GIVE even when we don’t get what we want

Luke 6

Luke 6 pic

“But love your enemies, do what is good, and lend, expecting nothing in return. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High. For He is gracious to the ungrateful and evil. Be merciful, just as your Father is also merciful. ” Luke 6:35-36

 

To me, Luke chapter 6 is a call to action. After being introduced to the Lord Jesus in the previous 5 chapters, we now start to gain first-hand accounts of his teachings.

 

One particular section of scripture in this account is when Jesus is speaking about love. He explains that it is easy for us to love someone who loves us, but having to show love to someone who won’t give that in return is what is a challenge.

 

When I first read this, my response was, yes of course. I should love my enemies. I should give and expect nothing in return.

 

But putting those words into practice is SO much harder than I thought.

 

We as people want things. We want to feel affection. We want to be accepted. We want to be loved. And, might I add, that all of that is valid. It is okay to feel that way.

 

But, I propose a “take it or leave it” thought to carry with you as you read: As Christians, we are called to give even when we don’t get what we want.

 

I’ve learned the hard way that sometimes we have to “grin and bear it”. We must persist. We must endure. This includes being kind to someone who wronged you. This includes waking up and going through the motions of life even when it seems unbearable. This means that we must go through the hard stuff.

 

Because if we don’t go through the hard stuff, we won’t be ready for the great big things that the Lord calls us to. Everything has a purpose. Don’t lose sight of the hope that has been gifted to you by our Father through the Lord Jesus Christ.

 

And when we think about it, after all the Lord has done for us, obeying his command to love our enemies is the least we can do, right?

 

-Leslie Jones

 

 

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The Other Person

FRIDAY

1 thessalonians 4_6 wood

1Th. 4:6 that no one wrong or exploit a brother or sister in this matter, because the Lord is an avenger in all these things, just as we have already told you beforehand and solemnly warned you.

 

We noted that Paul’s first instruction on morality was external, the second internal, i.e., what were you taught, then what is good for you. This third guideline for moral behavior is again outside of us, i.e., how am I treating the other person?

 

When I first went into youth ministry, almost 40 years ago, a study asked young people why they first had sex. The number one reason for girls was love, for guys was curiosity. The only thing that has changed over the years is that now the girls also are acting out of curiosity. As Bob Seger sang in the classic rock hit, Night Moves, “I used her, she used me, neither one cared. We were getting our share.”

 

As Christians, can we use another person for our personal sexual gratification? What impact does our action have on the other person?

 

Sometimes I think this is a special issue for Christians. Maybe worldly people can see former sexual partners as just passing acquaintances with whom they had a good time, but can it be that simplistic for Christians? Don’t we as Christians think of sex as more than a good time? It is a gift that God has given us to share with our life partner. We might think our romance is going to lead to marriage, but what if it doesn’t?

 

What does it mean to respect others in regard to our moral decisions?

 

-Greg Demmitt

Hearts of Flesh

Empathy

This week, we have explored the ways in which empathy informs and shapes our call as Christians to love one another.  We’ve learned how empathy is sitting with and understanding another’s perspective.  We’ve looked at how empathy allows us to love others in ways that uniquely speak to their circumstances.  We’ve even seen how we have a high priest in Christ who’s empathy has brought us salvation.

 

Today, I would like to end our time together by encouraging each one of us to live our lives more empathetically in light of our readings.  In a society that often seems more and more connected, we can increasingly find ourselves alone.  At its very root, empathy stands against such isolation by opening our own hearts to those around us.

 

This is hard.  This is dangerous.  It’s a path that has even led to the cross.  But when we refuse or close our eyes to the full humanity of those around us, we begin to break the very ties that make us human.  Because out of everything that God has made, only loneliness was not good.

 

To be human – the way that humanity is meant to be – is to be in community, relationship, and connection with all those around us.  Who is our neighbor? Everyone.  Am I my brother’s keeper? Yes.  Who should I love? Even my enemies.

