable).
Paul says he got his insight into Charity and Love through his growing spiritual maturity. I’m sure that all of us could take a crack at the requirements for Agape Love, except perhaps the last one, putting up with things that have become intolerable. As normal human beings we will get to a point when we say enough is enough and slam the door shut on what we cannot stand. We are human. Paul though is talking about God-like love. God will never shut the door on us. In fact it’s the reverse we sometimes shut the door on God. So don’t shut the door on others.
There is a type of love that Paul hint’s at which is very necessary for us to give and experience, if we are to grow and mature emotionally, physically and spiritually, that kind of love is Tough Love. We don’t have the patience of Job, let alone God, we need another way of dealing with things, we are not perfect saints, we don’t know the complete picture nor all the truth. Paul hints at tough love, when he says true charity bears, believes and hopes for all things. We can hope that teaching a life lesson even the hard way can be helpful. No way does that mean we ignore real need. “If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill,’ and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that ?” (James 2:15-16) That is not charity nor even tough love. To say “I will not give you any support because you don’t have a job, you should earn your keep” is not charity or even a worthwhile lesson. In all this we should always remember that before we open our mouths we should walk a mile in the other person’s shoes. You’d be surprised how that changes opinions. Do unto others . . . (Matthew 7:12).
Now consider the emotion of Hate. The people in Nazareth loved to hear Jesus speak until He told them that He was not there exclusively for the Jews, but for all humankind. Their Love turned to Hate almost immediately. Jesus the subject of their adoration became the object of a bitter distain. Jesus was surrounded by so much Hate for Him that He was nearly thrown off a cliff by the crowd. Only by His sheer force of personality was He able to pass through the crowd unharmed. Hate usually has the effect of harming the hater. Not only does it play havoc with blood pressure it consumes all the other good intentions within, it takes up all the emotional space one has and like a cancer it feeds on you. And nine times out of ten the outcome of hate deprives the hater. Think how the story would be different if the Nazareans had welcomed Jesus and accepted His offer to be with them, to lead them. How different if Caiaphas and his gang had welcomed Jesus, instead of being afraid of Him, instead of hating Him. Their lives, His life, our lives would have been so much better.
So when we share our Charity, our Love, with others make sure it doesn’t take a turn and become disdain or worse hate for the people we serve or support. It can happen and is a challenge that presents itself too often.
To help us through the challenges of being human Jeremiah offers us an approach and a realisation of who we really are. The words of God we read in Jeremiah this morning are worthy of our own mindfulness. God said to him “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you”. The same is no less true of you and me. God knew us from conception (pro-choicers please note). We have a purpose in this life it was given to us by God long before each of us was born. We are not all called to be prophets like Jeremiah, some are, others are called to the other ways of life and occupations that are necessary for our physical, emotional and spiritual survival as humans, we touched on that throughout January in the readings. And being equally called we should give and receive mutual respect, that is the foundation of God’s intended society for us. But of course God goes further and so should we. Building on our Call is the Agape Love Paul so beautifully describes in Chapter 13. It is a classic statement because it forms the basis of our interactions with others, like the Magna Carta and our Constitution it is what our life should be about. Read Chapter 13, it’s a good piece to commit to memory, so you can pull it out when you feel the need for a little Love. Amen.