Manage episode 377042336 series 3023172
St. Paul begins the passage by saying this:
Owe no one anything, except to love one another. (Romans 13:8)
We owe something to those who love us and take care of us. The amount of love and help we've received, we owe that back. You owe them gratitude. You owe them your care and resources when they need it.
But what about people you owe nothing to? They are people outside of your circle. People who have not been a part of your life.
St. Paul is talking about a different kind of love. Not loving just those we owe that love to. But loving those we owe nothing else to. This is very different from the love we're used to. It's love that crosses my boundaries. Love for those I don't feel any connection with.
Loving others sounds nice. But why should we owe love to others who have nothing to do with us? Can't I just live my own life? Isn't causing no harm good enough?
The commandments are about not doing harm to others. Do not murder; do not steal; do not covet. But Paul summarizes all the commandments in a more proactive way. To love your neighbour.
Jesus expanded the meaning of neighbour. The Samaritan did not know the man he encountered on the road. No one would expect a Samaritan to help a Jew. Samaritans and Jews were enemies. He expanded the meaning of neighbour to not just someone you know, but anyone who needs help, especially those you don't know.
I don't think it was only for the sake of those who need help. It is also for the sake of the one giving the help. The kind of love that Jesus and St. Paul are talking about is meant to bless us. To expand our life.
That is what mission is all about. It is about going beyond people I know. Connecting with those who I have no relation with. We don't owe them anything. But we go to love them nonetheless. But in the process of loving them, we become more blessed.
That is what the team that went to Sioux Valley experienced. Apart from the Songs, none of us had any relationship with the people there. They had nothing to do with us. But we went with a call to love them nonetheless. I think more than them, it was those of us who went who were more blessed. We were filled. We were healed. Our lives were expanded.
You can live your life owing nothing to anyone. You can live comfortably and safely with just the people you like. But you will miss out on so much in life: No new or deeper connections with others. No new experiences. Stay stuck where you are. Stay small.
Loving those we owe nothing to expands who we are. Enriches life. Brings joy, satisfaction, fullness.
Love the Stranger
If you can love those whom you owe nothing to, then you are a spiritual person. Loving those who have nothing to do with us is the highest level of spiritual maturity. It reflects who Jesus was. But it is the hardest thing to do. It is the most unnatural thing to do. We cannot just will ourselves to love like this. There has to be a change in my heart. Something that changes how I see others.
God gave the Israelites this commandment:
You shall also love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.
Love the stranger. This commandment was given to the Israelites after they escaped slavery in Egypt. Right from the beginning, they are commanded to love the stranger. Why did they receive this command? Where did it come from? That commandment arose from the memory of their own suffering. Not just the suffering itself, but how God came and rescued them from their suffering.
The Israelites had been through so much. Suffering under slavery. Being lost in the wilderness. Facing an uncertain future. But when they looked back, they remembered God who loved them, was faithful and had been with them. Knowing God's love for them opened their hearts to love the stranger.
In God’s Love
Life is filled with difficulties and suffering. We cannot escape it. Many of you have faced and still face your own challenges and difficulties.
If you feel like you've had to do everything on your own, and that there was no one there to help you, then you feel like you owe nothing to anyone. But if you see that you have been helped when times were difficult, then your heart becomes filled with gratitude. That gratitude is the prerequisite of an open heart. A heart that welcomes and loves others. (KLSA story).
Life has been and is challenging. Sometimes we wonder how we made it to today. But you have all made it this far. You are still standing here today. That is reason to rejoice and be thankful. Don't take life for granted. When I was on vacation: African American church services. Prayer of invocation: always thank you for letting me wake up, thank you for another day to worship you Same with Sioux Valley. Through all your difficult times, God was there to help you. There were times we were down and out. But God helped you. God provided people to help you get through those times. God gave you the strength to keep carrying on
More than that, God helped us even when we were strangers from God. Not just strangers, but even enemies of God. When we were selfish, God still helped us. When we were mean and unloving, God still helped us. When we were sinning and doing all kinds of wrong and evil things, even still God helped us
This is what St. Paul proclaims:
God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8)
While we were still enemies of God, God was still loving us and reaching out to us. There is nothing that we did to warrant God's love, but God chose to reach out to us. That is the love that God has for us. We are all here by God's grace
When we live in God's grace, God's love fills us and flows out from us. It is no longer us that decides to love. It is God's love that flows out from us. Loving others is the result of being filled with God's love
Everyday, live in the goodness of God's love. Start every day thanking God for his goodness. Commit each day to live in his goodness. Let that goodness fill you and flow out from you
St. Paul gives a warning:
You know what time it is, how it is already the moment for you to wake from sleep the night is far gone; the day is near. (Romans 13:11-12)
The time to love is now. Not tomorrow, not next week.
We should never take life for granted. When we do die, it is not the number of years you live that count. We don't know exactly when St. Paul died, or how old he was. But that does not matter: what matters is that he left behind beautiful words that became the Word of God for us. Those words continue to shape us, help us and empower us today. What matters is the love that flowed through him in the words he left us.
Viktor Frankl, a psychologist who survived the Holocaust, said this:
We do not judge the life history of a person by the number of pages in the book that portrays it but only by the richness of the content it contains.
Viktor E. Frankl, Yes to Life: In Spite of Everything
It is not the number of pages in the book of your life that matters, but the richness of its contents. Make your life filled with rich content! Love is what makes the content of your life rich. Loving those whom we owe nothing to is the most beautiful thing we can do. The great thing about love is we can never stop expanding in our ability to love. It can keep growing until the day we die.
(Reflections on St. Tim's and KSM) This church has to be a place where the goodness of God is experienced
Our job is to live daily in the goodness of God. Be grateful for each day. Let the love of God flow within you. That love will flow out to others. Your life will be truly blessed.