The main reason that I was drawn to this passage was because the heading for the passage is “Love”.
Most mornings I try to start my day by spending a time of stillness to help prepare me for whatever the day brings. However, I fail miserably to empty my mind of all the little nagging thoughts that prevents me from truly communicating with God in any meaningful way. To help me, I have devised a three word Mantra to try and help me to concentrate and make this time of reflection more meaningful.
One word is Hope which was the word I based my Words of Wisdom on last month and the second word is Love which is the theme for this morning and the third word, well I will keep that for another Words of Wisdom.
Love is a word, which for many of us, we use many times in a day, in many different situations, and for me especially, using it as a part of my mantra, I felt it would be an ideal opportunity for me to share with you, what we might mean when we use the word love or indeed what the message in Paul’s letter means for us.
The second reason is that I find Paul’s style and use of language, in his letter to the Romans very challenging, and it takes me out of my comfort zone. I thought this feeling is very relevant to how we may all be feeling in the present day situation, as we all face different challenges for the future in our Christian journey.
As in many of Paul’s letters, especially in the well-known passage in Corinthian chapter 13, which is often read at weddings, the key word and message is love. Indeed, human love in all its rich varieties fills the passages of our scriptures. I enjoy numbers and I just had to find out how many times love was mentioned in the scriptures. Some commentators quote the number 538 in the New Testament in the New Revised Standard Version.
Paul in these verses in Romans challenges us that love must be genuine, a love which does not have a selfish agenda. Our duty is, that we should be devoted to one another in brotherly and sisterly love.
When we think of these words of brotherly and sisterly love we cannot but think of the words in Mark’s Gospel when we are told that Jesus said that the most important commandment is to love your Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and the second is to love your neighbour as yourself. There are no greater commandments than these.
Paul in chapter 13, again using the word love in the heading, I feel goes even further, in that he says that the other commandments such as do not murder, do not steal are summed up in the commandment love your neighbour as yourself.
This is a very strong and direct message and Paul sets down a structure for us to be able to practice our faith in the name of love in our everyday life and in our relationship with others. A love where we want the best for everyone.
He gives us very specific examples of genuine love by saying, weep with those who weep and live in harmony with each other. I am sure we can think of many more individuals or groups who are in need of our genuine love and we remember them every week in our prayers of intercession.
Surely when love reigns everywhere, everything will be in harmony and peace and everyone’s needs will be met. What a wonderful vision, if this could truly happen in our present situation of conflict and despair and fear.
I mentioned this book in my last words of wisdom, The Still Small Voice. I would like to quote a few words from one of the writers who said that the Gospel is not given to tell us what we already know. Rather, the gospel is given to tell us what we do not know or what we have forgotten. It is when we begin to remember who we are that we begin to learn how to relate to one another as individuals, and as a nation and as an entire earth community. Is this not the message of Paul, that we accept our spiritual responsibility as Christians in all that we do?
Paul challenges us to bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. This is a test for us all and I don’t know about anyone else but this certainly takes me out of my comfort zone for I know I fail miserably most days.
There are times when we meet people who we may find difficult to connect with spiritually far less impossible to learn to love them. It is times like these that we are challenged as Christians, as it is so much easier to love someone we like and who likes us.
As we reflect on the times that we have limited the love of Jesus through words and actions may we respond generously and show a willingness to accept all others.
Let us remember that God’s love is unconditional and generous and is a love which has no boundaries. So let us show God we love him not to earn his love but in response to his unconditional love. Christ’s sacrifice on the cross is the ultimate sign of God’s love for all his creation.
I would like to close with a short prayer,
Open my ears to those I would prefer not to hear;
Open my life to those I would prefer not to know;
Open my heart to those I would prefer not to love;
And so open my eyes to see
Where I exclude You.