Jehovah was not in the wind. And after the wind, an earthquake: Jehovah was not in the earthquake.
And after the earthquake, a fire: Jehovah was not in the fire. And after the fire, a soft gentle voice. (1Kings 19:11-12)

Friday, February 3, 2017

When Love's Got ***Everything*** To Do With It

I wake up these days with a husky voice from a persistent cough and I suppose it about sounds how I’m feeling. I could crawl back under the warmth of the wool blanket these mornings and hibernate from the brash words and careless actions out there. The whole world howls gruff.

My bare toes touch the cold wood floor, my head pounds, my chest tightens, the ache of this world hurts. I slip on my black robe, press on, do the next thing, take the next step, in a world blinded in darkness.

Our world has lost its way when it comes to love.

We’ve become loud, hard, coldhearted, and self-centred people.

We rise up and demand justice, but seldom go low and die to self.

We pursue happiness and demand all our rights.

We want love, but we’ve lost what it means to give it, to live it.

We give in to our feelings and run off, we cut off, we build walls, we turn away and we check out.

Have you ever wanted to move to Australia?

My ‘baby’, who turns seven next week, brought me a book to read to her, so we cozied on the couch in the morning light and once again I read: “Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day” by Judith Viorst. Some of you may be all too familiar with the story.

Alexander woke one morning with gum in his hair. From there his day got worse and worse. He tripped on his skateboard, he didn’t get any prizes in the cereal box, he got smushed in the car. No one listened to him, his best friend deserted him, and his mother forgot to pack desert for him. He got hurt, he fell in mud, he was called names, he fought, he never got what he felt he deserved. As his disasters persisted, Alexander determined that he could not endure, and decided the only way to deal with the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad was to give up and move to Australia.

At the end of the day, Alexander’s mother told him some days are just like that.

We can all relate to Alexander, can’t we?

It’s true some days, some relationships are just like that. It’s also true that too many are giving into their moodiness without caring how it affects others and choose to respond to these difficult days, difficult relationships by fleeing through the easiest exit.

In this age, when like in the time of Judges, everyone is doing what seems “right in their own eyes”, when we base our actions on our feelings, we need to consider what love really is in the context of our interpersonal relationships.

Most of us could recite a portion of the love chapter that Paul penned to the Corinthians, but do we live it, do we do it?

“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 
Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.   
Love never ends.” {1 Corinthians 13:4-8}
The word used here for love is the Greek word ‘agape’. In many ways ‘agape’ expresses the concept of the Hebrew word ‘hesed’ in the Old Testament.

We tend to base our actions today on our feelings. Whether we lean a little more on the emotional side or remain more stoic we’ve lost what it means to love without an “exit strategy”. 

We toss away people as carelessly as our empty Starbucks cups and we relentlessly pursue our own happiness. We’ve left a trail of broken people, broken relationships, broken families, broken communities, broken churches, broken countries, a broken world.

Hesed is not a feeling for someone, it’s not a careless or causal relationship. It is never merely an abstract feeling of goodwill.

Like a brilliant diamond with many facets, ‘hesed’ is translated as: “mercy”, “kindness”, “faithfulness”, “steadfast love”, “strength”, “loyal”.

It’s a difficult word to define, perhaps even more difficult to live.

It’s a practical action expressed.

It is a committed love. It is an enduring love. It is a costly love. It is a self-giving love.

It is central to the Gospel: God pursues His people with a loyal love.

Through the narrative of Ruth and Naomi, Paul Miller focuses our attention on the extraordinary treasure of hesed love. In his book, “A Loving Life” Miller writes:

“When you love with a hesed love, you bind yourself to the object of your love, no matter what the response is . . . Your response to the other person is entirely independent of how the other person has treated you. Hesed is a stubborn love . . . Hesed is the opposite of the spirit of our age, which says we have to act on our feelings. Hesed says, ‘No, you act on your commitments. The feelings will follow.’ Love like this is unbalanced, uneven. There is nothing fair about this kind of love.”
Miller continues:
Hesed love is a determination to do someone good, no matter what, to be faithful to a covenant regardless of its impact on you. It wills to love when every fiber in your body screams run.”

God’s hesed has been described as “combining the warmth of God’s fellowship with the security of God’s faithfulness”.

We understand that we are to love the Lord God and we acknowledge that we are to love others, but we fail to grasp what this means and it’s not even possible to do hesed in our own power. 

Hesed is never deserved. But, as Christians hesed is something we are to do.

This loyal love is going to cost us. Jesus says,
“If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” (Mark 8:34).
Jesus also says, 

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.” (John 13:34)
Miller confronts us with the reality that:
“ . . . commitment love lies at the heart of Christianity. It is Jesus’s love for us at the cross, and it is to be our love for one another . . . This [loyal] love is at the heart of Jesus’s relationship with His Father, and it is at the heart of ours as well.”

So, the next time you are struggling to love someone and you want to ‘skip town and move to Australia’, consider hesed love.

It’s going to cost you, but the eternal reward will be far greater.

Come back next week, as we count the cost of hesed love.

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