May 3, 2020
Love is patient; love is kind…love is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing but rejoices in the truth…Love never ends. – 1 Corinthians 13:4-8
First grade was a big year for me. I won a contest for reading the most books in my class, and I had my first encounter with the law, my dad!
My best friend Sammy and I would walk home from school and we always stopped at Westside Market for a candy bar or an ice cream sandwich. One day Sammy ran out of the store while I paid for my Big Hunk. Once outside, I could see Sammy had three or four candy bars and I only had one. He told me he stole them. I knew what Sammy did was wrong, but I also really liked candy bars.
Within a week, I lost my moral compass that I had carefully groomed for the first six years of my life, and I started stealing baseball cards with Sammy from the local “Five and Dime” store. I accumulated a lot of baseball cards; and, in short order, I wanted more and stole a baseball and some cards one day.
When I got home from my “raid” at the “Five and Dime” my dad asked me, “How did you get that baseball and all those cards?” I looked down at the cracks in our driveway and told my dad that I bought everything with my birthday money. My deception grew with my shame.
What do we do when we come face to face with ourselves? With our flaws? How do we respond to other people’s faults? In the previously mentioned situation, what does love look like for me and for my father, for all of us? What does it mean to love as Christ loved us when we are so beautifully imperfect?
Peter told Jesus he would never deny him. He would always love Jesus. Yet, Peter does deny Christ three times on the night of his arrest. Imagine Peter’s pain and shame when he realizes what he has done. I can only imagine Peter’s thoughts, “I’m a horrible human being. I have let Jesus down. I may never see him again. I am not lovable.” Have not all of us been in Peter’s shoes?
At the end of John’s Gospel, there is a beautiful passage about God’s restorative love. Jesus meets Peter again and asks him three times, “Peter do you love me?” Peter says yes, I love you. It was three times that Peter denied Jesus and it was “three times that Jesus gives Peter the chance to wipe out the memory of his denial,” says New Testament scholar William Barclay.
Jesus’ love forgives and restores Peter while giving him responsibility at the same time. Jesus says, if you love me Peter, feed and tend my sheep. Love offers us hope and new life. Love lets go and begins anew while holding us accountable at the same time.
My father calmly questioned me about my baseball and the baseball cards. Looking back, I hear his words beneath the words.
“Do you love me son?” “Yes, Dad.” “Then tell the truth.”
“Do you love me son?” “Yes, Dad.” “Then take responsibility for your decisions.”
I apologized to my father and mother and they accepted. I thought I was off the hook, but my dad said I needed to take all the merchandise I stole back to the store and talk to the manager. Never once did my dad raise his voice or condemn my actions. He just held me responsible for my actions in a very gentle but firm way. Love.
I feared the store manager. I thought he might call the police on me, but the manager was kind. He thanked me for coming in and he refused the money I offered him. Instead he told me to go out into the fields and pick enough food to pay for the “stuff” I stole. It just happened to be asparagus season. I learned it took a lot of asparagus in 1969 to pay for $11.00 worth of baseball cards and a baseball.
Because of the compassion shown to me by my father and the store manager I learned a little about love that day. Love is healing and restorative not punitive. Love is patient; love is kind. Love endures.
During this pandemic may we turn our eyes toward the one who created us. May we follow His way and love with kindness, gentleness, patience, and self-control. May we forgive and restore one another. May we lead with the heart of compassion.
Blessings and peace,
Practice one aspect of love this week. Be more patient. More kind. Do not insist on your own way. Listen more. Forgive. Restore. Etc.