Monday, October 11, 2010

What Good Is Love?

What good is love?

How strong is your love? What is the size of your love?

I’m bothered by something. To be honest, it’s bothered me for years, maybe even a decade, maybe more.

Are we supposed to love someone as they are? For who they are? What does that look like? What does that even mean?

[Mt. 5: 43-48; John 13: 34-35; I Cor. 13; Gal 5:13-26; 6:1-10; Eph. 2; 4:14-32; I John 3 & 4]

I read what the Bible says love is and I think I see the bigger picture. Then I am confronted with the desires of people to be loved just as they are. It’s in movies, it’s in songs. Perfect love is such a mystery and yet we forever pine for it.

I recently told Friend that it’s not okay that people, especially Christians, alienate each other. It’s not okay that people are not at peace with each other, especially those who claim Christ. And I know, I’m a part of that mess.

Then it got more personal. Understand that I don’t remember exactly how I said it, what words I used and I have no idea how [F]riend took it. What I was trying to say is that if F wants F’s group to be able to allow people in, then something’s got to change within the group. Say, if F wants me to be “in” the group, and I’m not getting along with [Y] or [L] or whomever in the group, they’re saying I’m not in, what is F going to do about it? F said that F loves Y as Y is; she’s not going to change Y. And I asked why not?

Understand that I'm not asking to be in the group. I'm not saying F has to "fix it." I'm pointing out that F's said F wants me "in" and that all this junk is ridiculous, yet what is F going to do about it? A part of me is waiting for someone to tell me how I'm being a jerk about it as well, but F won't say that, or at least F hasn't said so to me. I don't know that I am being a jerk; I know that I can be a jerk and that I don't mean to be a jerk. I know that I've tried things and that my attempts haven't worked much.

I tried to correct myself, it’s not that F should change Y or L or anyone, but that the Holy Spirit is the one who changes people. Y should be encouraged by friends towards the Holy Spirit promptings [or something like that; I try to explain myself simply and clear yet it hardly happens I think. I’m working on it]. Maybe the Holy Spirit could work through F towards Y’s betterment.

Hold it: Friend and I have talked about this stuff before. I hope F remembers those talks because F’s recognized before that I don’t mean Y or anyone else harm. I’m not saying that Y is a bad person. I liked Y when I first met Y. I’ve said good things about Y and I’ve said that I see great potential in Y. I see great potential in everyone in F’s group. And I don’t blame Y for being a certain way because the group allows Y to continue in that way; in fact, they affirm Y in Y’s ways, the good and the not so good. They affirm each other in their ways, each one in that group. Understand this: I do care very much for Y. It bothers me that our personalities seem to be clashing and I think it’s more that our behaviors and attitudes that need to change. I know that I want to be different. I know I can be different.

We're always going to have deficiencies in this life. Wouldn't you like to have less deficiencies today than you did five years ago?

You know, I get it, I really do. Love people for who they are, as they are. It can be offensive for anyone to say I have to change. But isn’t it true that they were expecting me to change?

Isn’t it true that I must change [not necessarily in the way that others want me to]? If I want to win people, I must change towards that end. If I want to be Christ to people, I can’t stay the way that I am. Christ didn’t come to love people so that they could keep on sinning, so that they could stay the way that they are. He came to empower, to embolden, to influence, to impact, to transform.

I ask, what good is love if it does not better the individuals? What good is love to me if I don’t have to change a thing?

Also, it’s highly improbable that one will change if one doesn’t know they ought to. It would help if one had a friend(s) who would let one know how one might improve, IN LOVE.

Here’s what I think that I think: we ought to meet people as they are and love them when we meet them. As the love grows, we ought to be made better by that love. I believe that people can change. No, it’s not immediate and yes, it will take time. But I don’t know how love can be love if it doesn’t change something. What is love if it does not invest? What is an investment if it does not contribute to improvement/ development? And when investing in people, I hope that they find something in/ about me that is worth investing back. I’m not saying “YOU CHANGE NOW.” I know that I ought to change also. I’m saying, you make me better and I want to urge you to be better.

