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Faith Insight: The risk of loving

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Posted: Friday, November 2, 2012 12:15 am | Updated: 11:53 am, Mon Jan 21, 2013.

FAIRBANKS - I came across the story of a counselor who was helping his campers get their belongings put away on their first morning in summer camp.

He was surprised to see one of the youngsters had an umbrella. The counselor asked, “Why did you bring an umbrella to camp?” The boy answered, “Did you ever have a mother?”

The love of a mother is a beautiful thing. The love of a son for his mother is just as attractive.

I think this is true because love is a gift. We cannot be compelled to either feel or express love. Love is a free-will offering which can be either accepted or refused. This makes love risky.

Love is extended in one direction through gentle, uncontrolling actions. Love is patient and kind. A son’s love can be patient. A mother’s love can be kind.

Love often always involves sacrifice, and all of the time is motivated by the desire for a relationship with the beloved. The acceptance of this heart action is not guaranteed. This makes love risky.   

With its inherent risk, love is the method God uses to engage human beings. In his book, “Parables from the Backside,” J. Ellsworth Kalas insists that “God keeps on believing in love and in us and in our potential to respond in love.” The gentle, uncontrolling actions of love are the means God has decided to use to draw human beings into an authentic and personal relationship. 

Love is dependent on the nature of the lover rather than the beloved. Jesus loves because he is a loving person. Love is the very inclination of God’s heart to express his amazing grace into the lives of his people. Love is the method God has chosen, because love is who he is.

Jesus’ first commandment puts love for God squarely at the heart of real religion.  As a response, nothing is more important than loving God. God’s love is intended to promote its reception, not rejection. 

From the very beginning of time, loving God has involved offering sacrifices — giving up something of value. Love for God involves a heart-action. Love for God involves a free-will offering of something we value.

While we are free to receive or refuse God’s gentle and uncontrolling actions, the Psalter encourages us to “Let thanksgiving be your sacrifice to God, fulfill the vows you made to the Most High.” It appears evident God’s love merits a “sacrifice” of thanksgiving as a response. 

Love is dependent on the nature of the lover rather than the beloved. God’s desire seems to be that our natures somehow become characterized by gratitude. 

As we enter November and this year's holiday season, may we have reason to reflect on the risky method God has chosen, his purpose for making this choice, and what an appropriate response might look like.

May our hearts and lives be more and more loving. May our thoughts and words and actions be more and more patient and kind and gentle and uncontrolling and thankful. 

Insight is sponsored by the Tanana Valley Christian Conference.

David Rumph is the Connectional Minister at First United Methodist Church, Fairbanks.

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