Monday, October 3, 2011

I Will Love You for You


I was going to write a very different blog this week. I am now sitting in a hotel room in Las Vegas and waiting for a conference to start. I opened my emails and checked the news, then I clicked on Facebook and saw a link shared by my mentor, Lynn Anderson. It is the song above by JJ Heller. I was struck by the simplicity of the message and it struck me, that is the message I am trying to share through my feeble attempts at blogging. That God loves me for me and He love you for you. However, it doesn't stop there. If people claim to be followers of God, we should love others as He has loved us. 

In the Lord's Prayer, without all of the 400 year old English, Jesus prayed - "And forgive us of our sins as we forgive those who have sinned against us."

Above anything else, God's people should be known for their love, acceptance and forgiveness. In a world that cries out for justice, God's people should be the ones who make sure that grace is in the equation to balance out justice. As I have said before; justice can easily become a platform for revenge and hatred.

What if the church was known as the people that loved and cared rather than the Crusades, Inquisition and religious division? I wonder how many people within earshot of our Sunday assemblies are asking for someone to love them for them? Yet we sing our songs, plan lunches, share the Lord's Table and listen to a message, yet without hearing the cries for help around us - often times in our own homes.

There was an event that comes to my mind as I sit in front of this laptop. It is deeply personal and I in no way am trying to make myself more than I am. I know I am a flawed human being who has hurt a great many people over my 59 years. This event was when I was on the giving end of forgiveness rather than my usual receiving.

My Dad was a brutal man. I have shared in a previous blog, Fallen, that he would  routinely abuse me physically and sexually in an alcohol induced fervor. Around 1980 he was diagnosed with prostate cancer. The doctors caught it early enough and did surgery. As he was recuperating, he stayed with my wife and me. The only complication was that he had not had a bowel movement in about four days. Well, as luck would have it, in the middle of the night my Youth Minister ears heard a screaming string of profanity that would cause a long shore-man to blush.

I jumped out of bed and intercepted my Dad in the hallway heading for the bathroom. I don't think I need to describe that scene any further. I grabbed him and started taking off his pajamas and turned on the shower. He was extremely angry and kept pushing me away, but I was much younger and stronger. (It is interesting how these roles inverse) I pulled him into the shower and started washing the filth from his body, under his severe protest. When he was dry and in clean pajamas he broke down. For the first time in my life - my Dad hugged me. He kept saying over and over, "After all I have done to you." I told him that I loved him and he was the only Dad I had, that just made him cry harder. 

That very night I learned what it felt like to forgive someone. All of the hatred, anger and craving for justice melted away. I saw an old man, who had been strong - now weak, crying in front of me. The only thing I felt was compassion and a desire to love this man, my Dad. After that event I actually began to understand my Dad. I remembered that my Grandfather had been harsh and I remembered times, even as a very old man, he would just haul off and hit me when I had not done something to his mark of perfection. Then I started thinking what it must have been like for my Dad growing up. I decided that the generational dysfunction would stop with me. I continually tell Sarah and Nathan ow much I love them and that I am proud of the way they have turned out.

Now back to the church. As a fellow follower of the teachings of Jesus, I am continually thankful of the grace he has lavished upon me. In the song I saw myself in the first verse of the boy who had a story no one would believe. The church is made up of flawed people all with stories. People who have needed and received forgiveness. However, we have a tendency to draw lines of demarcation to make ourselves superior to others around us. I have the dogma right! I have never missed a Sunday! I give 10% of my income! I don't smoke, drink or chew or go with those who do. We build up these arbitrary lists of accomplishments that we then use to measure others' progress. All the time not knowing the story of their full life. It becomes, "I will accept you for you IF you are the you I think you should be".

One thing I can say for certainty is that we have not been called to act like that. We have been called to express the nature of God. When Paul lists the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5 - look at the: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self control. That is the nature of God! That is not some class conscious list for judging others, it is a standard in which we need to judge ourselves. Some of the meanest people I have met, have been Christians. I am sure this makes our God weep.

So, this week, pray that God can help you be more like Him. Pray that you can love and forgive as he does. Maybe, just maybe, contact someone who you have been alienated from and reach out with love, acceptance and forgiveness. They may not be receptive, at first, but you need to give it a shot. How many shots has God given you to come home?

Peace
~Al