Archives for posts with tag: C.S. Lewis

toby_keith

Toby Keith, country music singer/song writer, reveals the philosophy of life for many people in one of his hits. The song. I Wanna Talk About Me, was his seventh Number One single. The opening lyrics are

We talk about your work how your boss is a jerk
We talk about your church and your head when it hurts
We talk about the troubles you’ve been having with your brother
About your daddy and your mother and your crazy ex-lover
We talk about your friends and the places that you’ve been
We talk about your skin and the dimples on your chin
The polish on your toes and the run in your hose
And God knows we’re gonna talk about your clothes
You know talking about you makes me smile
But every once in awhile

I want to talk about me
Want to talk about I
Want to talk about number one
Oh my me my
What I think, what I like, what I know, what I want, what I see
I like talking about you, you, you, you usually, but occasionally
I want to talk about me

For many people life is “all about me.” The philosophy of Selfism insists that love of self is the greatest love of all. Therefore a person’s self interests trumps everything else. This is one of many faulty philosophies upon which people build their lives.

One day when Jesus was responding to questions a lawyer asks, “Which commandment in the law is the greatest?”  What is the organizing principle around which to order my life?

Jesus answered: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.” He was quoting from Deuteronomy 6:4, the Shema, the basic tenet of Judaism. Every Hebrew child is taught this from earliest childhood. Every devout Jew recites it twice every day.

This is the basic and first commandment of Jesus and of God and of life. We are to love God with all our heart, with all our soul and spiritual emotions, with all the strength and vitality of our inner lives, and with all our brains and human brilliance.

Jesus continued by quoting Leviticus 19:18 saying, “A second commandment is like it. You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” In other words, Jesus suggests that we are to love our neighbor as deeply as we look out for our own welfare. To value others as much as we value ourselves. To focus on the needs of our neighbor as much as we focus on our own needs.

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Jesus combines the two laws into one moral law. Neither law was to stand on its own; This is similar to Jesus’ teaching in the Sermon on the Mount. Remember the Golden Rule? (Matthew 7:12) “Do onto others as you would have them do onto you.”

To love the Lord your God with all the energy you have and to love your neighbor as yourself is at the core of Jesus’ teaching. The cross of Christ, the most important symbol of the Christian faith, has two dimensions: a vertical love to God and a horizontal love towards our neighbors.

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Jesus said all the law and the prophets hang on these two basic interconnected commandments. It is as if Jesus said, “This is all Scripture in a nutshell; the whole law of human duty in a portable, pocket form.”Indeed, it is so simple that a child may understand it, so brief that all may remember it, so comprehensive as to embrace all possible cases. And from its very nature it is unchangeable. It is inconceivable that God should require from his rational creatures anything less, or in substance anything else… (Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown)

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We are called to love not only those who are like us or those who “like” us. Love for neighbor is not hormonal or simply emotional. It has to be intentional and will seldom leave you in a state of ecstasy.

 

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We know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. If anyone says, “I love God,” yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. And he has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother. (I John 4:16,20,21)

Love of God and love of neighbor is more than a statement for a bumper sticker. They are not abstract concepts and cannot be separated. They are the principle on which a person can organize their life.

Jamie Jenkins

Last Sunday the preacher at Peachtree Road United Methodist Church suggested to his listeners that they have a lot in common with people all over the world. He emphasized the opening words of The Lord’s Prayer are “Our Father.” When we say those words we acknowledge that we are a part of God’s family which includes many siblings who don’t all speak the same language, have the same skin pigment, or practice their religion the same way.

Bishop Woodie White

The preacher was retired United Methodist Bishop Woodie White and he urged us to seek common ground with all of our brothers and sisters.

The bishop reminded us that the measure of one’s love for God was determined by one’s love for others. His biblical text said that if a person “does not love persons whom he has seen, he cannot love God, who cannot be seen.” (I John 4:20-21). No exceptions!

I agree with Bishop White. I wish I had never read these words because as he said, once you have read them you can say you don’t understand them, you don’t like them, or you don’t believe them. But once you have read them you cannot say you don’t know.

I find it hard to love some people, even those who are “like” me. When it comes to people who are not like me, the task is much more difficult. In fact, at times it seems impossible.

C.S. Lewis says it is very simple (Oh, yeah?). He instructs us not to “waste time bothering whether you ‘love’ your neighbor; [but] act as if you do.” In other words when you behave like you love someone you will soon find that you have actually come to love them.

My life would be much easier if the Bible had not told me that if I love God I must love others. Love for people and love for God cannot be separated.

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Loving in the abstract is not difficult. Loving “up close and personal” is a bit harder and it is not optional for those who follow Jesus. He left us no choice when He said, “I give you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, so you also must love each other. This is how everyone will know that you are my disciples, when you love each other” (John 13:34-35).

OK, I can probably find it in me to love those with whom I share common values and goals. It is not always easy but I can do it. Although it is a struggle at times, I can love my family and friends. It is a different story with a lot of other folks. But when you read the scripture you understand it like Bishop White said in his sermon- “there is no wiggle room.”

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Oswald Chambers puts it this way: “(Jesus)  is saying, ‘I will bring a number of people around you whom you cannot respect, but you must exhibit My love to them, just as I have exhibited it to you. This kind of love is not a patronizing love for the unlovable— it is His love, and it will not be evidenced in us overnight. Some of us may have tried to force it, but we were soon tired and frustrated’.”

In the late 1960s the Youngbloods, an  American folk rock band, was a “one ht wonder” with their song “Get Together.” The lyrics called on us to “Come on people now smile on your brother. Everybody get together; try to love one another right now.”

Love God. Love people. It is not easy but I am going to try harder.

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Jamie Jenkins