Monday, December 26, 2005

Contemplation #85
Only God can teach us to love. It is not enough to understand that we need to love others, for if we endeavor to do this from our own sense of love we will act out of self-love, the need for acceptance, out of condescension, or some other flawed substitute for charity. We will definitely not love with God’s love unless we learn from him. The first lesson of God’s love is that we die to ourselves. Putting to death self-love will do more to move us to the divine love of others than all attempts to focus our concern and care on our neighbors while staying alive to ourselves.

Contemplation #86
The more we see our self-concern dying, the more we discover others – their needs and the gifts they bring to us. We cannot love others because they have needs, or we may become enthralled with how we might supply what they are lacking, and this is love of self as “useful”. We cannot love others because of what they give to us, for this is simply the love of ourselves and our own needs. Even though dying to self makes us alive to the lives of others, our love for all others must be rooted only in God – which allows neither delusions of self-competence nor room for self-gratification. God will teach us love which is selfless.

Contemplation #87
What will loving others be like? Think of Jesus. Love for others will come out of oneness with God, but such love will not always be understood by the world. Such love will know what to say to encourage the struggling, and to rebuke the confident. This love will defend the oppressed, and denounce the oppressors; provide for the needs of the deprived, but refuse to allow that provision to become a fixation. This love will suffer abuse, and resist not injustice to itself. So selfless is this love that death itself is no barrier to relationship with God or sharing that with others. Only God teaches this love.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Contemplation #82
From the writings of St. Augustine concerning John 13:34.

Let us, therefore, be holding fast to this precept of the Lord, to love one another; and then all else that is commanded we shall do, for all else we have contained in this. But this love is distinguished from that which men bear to one another as such; for in order to mark the distinction, it is added, “as I have loved you.” And wherefore is it that Christ loveth us, but that we may be fitted to reign with Christ? With this aim, therefore, let us also be loving one another, that we may manifest the difference of our love from that of others, who have no such motive in loving one another, because the love itself is wanting. But those whose mutual love has the possession of God Himself for its object, will truly love one another; and, therefore, even for the very purpose of loving one another, they love God. There is no such love as this in all men; for few have this motive for their love one to another, that God may be all in all.

Contemplation #83
From the writings of St. Augustine concerning John 13:34.

For what was it but God that He loved in us? Not because we had Him, but in order that we might have Him; and that He may lead us on, as I said a little ago, where God is all in all. It is in this way, also, that the physician is properly said to love the sick; and what is it he loves in them but their health, which at all events he desires to recall; not their sickness, which he comes to remove? Let us, then, also so love one another, that, as far as possible, we may by the solicitude of our love be winning one another to have God within us. And this love is bestowed on us by Him who said, “As I have loved you, that ye also love one another.” For this very end, therefore, did He love us, that we also should love one another; bestowing this on us by His own love to us, that we should be bound to one another in mutual love, and, united together as members by so pleasant a bond, should be the body of so mighty a Head.

Contemplation #84
From the writings of St. Augustine concerning 1 John 4:4-12.

For many things may be done that have a good appearance, and yet proceed not from the root of charity. For thorns also have flowers: some actions truly seem rough, seem savage; howbeit they are done for discipline at the bidding of charity. Once for all, then, a short precept is given thee: Love, and do what thou wilt: whether thou hold thy peace, through love hold thy peace; whether thou cry out, through love cry out; whether thou correct, through love correct; whether thou spare, through love do thou spare: let the root of love be within, of this root can nothing spring but what is good

Monday, December 12, 2005

Contemplation #79
“Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God.” 1 John 4:7

We may find ourselves reading passages that use the term “one another” and conclude that because the statement is from a letter written to Christians that it means believer to believer. Or perhaps because this is addressed to “dear friends,” we might assume this admonition is describing love among companions. If this were true, then the love described here would not be the love one has to one’s neighbor – any neighbor. But God has one love, of one nature, and does not love one way to some and another way to others. Human love is preferential.

Instead, in the use of the endearing term friends we recognize the fruit of a love for our neighbors. Out of love for our neighbors we graciously call them friends, not because of who they are to us or what they may have done for us, making it a term reserved for those who feed our “self-love”, but because of how we love for God’s sake. Passages about living “one to another” are not restricted to the community of believers, but speak to how the world is transformed to us through our looking at everything in love.

Contemplation #80
“We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love our brothers.” 1 John 3:14

Love is the evidence that the Reign of God, his Kingdom, is in us and we are living with its realities. Through the practice of the love God teaches, we see proof that He is transforming us from a life of separation and death into life eternal in Him and through Him. In the new life, that is true existence, everyone becomes our brothers; there are no enemies for so-called enemies are the subjects of our love. Though we may be called ‘adversaries’ by others, we do not reply in kind. Having enemies is the life of death. We know all people as only brothers.

Contemplation #81
From My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers

When love, or the Spirit of God, strikes a man, he is transformed, he no longer insists upon his separate individuality. Our Lord never spoke in terms of individuality, of a man’s “elbows” or his isolated position, but in terms of personality – “that they may be one, even as We are one.” If you give up your right to yourself to God, the real true nature of your personality answers to God straight away. Jesus Christ emancipates the personality, and the individuality is transfigured; the transfiguring element is love, personal devotions to Jesus. Love is the outpouring of one personality in fellowship with another personality.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Contemplation #76
“If we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.” 1 John 4:12

Loving all others for the sake of Christ is a personal care and affection for each person simply because I am to be neighbor to all. This love is evidenced in a compassionate and heart-felt “going out” of emotion to each and every person. Prejudice, envy, distain, hatred, competitiveness, condescension, and every other dividing, belittling, and sinful urge to “use” others for our own benefit is replaced by giving, sacrificing, listening, honoring, respecting, helping, and merciful actions. As God-followers we cannot claim to love God and not be submitting ourselves to learning this love of others.

Contemplation #77
“If anyone obeys his word, God’s love is truly made complete in him.” 1 John 2:5

Many times obedience is misunderstood as the way in which we make ourselves pleasing to God. We wrongly imagine that we should follow God’s commands because then he will be pleased, or more often appeased, and so we will be saved. We treat God like a pagan deity of wrath and hatred whose favor must be won. However, in relationship with our loving God obedience is the way in which we submit ourselves to God’s formation of our heart, mind, spirit, and body – not how we find grace. This verse is not saying that when we obey then God loves us completely, for John is not talking about God’s love for us but God’s love in us. The path to learning the love of God and having his love grow to completeness in us is to follow his instructions humbly. When our faith is expressed in obedience to God, we will grow to have godly love.

Contemplation #78
“If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” 1 John 2:15

We must read John’s words as instruction for how a godly love, that of the Father himself, dwells in us. John is not saying that if we love the world the Father doesn’t love us, for he is not talking about God loving us but how we come to live out a divine love in our lives. On this subject he says that there is absolute incompatibility between the selfish nature of fleshly desires and having God’s love. We must become detached from our affections for this world and an existence of self-indulgence if we are to be renewed with the perfect love of God. We cannot love ourselves, our own comforts, our own ambitions, and our own pleasures and others for God’s sake. We must choose to die to loving the world for ourselves in order to learn to love all God’s creation as the Father does.