 

The work of God, from the emancipation of the Israelites to the salvation of the resurrection, is a story of an ever widening circle of people that are called to love and care for one another in the glory of God.  That cause has not changed even today.

 

We are called to love and care and expand the boundaries of our own comfort so that the unlovable will be cared for and the lonely will no longer be alone.

 

Empathy is the tool that protects our hearts from becoming stone.

 

As we part ways today, my prayer for each of us is that we are transformed and empowered to carry hearts of flesh that can love beyond human comprehension.

-Graysen Pack

Pasta! And Empathy

Friday

Luke 6-31

When talking about empathy in Bible, this one verse probably comes to mind before all others.

Luke 6:31 Do to others as you would have them do to you.

If empathy is about being able to see and understand the world from another’s perspective, then a deep understanding and practice of empathy should be a prerequisite for enacting this command.

 

There are two ways that we can approach this Christian calling.  The first and easier of the two requires only that we understand what we want and then providing that for others.  For instance, I love pasta.  All kinds of pasta.  So, I will pasta unto others as I would want others to pasta unto me.  But there’s a catch.  My wife can’t have gluten.  So, if I just pasta unto her all the pastas I love, then she will quickly not love them or me at all.

 

This kind of action only requires us to reflect upon ourselves.  What is it that we want?  How do I understand what is good and pleasurable and worth sharing?  At its heart, this is still a self-centered approach to loving others because my interests are the center of my actions.

 

The second kind of approach requires us to reflect on both what we appreciate and the context in which we find ourselves (an awareness of those around us).  In this situation, I know that I love pasta when I’m hungry.  I see that my wife is hungry and I want to provide her with the same satisfaction I get when someone gives me pasta.  But since she can’t have gluten, I know that I need to give her something that will be as delicious and comforting as pasta would be for me.

 

In this version of the story, I have taken my own desires out of my focus and instead placed her at the center.  Now I want to create the same type of joy in her that I experience, but in a way that is specific to her life and preferences.

 

OK – pasta may be a silly example, so let’s take it up a notch.  What about when someone approaches you and asks for some spare change.  What do you do?  If I simply place myself into their shoes and imagine what it would be like to be in such a dire situation that I would ask strangers for money, then I may reach into my pocket.  But what have I done in that moment?  I haven’t actually engaged in an act of empathy, but rather in an act of pity.

 

Empathy requires that we first acknowledge and open ourselves up to another.  We have to take the time to learn what it means for another to live in their shoes.  It means engaging with them as an equal and full person.  Pity minimizes another’s humanity.  Empathy embraces and supports it.

 

Doing unto them as I would want done unto me may mean that they still get my change in the end.  But it would only be after I had engaged with them as a full person.  That may mean I find out who they are, where they’ve been, what their life is like, and how I can be an encouragement/help to them today.  It may mean sitting down for a meal on the curb or even being honest about giving money.  In any situation, it means engaging with them on a personal level – like you would with a friend in the hall who you haven’t seen in a while.

 

This is the tricky part of empathy.   It always requires a unique action for each unique situation.  But it always demands that we interact and engage with others in the fullness of their humanity.

Today, may your fullness be recognized and may you encourage the fullness of life in others.

-Graysen Pack

Ultimate Act of Empathy

Thursday

Hebrews 4-15

Hebrews 4:15-16 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

If empathy can be summed up as “feeling with people,” as Brene Brown put it on Monday, then Christ and his life represent the ultimate act of empathy.

In each of our lives, we have all fallen short.  It’s an unfortunate fact of existence.  We are all going to mess it up and be messed up.  And it’s not just us – all of life and creation feels the effects of the broken world we live in.

Yet the world and life is still good and we give God praise for each day.  Why?

It is because we have an intercessor who knows – not just intellectually – deep down in his bones what it means to suffer under the weight of human tragedy.  We have a high priest who has walked through the deepest shadows of despair and born the burden of bodily pain in his own flesh.  And because of him, there is hope.

Hope that there can be life on the other side of horror.  There is joy beyond the pain.  There is calm beyond the storm.

