Living from a Place of Love
Psalm 148 Romans 13:8-14
September 4, 2011
This morning’s reading from Romans reminds us that everything that really matters takes us right back to love. Love is the root from which all kinds of good things grow. Love is the source of good actions out in the world. Love guides us to make wise choices. Love influences us in ways that enable us to be the people we want to be, people who create positive relationships, show compassion and make the world a better place for everyone. When we are under the influence of love, then every choice we make is the right one. We can’t go wrong. Paul, the supposed author of this particular letter to the Christians in Rome, lists all of the commandments that Moses brought down from Mount Sinai, and then basically dismisses them, saying if you have love as your highest calling, then you don’t need to be bothered with these things. They are mere trifles. If love is the guiding force of your life, then you will always make the best decisions possible, no matter what the subject. You will always live within the laws of God.
Living in such a way that love is at the core of who we are is a powerful way to live, but it takes some doing. It means being honest with yourself and it also means denying what can be some very human urges such as the desire to be right all of the time and the tendency to protect ourselves at all costs. I am sure I have shared this little saying before, but it bears repeating. A good friend went to a workshop years ago now, from which she brought back this one line that has shaped my life ever since I first heard it. The line is, “I would rather be loving than right.” Even after several years of practice, I haven’t gotten the knack of this simple-sounding principle yet, at least not in every situation, but it guides me in the way I live my life and in the choices I make. It reminds me that love really is the most powerful force for good in the world and in our lives, if we let it be. We really are the key, though. Love cannot do its work without our complicity. Love needs us to be the channel for it to pass through. Essentially, love counts on us in order for it to have a tangible presence in the world.
Some folks are really wonderful at expressing and embodying love. When I am around someone who is really good at this, I sometimes feel a little like a bull in a china shop. When I interact with them, I am hyper-aware of my rough edges, of even the slightest tendencies to be cynical or negative. When I talk with them and say something that is not 100% positive, then the air around me seems to hollow out into a deep, yawning silence. It feels as if a black hole is lurking there, ready to swallow me up. I know this sounds dramatic, but I have definitely noticed that when a person does not relate to the negativity around them, when they don’t join in with negativity, then the rest of the world is forced to change. With a person who is so gentle and based in love, negativity is like a joke that falls flat. They don’t laugh, and not only that, they don’t seem to have any sense of what we are trying to say. It seems as if they don’t really have a context for our negativity. Jesus was like this. He saw only the very best in people and in situations, no matter where he went and no matter who he interacted with. God’s love was lived out best by Jesus Christ. Jesus’ whole essence and being was based in Love. It is what he came to teach us. It is the foundation upon which he built everything that he did and taught.
How does it look when you and I live out of love? Do things change at all, in the ways we move and live and “have our being”? I think they have to change. I don’t think you can live from a place of love and still allow negativity to have a foothold in your life. Love smoothes out the edges that would normally catch us up into negative thoughts and fears. Even knowing this, I have to admit that I find it difficult to be positive all of the time. Most of the time I can handle it. Most of the time I can breathe deep and smile and expect good things to happen, expect good outcomes from the work that I do, and the efforts I make in the world. But there are some times when I just cannot seem to get on a positive wave-length. There are times when I get stuck in a mire of my own making, or when “the world is too much with me” and I despair of the good showing its face again. In my Sacred Earth class this week, we had some excellent beginning-of-the-semester discussions about the environment and spirituality, particularly about whether the actions of one or two people, or even of a whole community of people can really make a dent in the problems facing the world. It was fascinating to listen to the conversation as students talked about being positive or being cynical, as they spoke of overwhelming environmental problems and of the differences being made by people in some quarters. The most helpful part of the discussion, I think, was when we talked about the importance of making an effort to improve life because making that effort improved us. It feeds our souls when we try to make a difference, even if there is no noticeable improvement in the overall outcome. We need to do good things, to think good thoughts, and to align ourselves with the ways of love for our own sakes, just as much as we might need to do it in the hopes that something good will actually come out of our efforts.
This is what religion is all about, isn’t it? Aren’t religion and faith all about believing in something that cannot be seen or verified according to the measurements that count in the world? Love is at the core of Christ’s teachings. It always has been, and so when the religious leaders around Jesus attempted to judge him and his success, they could not see what was truest about him or his teachings. They could not accept the fact that Jesus may not have been trying to change the world, at least not in the ways that some of the Jewish revolutionaries of his time had hoped he might. Jesus was trying to change the world alright, but he was trying to do it through love. Any parent who has dealt with a difficult child knows that love is a slow motivator for change, but it is ultimately the motivator with the most staying power. Bribes may work for a time, force and fear may also work for awhile, but none of these lasts. None of these brings everyone involved together in a way that gives each respect and allows everyone to feel heard and appreciated. People who use bribery to get what they want, find that one day they just don’t have a good enough bribe to effect the change they desire. Those who use fear and force often discover that these tactics can be turned around and used against them just as readily as they used them against others. Our God and our faith ask us to align ourselves with the forces of Love, so that we might be a part of making the world, our lives and our very selves better for the effort. May God also help us in the process of doing this. So be it, amen.