The Sermon on the Mount is proving to be an interesting and faith filled exploration for us. This week we are going to skip ahead a few verses to Matthew 5:36-48. While we might come back to murder, adultery, and divorce, I think that we need to talk a bit about Love. I think we can always use more discussions about love, because so often we find ourselves mistaking other things for love.
I remember working with a family a few years back. Recently divorced, the father had their child on the weekends; the mother had the child over the week. While the divorce was very amicable, in fact, both parents remained good friends, even to this day, there was a big problem. Every Monday when the child returned to the mother he had a new toy. Not having much money, this weekly gift was starting to frustrate the mother and raise expectations for the child. After about a year of this arrangement the child began to withdraw. His grades in school were suffering, and his attitude became dark.
With nowhere else to turn, the parents came to me. As we talked through a lot of issues I began to see that both parents were concerned more about how much the child loved them then about his falling grades and change in attitude. In other words, they were afraid that the child would no longer love them. This is why the Father bought the new present every week and the mother, whom we found out in the talk, would essentially let the boy do anything he wanted.
Without realizing it, both parents were trying to buy their child’s love. This may surprise some of you, but in our society this is very common. We often try to do this with love mistaking the things of this world with love, just think of jewelry commercials on television. Love is something that comes from within one’s soul and encapsulates how we care and recognize each other. This was interesting because in many ways, the divorced couple showed more love to each other then they did to their child.
When I spoke to the child, this was confirmed. He talked about how much better his parents got along after the divorce, but how he was no longer important. He also spoke of how he felt unloved. For me, this was quite sad.
Love is the essential component to making life work. When we show love to one another we begin the process by which we can live in community with mutual respect and begin to grow. However, if we reject love, and live for hate and vengeance, then we can only be held back.
The greatest problem is most of the time when we feel hate and anger it is because of our own wants and needs. Moreover, when we substitute love for the things of this world we create a false sense of love, something that is temporal. Rather, God calls us to show a type of love that is fuller, that does not change because of our needs or comfort, but is a love that goes to the root of who we are.
This is why loving our enemies is so important, because it is not about us. Love, as everything in our life, is about our place in God’s Kingdom. I love the way that the Message interprets this:
48 “In a word, what I’m saying is,Grow up. You’re kingdom subjects. Now live like it. Live out your God-created identity. Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you.”
As you prepare for this Sunday ask yourself if you live a truly loving life. If not, how might you change to show love?
Rev. Dr. Bryan James Franzen