April 22, 2018: What Love Looks Like

Pastor Steve Mechem

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1 John 3:16-17 New Revised Standard Version
We know love by this, that he laid down his life for us—and we ought to lay down our lives for one another. How does God’s love abide in anyone who has the world’s goods and sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses help?

Way back in 1984, Tina Turner released the song, “What’s Love Got to Do with It,” Its lyrics are a harsh reminder that human relationships are minefields and that one may be better to eschew emotional ties altogether.

“What's love got to do, got to do with it
What's love but a second hand emotion.
What's love got to do, got to do with it
Who needs a heart when a heart can be broken.”

I hear the same pain in these lyrics as in Simon and Garfunkel’s famous verse,
“I am a rock,
I am an island,
and a rock feels no pain,
and and island never cries.”

And sometimes, when the world is overwhelming, and painful, and mean, and hard, we find ourselves doubting the validity of love as a social norm.

But I want to say, to declare, that love, rather than being a second hand emotion, is in fact the lifeblood of creation and is essential for life to work well. It is not a social norm, it is the social norm.

John writes:
“We know love by this, that he laid down his life for us—and we ought to lay down our lives for one another. How does God’s love abide in anyone who has the world’s goods and sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses help”

What does love look like?

Love looks like words spoken.

a word of greeting,
a word to a stranger,
a compliment,
a gentle reminder,
a word of encouragement,
a kindness spoken,
an affirmation,
verbally supporting someone who is being gossiped about or bullied,
speaking out for justice and fairness,
reminding others that love is the only way. As the Martyr and Saint, Bishop Oscar Romero of El Salvador preached, “Let us not tire of preaching love, it is the force that overcomes the world.”

Love looks like an attitude.

Love isn’t just a word said, it is something that comes from deep within us. It is an attitude of the heart, the mind, the σπλαγχνα.

Understand that there is a difference between an attitude and a feeling.

Feeling-love is caught up in the moment, is based on an energy, erupts and flames out.

Attitudinal love is in it for the long haul. A Paul describes it, Love doesn’t quit!

Leanord Sweet writes that Biblical Love is “a volitional love, not a feeling love or an emotional love. It is love embodied and enacted that is unconditional, unrestricted, untamed.”

The attitude of love shows up in the way we treat our family.
The attitude of love show up in the way we treat our neighbor.

Jesus said we were to love our neighbors. But sometimes that is hard.
Perhaps our neighbors don't treat us as kindly as we would like.
Perhaps our neighbors are messy or don’t take care of their yard the way we think they should.
Perhaps our neighbors party late and loud.
Perhaps our neighbors do not look like us or talk like us.
Perhaps our neighbors put political signs supporting the other party in their yard.
Perhaps our neighbors hang a Chicago Cubs W sign on their garage.
How do we love neighbors like these?

I love what C.S. Lewis writes in Mere Christianity “Do not waste time bothering whether you love your neighbor; act as it you did. As soon a we do this we find one of the great secrets. When you act as if you loved someone, you will presently come to love him.”

Oh, by the way, neighbor, as defined by Jesus is everybody.

I believe Love is an attitude and I am saddened that I don’t recognize it in much of the Christianity I experience in 2018. Remember- the Christian faith is founded upon the idea of Love as expressed in Jesus Christ.

Love shouldn't look like hate. As obvious as that sounds, the two are often mixed up. In our nation, people use the Christian religion, a religion founded in love, as a basis for hate.

Gay people, Transgendered People, People of Color, strangers and refugees, people who practice other religions are hated, discriminated against, mocked, treated unfairly, even killed in the name of a religion that espouses love.

This story happened some time ago but I sense the same attitude thrives in church circles today. I read this account in the book, Reconciliation Blues.

Dolphus Weary was one of two black students attending a well known Christian College in 1968. He was doing well. He had good grades and played on the school’s basketball team. He thought his race was a non-factor at the school.

Leaving the Library on April 4, a fellow student approached him and told him that Dr. King had been shot.

He ran to his dorm room and turned on his radio to listen to the news coming out of Memphis. He was devastated.

From the book, “As he sat on his bed holding back the tears, he could hear voices down the hall: white students talking about King’s shooting. But Dolphus quickly realized that they were not just talking; they were laughing.

“I couldn’t understand what I was hearing,” he says, “These Christian kids were glad that Dr. King - my hero - had been shot. I wanted to run out there and confront them.” Instead, he steeled his nerves and laid prostrate on his bed. Finally, as the newscaster delivered the awful update- “Martin Luther King has died in a Memphis hospital”- Dolphus could hear the white voices down the hall let out a cheer!”

It is time for those who practice a religion that espouses love to stand for love- to look like love, to embrace love, to be love. Nothing else is acceptable. Dr. King taught that love must be our regulating ideal.

Love as an attitude doesn’t look like self-centeredness. When you do the right thing for others because you want to be recognized or rewarded, please don’t confuse that with love.

A fisherman pulls a large Walleye out of the water one day. He says, “I will give this fish to the Prince. He loves Walleye.”

The fish, who knew he was a goner, upon hearing these words, thinks to himself, “there is hope for me yet.”

The fisherman approaches the castle with his fish and tells the guards, “I have a great Walleye for the Prince.”

“Good,” says the guards, “The Prince loves Walleye.”

He loves me, thinks the Walleye, I will be safe.

The guards bring the fish to the kitchen. The head chef looks it over and says, “This is perfect. The Prince loves Walleye.”

The fish smiles a little.

The Prince strolls into the kitchen, examines the Walleye, and says “I love this fish. Prepare it by cutting off its head and cooking it in olive oil, garlic and lemon juice.”

With its last breath the fish cries out, “You lie prince. You don’t love Walleye. You love yourself!”

Love looks like words spoken.

Love looks like an attitude of the heart.

Love looks like action.

Love is often expressed through words. And that is good. But love that is only words is not love.
Love is an attitude. But it is an attitude that shows itself in action.

Love is Activity.

Love chooses to act!

Love responds to need.
Love responds to injustice.
Love responds in help, in compassion, in grace.
Love serves.
Love engages.
Love stoops, love lifts up, love walks beside.

Unfortunately, love is often treated as commodity. It is something we give as trade for people’s correct response.

I will love you if…
you behave correctly,
you believe the right stuff,
come to the right church,
hate the people who I hate.

In the church, we talk a good game about love, but our love is so often conditional, limited, and reserved.

Love as action is built on the simple belief that all are children of God who deserve our love, our respect, our compassion.

Love looks like Jesus
From the incarnation,
to his association with anybody who would have him,
to his teaching about love and nonresistance and non-judgement and acceptance,
to his ministry among the poor and the sick and deserted,
to his sacrificial death on the cross,
to his resurrection from the dead,

Jesus is showing you, and me, what love looks like.

And that my friends, is what love has to do with it.