Sunday, April 02, 2006

Meditations on love

God’s wisdom often comes unexpectedly. Some of that wisdom recently came my way in Frederick Buechner’s little book, Wishful Thinking. The book is easy to read with its half-page, lexical entries on matters of faith. As I was preparing this week’s morning sermon, Buechner’s words on love really hit home:
In the Christian sense, love is not primarily an emotion, but an act of the will. When Jesus tells us to love our neighbors, he is not telling us to love them in the sense of responding to them with a cozy emotional feeling. You can as easily produce a cozy emotional feeling on demand as you can a yawn or a sneeze. On the contrary, he is telling us to love our neighbors in the sense of being willing to work for their well-being even if it means sacrificing our own well-being to that end, even if it means sometimes just leaving them alone. Thus in Jesus’ terms, we can love our neighbors without necessarily liking them. In fact liking them may stand in the way of loving them by making us overprotective sentimentalists instead of reasonably honest friends.

When Jesus talked to the Pharisees, he didn’t say, “There, there. Everything’s going to be all right.” He said, “You brood of vipers! how can you speak good when you are evil!” (Matthew 12:34). And he said that to them because he loved them.

This does not mean that liking may not be a part of loving, only that it doesn’t have to be. Sometimes liking follows on the heels of loving. It is hard to work for people’s well-being very long without coming in the end to rather like them too.

Excerpt from Wishful Thinking by Frederich Buechner, used by permission


Blogger Standing_Firm said...

It's kind of like taking a chance by saying something that may make you look absolutely foolish and quite possibly crazy so that you can reach out to people in Truth(and truth ~ pandemic coming get prepared)in order that they may be spared not knowing the King of kings and Lord of lords.

7:42 PM, April 02, 2006  
Blogger Milton Stanley said...

Yes, the wisdom of God does look foolish to the world.

8:13 PM, April 02, 2006  
Blogger Pilgrim feet said...

I'd rather be a fool for Christ than a fool for this world.

We (with HE) win in the end. That should motivate us to take a few with us?

This would be when you have to witness with your mouth and not just your deeds.

8:33 AM, April 03, 2006  
Blogger Milton Stanley said...


4:47 PM, April 03, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I may be a fool in the eyes of both world and Christian blogosphere, and foolhardy to take issue with the likes of Frederick Buechner, but I have come to question the boilerplate Christian teaching that a genuine, biblical love resides only essentially in the will and not the emotions; that I can love them without liking them. The teaching defies common sense, and is fraught with lawyerly obfuscation and hair-splitting. More importantly, it contradicts 1 Corinthians 13:3, which clearly states that we can will to do the "loving thing," even at extreme and sacrificial levels, and not have genuine love at all. Let's face it - if I can't stand someone; if I hate his guts, I'm not even close to loving him, even if I do say the edifying thing through clenched teeth, or do the "loving thing" with my neck hair standing up.
Are we really comfortable with the idea that the statement, "God loves me," might mean nothing more than that God has willed to do the loving thing for me, even though he can hardly stand me personally? What kind of gospel is that? "God can't stand you, but He is morally obligated to do the loving thing for you."
Of course, my way makes obedience to the law of love a much more complicated issue. I think that God has commanded me not only to do loving things for others, but also to have that heart-attitude toward them called love. I try to "do the loving thing," of course, but if I don't like them, I don't imagine that I have nevertheless fully obeyed the biblical command to love. So I find that full obedience lies beyond the mere exercise of my will. Love is one of those things you can't just muster up - kind of like faith and hope. So I am cast back upon the Lord. "Lord, help me to love others as I should, as Your word commands, as You love them." Kind of like, "Lord, increase my faith," or "Lord, I believe; help my unbelief."

10:39 AM, April 05, 2006  
Blogger Milton Stanley said...

Valid points, Chris, and I'm glad you entered the discussion (and not so sure you're really that far from Buechner on this one). Certainly love can't be entirely a matter of will, but in a culture which sees love as almost if not entirely a matter of emotion, it's good to hear the other side of things.

12:51 AM, April 06, 2006  

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