How Can We Love Thee – Intellectually?
When I think about how we love those who we are most deeply committed to, I think about loving in four perspectives: Physically, Intellectually, Emotionally and Spiritually. With that in mind, I embarked on a four-part series, concentrating on one perspective per blog. For each perspective I follow this process:
- I will describe the perspective as it applied in my "real world" as I raised my sons, Mitchell and Braden.
- Then, I will look at the way Jesus applied the perspective to his "real world" when he was on earth.
- Finally, I will talk about ways we can apply the principle in our "real world now."
If you missed last's week's blog, you can read it here.
The Intellectual Perspective:
My Past World with my Sons: In most all things, I taught and continue to teach what I can, sharing my experiences, my insight, my questions, my concerns, my great ideas... sometimes bad ones too, and my knowledge.
When they were younger, I made it a point to take Mitchell and Braden to Sunday School, Bible School, and to send them to camps, mission trips and other church related activities. Regarding God’s wondrous, most marvelous creations, we made it a point to take them often to the zoo, arboretum, science museums and aquariums. We did art work and together, we read, did puzzles, and of course the obligatory homework…ugh! The point is that we explored ideas together and had deep conversations (appropriate for their level at the time) and listened to their points of view and questions.
We also allowed them to experience disappointment and to fail. In doing that they learned that mistakes are okay, and they could recover from them. They learned it was honorable to admit mistakes and to work to correct them because forgiveness counts. And they learned that while we may be disappointed about their decisions at times, we always loved them.
BUT, they also learned that love is not passive. Our love for our sons was love tendered with respect and accountability. For example, the boys were taught to open doors for people (our rule: elderly men and women, all women of any age, and children younger than themselves.) When one of the boys tried to charge through in front of someone on our “open the door list,” I would grab his collar, yanking him back, and I would say to the person who was trying to get through the door “My son wants to open the door for you.”
RESPECT and LOVE are tied. It's about preserving the self-esteem of others, or honoring them. Whether we are talking about people, animals, or the earth, it is the same. Jesus taught us to respect all people…on the inside and out. Here’s the deal…”Whether or not you act respectfully toward me is NOT a measure of my character; but whether or not I act respectfully toward you IS a measure of my character.”
I remember when Mitchell came home from first grade upset. He told me someone had called him a “white boy” in a mean way. He asked what that meant. I said some people describe others by a color. "Let’s check this out, Mitchell," I said. I held up a piece of paper and asked him the color. He said, “it’s white.” Then I took the paper and held it next to his arm and asked him if he is white, to which he answered, “no.” Then I said, “it appears to me that most people are some shade of beige or brown." I told him the young man who meanly called him a white boy was really saying you are different than me, and I’m not sure if I like you or trust you.
Mitchell’s response, I told him, should not be about what the boy said, but about his own values. If we see all creation as God’s gift to us, then we need to make our choices, our responses with that in mind... on what we value inside. I asked him if he thought Jesus would have been angry, or said something that wasn’t very nice. He thought not.
So here is where the real lesson was taught. Both of my boys learned at a young age they should choose their friends wisely…they should choose their friend by values shared. Money, color, religion, abilities, and popularity are not important when choosing friends, but values are. Honesty, respecting others, faith in God, family, behaving in school, being friendly to people, and having FUN together. For that reason, our home was always filled with a variety of diverse children, including Arab, Latino, Black, Indian, Caucasian, or Muslim, Catholic, Christian, and/or nothing in particular, and/or poor, wealthy and in between. What I expected at all times was respectful behavior. They didn’t have to be friends with everyone, but they did have to be friendly.
Jesus’ World: Jesus teaches us that in order to get our priorities straight, we must focus on love. He helps us understand that how we love is more important than any deed we can perform. God is not counting our deeds, because there is nothing we can ever do to gain entrance into heaven. Our God is a God of grace and mercy, and most importantly a God of love. At every turn, Jesus did the unexpected: saving and liberating women, pushing men away to let children come to him, not living in fear – but instead reaching out to lepers, dirty beggars, dining with tax collectors, teaching, preaching, and developing common men to become leaders who would change the world forever.
