Posts Tagged ‘Love’

In Essentials UnityAround the year 1627 a German Lutheran theologian named Rupertus Meldenius wrote a small tract on the subject of Christian unity. The tract was written, according to an article by Dr. Mark Ross, “during the Thirty Years War (1618-1648), a bloody time in European history in which religious tensions played a significant role.” From that tract written by a theologian otherwise unknown to most of us came a phrase I have heard many times in my life: “In essentials unity, in non-essentials liberty, in all things charity.” It is a wise bit of advice we would do well to remember today, and not just in the context of religious beliefs and practice.

To break the phrase down a bit just to make sure we understand, the first part – “in essentials unity” – assumes that there are some things on which we must agree and around which we must be unified. In the original context, this contains the most basic elements of the Christian faith. This is no small task to define, even for Christians who find themselves divided from other expressions of the Christian faith around the world to varying degrees. The challenge, then, is to define what those non-negotiable essentials are and to hold firm to them regardless of what nonbelievers and others may say. The unity sought is not unity for the sake of unity, but unity around a common core belief and experience.

The second part of the phrase is “in non-essentials liberty.” This means that we must willingly admit that there are some beliefs and practices of lesser importance about which we can legitimately disagree but still get along with one another and not feel compelled to condemn or force others into our way of thinking and behaving. We might call it agreeing to disagree. It is important to note that this is not a replacement for the first phrase above; there is still that core component on which we should agree, but there are many gray areas where people of equal faith and motive should be given the benefit of the doubt and allowed to practice as they deem best.

The final part of the phrase is “in all things charity.” In this case, charity means love and comes from the Latin word for love, caritas. Bottom line: whether we agree or disagree with others in matters of faith or practice, we are to demonstrate love in our attitudes and in our actions. We do not have the biblical option of being unloving.

As I consider the wisdom of “in essentials unity, in non-essentials liberty, in all things charity,” my thoughts first go to application of that wisdom in the Christian context originally intended by Meldenius. For a brief but good discussion from that angle, I refer you to the article by Mark Ross. It seems to me, though, that there is great value in the phrase today apart from a religious context as well.

For example, we just witnessed the failure of both major political parties in the U. S. House and Senate (and White House) as they spent weeks calling each other names and acting like immature children rather than doing the job they are elected and are paid very generously to do. Unity? Not in this political theater. Liberty? No way. The prevailing attitude is “it’s my way or the highway.” Charity (love)? Nothing about political life hints of that. We ought to have the right to expect of our politicians that some core, basic beliefs as Americans unite us. We ought to expect them to be civil as they agree to disagree. They ought to have the decency we try to teach preschoolers to treat others along the way with basic goodness and kindness, if not heart-felt love. Is that too much to ask? I realize that I shouldn’t hold my breath waiting for it to happen, but is it too much to ask? I think not.

My encouragement to you today is to consider those groups, affiliations, memberships, etc. that you share with others and then consider the wisdom of “in essentials unity, in non-essentials liberty, in all things charity.” How might your attitude and behavior be positively shaped by following that advice? What would happen if we determined to treat others around us with kindness – even love – in the midst of our differences?

Our world would be a better place.

PieSome of the best days of my life – past and present – are days spent with my parents on their farm in Winchester, Kentucky. We moved there when I was in sixth grade. I live about 90 miles away, so at best I get there once a month to spend a day. It is always a good day when I’m there. I should be there far more often than I am.

I’m writing this at the end of the day September 30th – my dad’s 79th birthday. I wish you could know my dad. He’s a great, great man which is only fitting since he’s been married for 60 years to a wonderful woman, my mom. They are kind, generous, funny, active, hard-working, salt-of-the-earth people. If you are a guest in their home, you will be treated right. You will definitely be fed until you just have to refuse any more.