…………. Okay, let’s try this. Here’s something I ask people: if you say you love someone and that someone is generally known as a jerk, do you let that someone continue being a jerk?

I would hope that people would have a problem with me being a jerk and that they would confront me with my jerkiness. It’s happened in the past. Sometimes it’s just their perception or a misunderstanding, and then there were times that it truly convicted me and I’ve become more aware. I think I take criticism much better than people think I do; it’s because I’ve developed and disciplined myself with the help of others who’ve pointed out things I might not have become aware of otherwise. I don’t always get it right away. I’m hearing it and I’m reflecting on it; “Were they right in any way?” I ask myself. I want to be better, constantly, so I keep a look out for things that help.

And I get it, it’s difficult to believe that one can change. I wonder almost every day if I’ve changed. Especially as a Christian, it can be difficult to believe because the Bible says that “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” [II Cor. 5:17] Then why do I feel unchanged? Why do I still do the evil things I’ve done before? If I don’t think I’ve changed, how are others supposed to see it?

Yet I know people can change. I’ve heard testimonies of how people have come out of drug addiction or come out of unrestrained anger and abusing others.

My Cousin T, he’s different today. He’s gone through some real hard times. His parents are divorced. He’s divorced. He used to live on another island with his ex-wife’s family and away from his. He has two kids that he has to share. His stepfather is on drugs; the stepfather abuses his mom, my aunty. There’s all kinds of crazy things going on around him.

I don’t know how to explain how T used to be. I think bitterness was a part of it. I’ll tell you that today, he’s joyful. He’s a Christian today and he talks about God to our family. He invites people to church with him.

Crusty is not who she used to be. She’s still Crusty, but she’s not the same old Crusty I met ~ 15 years ago. She’s still got an amazingly warm personality, sometimes wild notions, but now it’s all for God. She’s more mature, she’s growing. I am amazed. I see her and I remember how she used to be and she’s still my great friend and she’s a better Crusty than she’s ever been. And I believe it happened the moment she made a decision of obedience to Christ. She was a Christian when I met her, but now she’s an obedient Christian. And she’s just flourishing. I thank God that I was allowed to witness such a wonderful transition.

And along the way, Crusty has stepped into my life. She’s told me the things I need to hear. I’ve been made better by Crusty’s love. I can’t think of a time that she’s told me what I wanted to hear. I think we’re both kind of similar in this way of saying more of what needs to be said rather than what people want. If you ask for my opinion [and sometimes if you don’t ask, I admit] you will get my opinion. It’s too much work for me to guess about what you want to hear. Sometimes I don’t even recognize that you’re fishing for something specific, it doesn’t register. And yes, I’ve offended people with what I've said.

The same thing with Rascal. He’s still crazy and creative and impulsive as he always has been. But he’s a better Rascal than he was before. I think part of that is his group of friends he regularly meets with, that they challenge and encourage each other to change, to be better, to do better.

I really wanted to go about this more elegantly. I’m going to keep working on this so for now, these are just exploration notes for later refining. It’s difficult when it’s something I am struggling with. I’m only struggling with this because I understand people’s desire that they be accepted just as they are, yet I think that after being accepted as they are, they should want to be better. I think it’s selfish to think that one doesn’t need to change.

It’s like that saying, “Be the change you want to see in the world.” “Everyone thinks of changing the world but no one thinks of changing oneself.” So why should anyone think that they can remain how they are and make a difference? [I guess I’m saying that if you don’t want to make a difference, you don’t have to change. I think that’s true also. If you don’t care that people think you’re a jerk, if you don’t care about having good relationships with people, if you’re all right with being polarizing and alienating, go on being a jerk.]

I’m not saying you can’t be yourself. I’m saying be a better you. Don’t you expect more from yourself?

So I ask the question: what good is love?

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