Summary: Love is my highest calling and my holiest connection to God. Love is the most fundamental mark of the life of a believer.
Love is the Way
Now, this is probably going to surprise you, but everywhere you have been in the world… there have been other people, beside you. I know, I know, this sounds far fetched. But just follow me for a moment. When you began your courtship of your spouse, there was someone else involved in that other than you… your spouse. In college, when you pledged your sorority, there were a lot of other people involved in that with you. When you walked through commencement at your high school graduation… you might have missed this, but there were others there in that room too. In your kindergarten class, in the mall, in the gym… there are people there with you.
And you know what happens when there are other people… no matter how hard you try, you end up having some sort of relationship with them. Oh, you might try and avoid it. You keep your eyes down on your grocery list when you’re racing through Reasor’s. But inevitably, someone else ends up being in the store; A stock boy, a check-out clerk, other shoppers. And eventually, you have to admit this happens, you have to engage with them in some form of interaction. And you know where interact leads… relationship. Bam. There, I said it, you’ve entered into a relationship.
Relationships are the most common element of community. They happen everywhere. So much so, we often don’t recognize when we’re involved in most of the more common, simple, light-weight relationships – acquaintances, common pursuits, simple exchange oriented relationships. This might include the relationship you enter into every time you enter into a check-out line at the supermarket; the relationship you have, regardless of how personal or impersonal it is, with your postal deliverer. We might also mention the relationship you have with the police officer who pulls you over and gives you a ticket for ignoring that stop sign. The relationship you have with the bank teller who gives you two fives for a ten. These are just the simple, oblivious relationships. These are easy. We often regard them as inconsequential.
But there are others, aren’t there; Relationships with much more on the line, a much greater impact on our day-to-day lives. We have relationships with co-workers, relationships with our employers, relationships with our teachers, with our classmates, with our neighbors.
And then they get even deeper and more intense: we have relationships with our parents, with our children, with our spouses. There’s really a lot on the line in those relationships, isn’t there.
You can’t avoid relationships, can you? Okay, maybe if your name is Tom Hanks and your stranded on some island for 2/3rd of the movie you can avoid relationships… but for the rest of us, this is pretty elementary.
Relationships are a basic and yet also a very complicated part of our lives. Even in the simplest, least-developed relationships, we want things to go well, to be positive. Even simple problems in the most inconsequential relationship can have a forceful impact on our day, our perspective and on every other relationship we’re in.
You know how this works. The substitute teacher in class mispronounces your name, so you correct her, with perhaps just a hint of sass in your voice. She of course has no room in her ears for even a hint of sass, so she barks back at you leaving you embarrassed and angry. So what happens? Of course you vent your frustration through your lunch period on three of your friends, you come home and complain to your Mom, become frustrated with your little brother a little too quickly and then take the rest of it out on your dog – who is still wondering what he did to make you so mad. One encounter in a ‘today only relationship’ affects all these other ones. Go figure.
And let’s be honest… the more you have invested in a relationship, the more important it is to you, the more vulnerable you are to risk in it, the harder that relationship is and the more effort and work it requires of you. And for that matter, the more important it is for you that you enjoy and cultivate that relationship.
Nothing brings our lives greater enjoyment, nothing brings our existence more meaning, and nothing makes our homes more special than relationships. And nothing else leaves our emotions more ragged, our minds more bewildered, our souls more frazzled than relationships.
Don’t you wish there was some special path you could follow to do relationships right?
Follow the way of love. (I Corinthians 14:1a)
This quote from the Apostle Paul’s Corinthian love says it all. Follow the way of love. This is how you do relationships right, follow the way of love.
Now, understanding love isn’t necessarily all that easy. Growing up I seemed to just get more and more confused about what love really is. First, I discovered that I loved chocolate. On Easter Sunday, we’d have these Easter baskets filled with treats. I’d unwrap that chocolate bunny and slam down that entire thing. I was enjoying love – consuming this tasty treat. Of course, afterwards, I’d have this slight discomfort in my tummy… This is what love is, A sick stomach? Well as I got a little older I started to make friends, close friends. Well, this is what love is… a buddy you’d do anything for. A friend of friends. But then a friend would make fun of my height, or the way I’d mess up in kickball or in the outfield in baseball. This is love, having someone you thought you could trust make fun of you? Well, as a young teenager I discovered what real love was. I could turn on the television every week and have someone show me exactly what love was. They even had a song about it: “Love, exciting and new, come aboard, we’re expecting you: The Love Boat.” This is love? But at least I had my parents to look up to, I could count on them to demonstrate for me exactly what love was. They had this love thing figured out. But then they’d argue and fight. They’d say things hurtful to one another. And in our case, their marriage even came to an end. This is love?