Jesus teaches us that what is most important is not status, money or rank, but the love we have inside. That love stands above all. Remember the story about the woman who put one coin in the offering? Hers was the greatest gift because she gave her all. In parable after parable we learn about the importance of sharing what we have, forgiving, celebrating and welcoming those who have behaved badly, turned away from us, but then return to us. To love is to respect. To love is to forgive. To love is to demonstrate it in ways that connect to others.
Our World Now: Our world is too polarized. Our United States is too polarized. Politics are disabling us. It now seems the idea is to point out flaws in others to distract from the flaws you have. We need to remember what Jesus said. “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?” Has our world grown so big that we cannot talk about others without pointing out flaws and fighting?
How Can We Love Thee – Intellectually?
Overall, we should look at the Bible in context, and in the whole. Sure we can pull out parts to use them, but in doing that, we need to look at the intent. In doing that do we cause harm to others? In doing that do we act in ways that are not loving and inclusive? In doing that are we acting in ways that Jesus would? Jesus was very thoughtful in his actions and words... two things that seem to be extremely divisive in our world today.
We should all think about our actions and reactions, considering their impact, including that of our words. We need to quit using words that separate, and maybe even call out others who do. We need to use the right and most respectful terms. We need to follow Jesus’ way…his manner, approach and practice.
For example, Jesus used the term “the poor” versus calling out a specific race. There are those, who today, refer to the poor in stereotypical ways – as the Blacks, or the Mexicans, etc. "The poor" is the correct term because in today’s world, the poor are made of up many races, religions, cultures, backgrounds, and education levels. I hope and pray that we all can learn to be more respectful by learning what is acceptable.
I have defined many terms in this blog, and there are a few of these terms, that when misused, may cause hurt, confusion, fear, loathing, anger, and violence. They breakdown trust and relationships when used incorrectly…so, let’s get educated!
- Arab=Arabian. Arabic is a language, but many Arabs speak other languages. An Arab is anyone who comes from the middle-east and north-Africa. A lot of Arabs live all over the world, but originate from there. Most of the population is Muslim, but you can also be a Christian or Jewish Arab.
- Islam is a religion that teaches there is only one God and that Muhammad is God’s prophet. A follower of Islam is a Muslim. You may say you are interested in the religion of Muslim, but never in the Muslim religion.
- The term Islamic terrorism is correct because “Islamic terrorist” or “al Qaeda” or “ISIS/ISIL” are terms for violence-prone terrorists who happen to follow the religion of Islam – in this case the Quran and the Hadith (traditions or sayings of Muhammad.)
- Islamic community and Islamic art are both correct terms, just like Christian community or Christian art.
- African-American refers to Americans of African descent, and it’s also correct to refer to the Black community.
- Latino generally refers to countries or cultures that were once under Roman rule. Brazilians are considered to be Latino, but are not considered to be Hispanic. Latino people speak a romance language (not just Spanish) and are born in Latin America.
- Hispanic describes cultures or countries that were once under Spanish rule (Mexico, Central America, and most of South America where Spanish is the primary language.)
- Gay used to refer to the LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender) community as a whole or as an individual identity label for anyone who does not identify as a heterosexual. In some cultural settings it presents as males who are attracted to males in a romantic or emotional sense.
- Homosexual refers to a person primarily emotionally, physically, and/or sexually attracted to members of the same sex.
During this Lenten Season, re-read the stories of Jesus and the words he offers us. Analyze Jesus’ actual words and you will come to understand that he speaks without judgment. He loves freely and openly without condemnation. He reaches out to those who are politically incorrect, those of low stature, those not part of the Jewish community, and those generally thought of as abhorrent. He separates the actions of people and the needs of people from labels.
Let’s try to put thought into the words we use. Let’s all try to get it right. Let’s try to be respectful and maintain the self-esteem of others. Let’s try to educate ourselves so we don’t use derogatory language. Let’s try to be friendly and build trust. Let’s give the benefit of the doubt and offer forgiveness. Let’s pray for governments, peoples, religions, and cultures in the world including and especially praying for those who persecute us.
Let’s pray for a world of peace and joy where we REALLY “Do What Jesus Would Do.”
Stay tuned for Part 3: The Emotional Perspective