Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Seeking Maturity: Part 3 Heart to Hand; Hand to Heart

Yesterday I looked at the necessary connection between loving God and loving all people. This is not a liberal, socialist, touchy-feeley Christianity. These are the commands of Jesus Christ to those who follow him.

If we do not have the capacity to show love to the people we can see and touch around us, then we do not have the capacity to love God. (1 John 3:10)

Heart to Hand
Love cannot be, however, just an feeling toward another person.

As one of the great poets of the last 30 years has written,
Love is more than what you feel; Love is action, love is real...(Billy Ray Cyrus, Stand)
The love of 1 John is tangible love, meaningful love.
 So now we can tell who are children of God and who are children of the devil. Anyone who does not live righteously and does not love other believers does not belong to God.

11 This is the message you have heard from the beginning: We should love one another. 12 We must not be like Cain, who belonged to the evil one and killed his brother. And why did he kill him? Because Cain had been doing what was evil, and his brother had been doing what was righteous. 13 So don’t be surprised, dear brothers and sisters, if the world hates you.
14 If we love our brothers and sisters who are believers, it proves that we have passed from death to life. But a person who has no love is still dead. 15 Anyone who hates another brother or sister is really a murderer at heart. And you know that murderers don’t have eternal life within them.
16 We know what real love is because Jesus gave up his life for us. So we also ought to give up our lives for our brothers and sisters. 17 If someone has enough money to live well and sees a brother or sister in need but shows no compassion—how can God’s love be in that person?
18 Dear children, let’s not merely say that we love each other; let us show the truth by our actions. (New Living Translation)
Here, believers are pointed at directing tangible, meaningful love toward other believers. Love is lived out by laying down the resources of life in order that we can show compassion for another person.

Our love for others is supposed to exceed our ability to hate them.

"But I don't hate anyone. It is an ugly emotion that I don't have."

Hatred is an ugly emotion. It is something so bitter and destructive that it can destroy us mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually. And we are all capable of it. And we all actively engage in fostering it.

Hatred is a very clear emotional state. It is a level of dislike so strong within us that we would desire the object of our hate to cease to exist. It is a strong emotion that leads us to the action of intentionally avoiding an encounter with it. It is so powerful an experience that it moves us to avoid confrontation. And if we are forced into a confrontation, we lose the ability to control our emotions and thoughts. It is simply the effort to kill someone in our own heart.

 Love is to move from what we have in our hearts into our hands. It is worthless to love someone in heart alone. To love in heart alone is impotent, lifeless. It is not love. We can hold compassion in our hearts. But to transform compassion into love requires moving from heart to hand. Love is using our resources of time, talent, money, tangible resource, and witness to make a difference is someone's life.

But there is also a rebound effect. True Christian love is tangible (heart to hand) and meaningful (hand to heart). Hand to heart love is allowing the act of giving to another person to transform us. We recognize that we are not complete in before that action. We allow the recipient of our love to also be an extension of the Giver of love.

To have heart to hand love without hand to heart love is pity. It is demeaning. It makes the recipient a victim in our own eyes. It puts us above them and lowers them in our estimation. In another way, we become a micro-savior in that moment.

Hand to heart love reminds us that we are all needy. The love of God is not an entitlement, it is a gift. God's grace is not deserved. It is unlimited, though. In extending our hand out to change the life of another person in a tangible way we put ourselves in a place to be transformed. We can block it. We can refuse it. We can waste it. But that exchange is pregnant moment to take an act of compassion to a means of grace.

That pregnant moment, and all of the moments we surrender to after, are what Jesus means when we hear about abiding in God. It isn't about loving God with heart and mind. Abiding in recognizing that God's love is a process. Abiding is accepting that we cannot love God unless we love every person we know. Abiding is not a life of potential energy and passive waiting. Abiding is living in active, dynamic deeds of love toward our fellow human beings.

Abiding in God in this way is maturing in faith and love. As we grow in our capacity to love others, our capacity to love God grows. As we continue to grow in that love, we mature in that love.