Is Love the Most USELESS Word in the US English Lexicon?

Seth Godin recently wrote:

Caring is free

In the short run, of course, not caring can save you some money.

Don’t bother making the facilities quite so clean. Save time and hassle and let the display get a little messy. Don’t worry so much about one particular customer, because you’re busy and hiring more people takes time and money.

But in the long run, caring pays for itself.

Caring is expensive, but it also generates loyalty and word of mouth.

In the long run, an organization that puts in extra effort gets rewarded.

Not to mention that caring makes us all more human. Worth it.

How does this apply to love? I was having a conversation the other night, and we were talking about love. I remember a quip that the so-called language of love, French, doesn’t have a verb “to love” (go ahead and check it out on Google Translate, and this one, too. I’ll wait). So, the language of love doesn’t have a verb (i.e., an action), “to love”. This is not to disparage French. It just may be more honest then we English speakers (especially US American ones).

We love pizza. We love ice cream. We love the internet. We love zombies (okay, a lot of people to, but not me). Perhaps caring and life, ought to be our primary words, and love used sparingly, if at all.

The context of the conversation that I had, was the Christian life, and the life of love that it is supposed to be. Well, “I love you, and will pray for you,” are great words, but far too often in Christian circles they are empty. Too many say, “I’ll pray for you,” but forget to when they get home.

How many times have I said those words, and they were empty of truth and action? I couldn’t tell you. Were they full of good intentions? YES! Well, we used to say a road to a certain place of eternal torment was paved with those good intentions. I don’t want my life to be paved with good intentions, if that’s the result!

I was thinking of the phrase attributed (probably, wrongly) to St. Francis of Assisi, “Preach the Gospel at all times. Use words if necessary.” Skipping the discussion about the source of the quote…let’s change it up a little.

“Love people at all times, shining the saving Gospel of Jesus Christ into their lives. If you have to, tell them you love them, too.”

Smile. Acknowledge them. Acknowledge (especially to yourself) that they are valued by God (and you). Acknowledge that God died for them, too. I think the “especially to yourself” is important. If we do the acts (which are good), but our heart is not changed, then those are good works are worth nothing.

Yet, if we say all the words and do nothing(i.e., good intentions), then our faith is of no value, to us or anyone else.

I am no great theological mind. Not by any stretch. I know that I am not the first, nor will I be the last, to wrestle with this. In Celebrate Recovery, I see people who made decisions based upon where they were at, that had long term damaging effects upon them and others. I have seen people who do not have the tools to keep it together. That means I’m so great, right? Not even close. Many of them have hit a bottom I didn’t even know existed (and that includes suicidal thoughts and depression). Many of them live a stronger, more loving, more honest Christian life than I dare dream to (and, I’ll be honest, am sometimes scared to).

Jesus said, “…the one to whom little is forgiven, loves little.” Lord, forgive me! The life I was gifted gave me an environment where I didn’t make decisions that dramatically negatively impacted me for years. Yay! I didn’t do a lot of things! Yay, I was like Saul (who became Paul)! I could point to all the things I did do to live a good life! Like Paul, they are nothing but filthy rags.

Because of that reality, I love little. Those are hard words to type (and read). By God’s grace, there are many who would believe that I am wrong that I love little. And for that I am grateful. I also know that I am not to measure my life (or my love) by comparing myself to others, just to God. Just to God. Let’s sit with that…

Yes, we all have a long way to go to love as deeply, and as widely, as God. None of us will get there on this side of the veil of life. Through God’s grace, and us yielding our hearts to God’s movement in our lives, we are able to make that leap, where truly loving becomes the larger pattern of our life, outweighing the “acts of kindness” and the “words of emptiness”.

My challenge for you is this…when you’re about to say, “I love…,” think about the words you’re using. Do you want the recipient of your “love” statement to love you the same way? Is this a caring statement? Is it a liking statement? If you look at the love of God (i.e., God died for you, while you were far from ideal, and even were/are running away from the “ideal”), do you really mean to use love in that way?