And it isn’t just a pie-in-the-sky kind of hope either.  It isn’t a hope that only awaits us on some future ethereal plane.  It is a hope that is born out and brought into the midst of this life through the continued work of Christ in the community of faith.  It is hope that is birthed in the acts of empathy that we continue to pursue each and every day.

We can approach not just the throne of grace with confidence, but the altars of pain and brokenness with healing because we can extend the grace that has already been extended to us.

Today, may you receive the grace you need and may you pass along the love that overflows from the heart of Christ.

-Graysen Pack
Hebrews 4 16

Between Me and You

Wednesday:

1 corinthians 12 25,26

During one of my favorite college courses, my professor asked the class, “Where do you end and another person begin?”  It was a pastoral care course and she was genuinely asking for us to point out the specific spot where we draw the border between “me” and “you.”

It seems like a silly question that should have a pretty simple answer.  I end…the end of me can be found…I mean, you just know, you know?  This is me and this isn’t me…

Here are a few questions that may help us see this better.  Have you ever been driving and just barely bumped into something and said “ow!”?  Maybe it was pushing a grocery cart that got caught on the corner of the aisle, or a book that ran into a door knob.  Did it really hurt you?  Probably not, but we still say “ow” instinctively.

How about in your relationship with your best friend, where do you draw the line between what is yours in the relationship and what is theirs?  That inside joke you share, is that part of you or part of them?

The weird thing about this question is that the more we try to make a clear line between “me” and “you,” the harder it becomes to find one.  This is the point.  And, I believe it is also the point that Scripture tries to make from beginning to end.  We are connected.

At our deepest and truest level, none of us is truly separate from all of those around us.  Instead of being islands in a sea, we are clusters in a giant web.  We might be able to say it this way; we are all part of one body, or we are our brother’s/sister’s keeper.

Empathy is the key to discovering this reality and recognizing it as central to what it means to be human.  Our ability to feel, comprehend, and share the experiences of others is one of the most humane things about us.  Our empathy draws us to a more Christ-like position of action and belief because it reveals the interconnectedness of our lives.

My hope for you today is that you see the fibers that connect us, one to another, and act in love to honor the truth of who we (all) are.

-Graysen Pack

1 Corinthians 12:25-26 This makes for harmony among the members, so that all the members care for each other. If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it, and if one part is honored, all the parts are glad.

For Others

Tuesday

I Corinthians 10-24

1 Corinthians 10:24 Try to do what is good for others, not just what is good for yourselves.

One of the hardest parts of relationships for me is not trying to just fix things.  It’s a pretty stereotypical “guy” thing, but it’s something that I think everyone deals with at some point or another.


Yesterday, one of the things we said about empathy is that it isn’t about trying to fix things.  Putting a silver lining around something or just trying to get to a solution isn’t empathy at all.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-4EDhdAHrOg (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-4EDhdAHrOg).

So, what’s the problem trying to be solved in this video? The title pretty much gives it away – it’s not about the nail (really!).  See, removing the nail might make her head feel better, but it does nothing to solve the deeper problem – her partner isn’t connecting with her experience.  He’s distant and disconnected from what’s going on in her life.  Together they may be able to address the nail, but that only comes after they’ve built an empathic connection for each other’s situation.

That moment towards the end where he says that her situation must be really hard.  That’s a bit of empathy shining through.  And what happens?  They strengthen their relationship and she feels understood and accepted.

There are some things in life that we can change (like pulling a nail out of our heads), but there are just as many that we have no control over whatsoever.  Empathy gives us a way to find healing and love even when our nails can’t be removed.

Just as Paul urged us yesterday, again he urges the Corinthians (and us) to act in love with empathy; seeking to do what is good for others.  Being able to step forward in empathy to share in another’s burdens allows us to address the deepest concerns of life by showing others that they are not alone.

Today, may you feel the presence of all those who bear your burdens with you, and may you extend that grace to others as well.

 -Graysen Pack