Presbyterian churches across Canada held special services this Sunday highlighting ongoing support for people around the world affected by poverty, emergencies and injustice. In the post that follows, I take liberties by extracting portions from a text that was prepared for delivery from local pulpits on "Presbyterian World Service & Development Sunday". I feel that the message effectively puts the gift of "love" today into proper perspective.
“Love” is a very popular word in our society and people spend much of their lives in search of it. But as we all know, this often goes unfulfilled, is often misunderstood and is more than often misused. The latest search on Amazon.com reveals some interesting results: when you type in the word “money”, it lists over 90,000 book titles, “sex” has nearly 90,000, “heaven” has over 27,000, “God” has over 170,000, and for “love” there are over 240,000 book titles listed.
If you Google the word “love” you will get over 4.2 billion hits with some websites called, ilovedogs.com, ilovecheese.com and ilovelucy.com. If you’re looking for a partner there is trueromancedatingservice.com, lovetest.com and matchmaker.com. There’s even a website called, thelovecalculator.com, which claims to give you the odds of your relationship lasting!
The common element in these sites is that love is seen as something that arises exclusively out of human desire and belonging, solely within the realm of human gratification. It is created by humanity for humanity. This seems to be the way that many people see it.
One man wrote to the popular columnist with a problem: “Dear Abby, I am in love and I am having an affair with two different women other than my wife. I love my wife but I love these other women too. Please tell me what to do, but don’t give me any of that morality stuff.” He signed it, Too much love for only one. Abby’s reply was classic. She wrote: “Dear Too much love for only one. The only difference between humans and animals is morality. Please write to a veterinarian.”
The Scriptures reveal to us a love that is more than something entangled with mere feelings and emotions. They proclaim a love that is real, genuine and beyond superficial human fancies. We are invited to embrace this love...
Several years ago a psychologist named three types of Christmas gift-givers and the characteristics of each. One is the Duty-Gift Giver. This person feels an obligation to buy a gift; it really doesn’t matter what it is, and not a lot of thought goes into it. Anything will do.
The second is the Traditional Gift Giver. This person always chooses something appropriate, like a book for the coffee table. It’s always an acceptable choice but maybe not a really personal gift. It’s nice, sends the right message and it never goes over budget.
The third type of giver is called the Passionate Giver. This person enthusiastically looks for just the right gift for the right person. The giver knows the right colour, the right size, and doesn’t mind going over budget if need be. The gift fits the need or desire of the recipient regardless of budget. The giver is simply happy to give it. Such a gift, naturally, is deeply appreciated by the recipient and elicits the most genuine and heartfelt thanks.
...At the very heart of who we are as Christians, this Passionate Giver concept of love is what defines us...Love is the foundation of the fruit of the Spirit: joy is love that sings; peace is love that rests; patience is love that endures; kindness is love’s touch; goodness is love’s character; faithfulness is love’s habit; self-control is love holding the reins. It is this love that has the power to transform us and change lives one by one.
The trouble sometimes with receiving something wonderful is that we can easily take it for granted and eventually come to expect only good things. This is the “entitlement mindset” that has permeated both our society and the our churches today. We have been blessed to live in a land of plenty, and as a result we have become complacent. Many times we are completely unwilling to give thanks to anyone for anything.
The Gospel message tells us that love’s power is in the fact that it was expressed to the world in a concrete way and that it was given with utmost passion. It isn’t connected with the whims of our emotions or gratifications. When our lives are characterized by the awareness of this gift and profound gratitude this gift causes, then we become committed to living out that same passionate love in our world as agents of change for The One who first gives passionately to us.
Presbyterian World Service & Development unites partners overseas and congregations here at home to address the root causes of poverty and make positive changes in our global village. The relief agency works to restore human dignity, ease the pain of want, promote self-help and encourage community co-operation. Financial contributions from local churches help make this world-wide ministerial mission possible.