#Purple for Royalty

Not #Red. Not #Blue. #Purple for royalty.

I, like much of the country, am grieving. However, it is not about the election result that I am grieving, but people’s responses to it. I am particularly saddened by people of the church, and truly devastated by the people who provide spiritual leadership in the church…the pastors.

I am part of a group that discusses sermons, and the general consensus is how awful it is that Trump was elected. That’s fine, in and of itself. It was the subsequent (paraphrased), I don’t want to have to pastor those people who voted for Trump. Another chimed in with (again, in effect), I’m so glad our entire church is full of those offended by Trump’s election, though if there are those that did vote for him and didn’t fess up, I’m not worried about hurting them (i.e., I’m not going to be their pastor).

Granted, these are pastor-to-pastor conversations, but these exhibit a serious heart problem.

I will readily grant that there are similar issues with those in more conservative areas (or  pastors who are more conservative themselves) who have been disparaging of the “liberals” in their churches. Though, I don’t recall one saying, I don’t want to be their pastor.

Either impacts our ability to preach the Gospel, but it also shows our inability to live it out. People on both “sides” (and there is also the Green and Libertarians, don’t forget) are calling out others who didn’t vote their way as not Christians! That is obscene! I’m actually tempted to call it blasphemous and sacrilegious.

We pastors must have a higher expectation of ourselves and other pastors. The United States is becoming more factious, not less. We are called to bridge the gap, not belittle others, or elevating others’ pain at the expense of others’ pain, or focusing on injustice, but by focusing on the one who died to save the world. Absolutely, part of the outflow of living out the Gospel is to heal pain and confront injustice, but it starts on our knees looking to the one who bore the nails for our sins. Jesus is supposed to be on the throne of our hearts. We are to be #Purple.

Differing Views on Marriage Versus Importance

In the recent article Here Comes Wedding Season: How Consumers Will Pay for Others’ Big Day in 2016, the amount of money spent by people attending weddings as guests or wedding party members was predicted to increase significantly. The prevalent Christian meme is that secular society is demeaning or devaluing the institution of marriage, yet by spending more on attending and being part of the wedding, it may not be as clear cut as many Christians claim it is.

What most Christians really mean is that others do not value the exact marriage that they value. The Christian marriage is usually defined as between one man and one woman (with kids) until separated by death (as long as it isn’t murdering each other). If that is the litmus test (others do not value the “Christian” ideal of marriage), then, yes, I have to agree with the Christian meme.

The marriage that society values is a marriage in which the two people (and, yes, in some cases more than two) find mutual satisfaction and happiness. Secular society truly does value, treasure, and uphold this understanding. Let us Christians recognize that. The dilemma comes to fruition when, however, the people in a marriage no longer find mutual satisfaction and happiness in their relationship. Thus it is better to “honor” marriage by divorcing, for by remaining together, they dishonor marriage.

The logic is consistent internally. By that same logic, as long as the couple is mutually committed, what does it matter if the couple be male/female, female/female, male/male? It might even be consistent within that marriage to have open partnerships or what have you.

Another interesting article is Americans Are Becoming More Socially Liberal — Except When it Comes to Divorce. According to the author claims (with some data to back it up), that many Millennials view divorce with such distaste, that many require other milestones (establish career, home, college degree, no/low debt, even prior serious relationship and/or cohabitation) to be accomplished prior to that final commitment. The author states:

Marriage has, in other words, gone from being a cornerstone achievement to a capstone one.

The author ends the column with this “capstone”:

So keep this in mind if you ever feel the temptation to urge some broke young couple to hurry up and get hitched already: Chances are they’re dragging their feet not because they don’t take marriage seriously but because they do.

Mind blown. Before we talk about upholding marriage, we Christians had best work with the secular world to discuss what exactly it is we and they mean.

