Sunday, March 11, 2018

Lessons From the Season on Loving One Another

Hers was a slow progression. Deliberate - but slow. Her progress - in both ability and advancement down the court - was stunning to me. She's come so far. I hold my breath as I notice the other players begin to part - creating an opening, of all things. She may actually score. Deep breath. She may actually score?? And then, as if she had been doing it her whole life, the shot. And by the grace of a loving and ever-present God - it goes in! My heart swells and tears fall as the thing I had been too afraid to even think about - much less hope for - happened. This moment - pure ecstasy. 

            This season of life has been challenging. After 5 years of struggling through multiple painful yet manageable illness we are beginning to live life again. There have been lessons in this my daughter’s first season of Basketball.  I have learned, for example, about my fear and how it holds me tightly. I have also learned of my aversion - a rather intense one, at that - to all things painful. But I have also learned something of love. You see, as my daughter's first ever basket was made, there were cheers of jubilation from her team. The accomplishment was not their own and yet - the rejoicing was communal. And as I've begun reflecting, on all that has transpired, I'm beginning to realize - this is how it should be. 

            I have felt the love for my daughter that is her team's. They have supported her, accepted her, pushed her, and rejoiced with her. Her lack of ability seemingly bringing out the best in these girls. I watched as each teammate - no older than 7 or 9 themselves - selflessly stepped aside. Making way for this moment of pure magic. And after the tears were wiped and composure regained I begin to think: If only the body of Christ loved like this. 

If only the body of Christ loved like this!

            What if we put as much energy into building others up as we do fighting for our own place? What if we saw each other's weaknesses or struggles as opportunities for grace rather than opportunities for judgment? Imagine what would happen if we paid as much attention to the needs of others as we did to our own.  Or if we allowed the Lord to replace our apathy with compassion? And our selfish acts with self-less ones? What if we all began to perceive more, care more, and then act with another's good in mind - as these young girls have. Oh, how glorified our God would be! 

            As members of the body of Christ we are called to this work of mutual edification. "Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification." (Romans 14:19) The New Living Translation says it like this: "So then we pursue the things which make for peace and the building up of one another." Paul, the author of the book of Romans, later goes on to say:

We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves. Each of us should please our neighbors for their good, to build them up. For even Christ did not please himself but, as it is written: "The insults of those who insult you have fallen on me." For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope. (Romans 15:1-4)

            "Each of us should please our neighbor for their good, to build them up." These words, though simple to read prove difficult to carryout. This type of other-pleasing behavior is counter-culture and positively unnatural. For though we long to be generous, for example, we often find ourselves struggling to give - afraid there might not be enough for us, if we do. We are reluctant to step-up and speak-out for injustice, for fear of losing our place or losing "face". Terrified that others won't follow us or concur with us. And yet, when I read those words, "The insults of those who insult you have fallen on me.", I read my Example. Jesus gave everything for us because we could give nothing to ourselves. And most importantly - nothing to him.  

            To love like this will require faith - and no small amount of it. We must trust in a God of unlimited love. We must know that our Father provides all that we need or could want. We must believe that we are known and accepted. And finally, we must stop striving - concluding that no amount of work or exertion on our part, will secure more than what we already have - in Christ. And that this knowledge should free us! And not only free us but unchain us - enabling us to "step aside" for the good of another. And for the edification of the body - to the glory of God.   

May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had, so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Accept one another, then just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God. (Romans 15:5-7)

            Church, let us heed these words and the example given us by Christ. Let's also take a lesson from those precious and selfless girls - wise, it would seem, beyond their years. Because, could you imagine: If only the body of Christ loved like that?