A couple of weeks ago I spent a day of my vacation there. As expected, the food was plenteous, but I knew that would be the case. I was somewhat prepared by eating light the day before the trip. The first meal came within a couple hours of arriving. Various snacks and bottomless Ale-8s to drink were readily available between meals. Evening saw another full meal with bigger portions than anyone ever really needs.

At the end of the evening meal, Dad cut me a piece of pie. Well, it was more like 2-3 pieces of pie – a Dad-sized portion. When he put it in front of me, I remarked, “That’s crazy!” I won’t forget his response as he walked away: “That’s not crazy. That’s love.” And he’s right.

We all have our ways of showing love for others. One of the precious lessons of life is to be able to recognize such love in whatever form it takes when it comes your way. We are different in how we express our feelings for others. Some are more verbal than others. Some do little acts of kindness. Some do periodic big things for those they love. Many do a combo of all the above. Whatever unique ways your loved ones have of showing love, I hope you recognize it when demonstrated, and I hope you return it in a way they recognize as well.

Some ways of showing love may not make a lot of sense to others, but that’s OK. They only have to make sense to the ones giving and receiving it.

That’s not crazy. That’s love.

Continuing with my dog-inspired lessons for this weekend, I want to share with you a brief encounter from Saturday night.

While sitting in my recliner with books spread around me, studying and prepping to teach my Bible study class Sunday, my dog Callie decided she wanted to be in the middle of things.  That’s quite normal for her.  She jumped up on the sofa next to me and gradually nudged her way into my lap, leaning against my chest, and making it impossible to continue studying.

I could have gently pushed her away or somehow barricaded the area with my arm to keep her beside me and not on me, but I let her crawl up on me anyway.  I flipped a mental switch from study mode to dog-hug mode and just spent a few minutes petting her, letting her lick me, hugging her and giving her the attention she desired.  It always does as much good for me as it does her, anyway, so why not?  We both enjoyed being in the moment.

She soon laid down and stretched out across my lap, her nose buried in the open Bible beside me.  It wasn’t long (just as I suspected would be the case) before she got up and circled the cushion next to me, eventually plopping down with her face inches away from me.  That’s a nightly routine when she decides to sleep next to me for a while.

I’ve always been an animal lover, especially a dog lover.  We learn much from the interactions with other species – lessons every child and adult should have the opportunity to learn.  One such lesson taught over and over again with my dog is the joy of unconditional love.  Each morning, each return home, each moment spent playing or napping together is another chance to simply enjoy life together.  She carries no grudges.  The wagging tail never lies.

In a world of complicated and sometimes conditional relationships, I am thankful that God uses all of his creatures to teach us life’s lessons and to give us glimpses of what His creation should be like.

Leap year lesson #287 is There is too little unconditional love in the world.

I watched a two-hour documentary Wednesday night at church called “Love Costs Everything.” It is about the plight of 100-200 million Christians around the world who are persecuted for their faith at any given time. It was humbling, gut wrenching, encouraging, scary and a number of other emotions all rolled into one. It brought tears to my eyes. It struck me for a couple of reasons:

  1. The experience of American Christians is light years removed from the real world experience of so many others around the globe. That is on one hand good for us – who wants to experience persecution? But it also makes it easy to never really find out how serious we are in our commitment to and love for that which (or the One whom) we say we hold dear.
  2. When so many give up everything for the One they love literally more than life itself, they demonstrate what true love and commitment looks like.

Watching the broadcast reminded me that I have far to go to really show that depth of love to others in my life. I schedule my life around what I want to do for myself far more than what I want to do for others. There is much room for improvement.

It will be interesting to go from that reminder of the poverty, homelessness, imprisonment, beatings, executions, home and church burnings, etc., to the expected excess of comfort and worldly focus I will see at the South by Southwest Conference in Austin, Texas beginning March 8th. I’ll enjoy the conference like any geek would. Still, it’s good to have a reminder occasionally – however gut wrenching – of leap year lesson #67 – Love costs everything. What has it cost you lately?