Devalued

In Podcast 83, Carey Nieuwhoff interviewed Ravi Zacharias, who drew a parallel between pornography and suicide. Zacharias spoke of his recent experience counseling college students during the Passion Conference (starting at 22:55 and paraphrased), where the majority came two talk about two topics: pornography and suicide. He called pornography the “denuding of the other person” and suicide the “denuding of your own self”. The timeline is then moving from the devaluing of others to the devaluing of yourself.

While this could be a throwaway statement (and many would, as Zacharias went on to discuss sensuality and sex), I do not think this either a throwaway, or that small (and neither did Nieuwhoff, as he came back to it). Suicide has come up here before (such as here, here, and here), and is still high on my radar.

Knowing people (other than just myself) who have verbally spoken of committing suicide, it is the perception of self-worth that is the root of it. I know that many of my own internal conversations on this topic were based on my perception of no worth, or that those that love me would be better off without me. That saddest part of being part of a wealthy country is that we often have the luxury of not struggling day-by-day, which seems to lead to a higher level of depression and anxiety (which is strange).

The biggest thing, though, is hope. Without hope of an end to the pain. So, what can we as Christians offer as true hope to those that are hurting?

Definitions Impact Understanding

The horrible killing of Nazimuddin Samad is a crime in and of itself. As I read the reporting of it, however, I saw that there were definitely different pictures of the incident, of Nazimuddin Samad himself, and the world.

Aljazeera described his comments as pro-atheist, while also calling him a secularist. Aljazeera quoted Imran Sarker as saying, “He was a secular online activist and a loud voice against any social injustice. He was against Islamic fundamentalism.”

IBT called him a critic of radical Islam, and The Brisbane Times called him liberal and secular. It was the BBC’s report that really got me thinking.

The BBC reported that Nazimuddin Samad wrote against religious extremism. The BBC also reported that Nazimuddin Samad had “I have no religion” on his Facebook profile.

To my way of thinking, there is a difference between religious extremism, pro-atheism, secular, liberal, and even “I have no religion.” While even the understanding of religious extremism can be different (i.e., a devout atheist and devout Christian would have different understandings, depending on the issue), I will stick with the current Western thought of physically violent attacks on those of differing beliefs resulting in longer term harm (PTSD, amputation, blindness, etc.) and/or death.

Pro-atheism would be more akin to a person who publicly advocates for atheism and publicly (and actively?) opposed religion.

Secularism gets interesting as it really can depend. My definition of secularism would be a separation of powers between religious body (versus religion) and government. This is not how many people view secularism (including many Christians and atheists), but I base my understanding of the “separation of church and state” in concert with “the free exercise thereof”, and how I understand what the Founding Fathers intended this tension.

Liberal is such a loaded term that it is almost useless, at least in the United States. Perhaps, it is a more useful term outside our borders.

“I have no religion” is the most interesting. For Fundamentalist believers (whether Muslim, Christian, Hindu, etc.), I suspect that this is immediately equated to atheist. Aljazeera, for example, from its history might very well have that perspective (thus affecting their reporting). However, based on what little I know, I suspect Nazimuddin Samad kept his religious views private so as to not impact his work on secularism. Yes, I am assuming he was not an atheist (just stick with me on this). Bangladesh, along with many other nations (including the United States to a much lesser degree), is officially secular, but its people are not, which creates a tension between government and the people. In a country where the people avow their religiosity, “I have no religion” may come across as atheist. Yet, in an atmosphere of rising religious tensions and being a secularist (and I am, I acknowledge, using my definition), I can see the rationale of saying, “I have no religion,” while still holding onto religious beliefs.

My real thrust in this, however, is not trying to define/explain/defend Nazimuddin Samad or anyone else, but to observe that just the reporting on this tragedy can cause one to draw very different conclusions about Nazimuddin Samad, and his views. My take is that depending on who is reporting (and their editor), how one draws conclusions might severly be impacted.