“All You Need Is Love” – The Beatles
A Stewardship Meditation by Garner Crowder
“As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; teach and admonish one another in all wisdom; and with gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” – Colossians 3:12-17
My father is a brilliant and wealthy man, exuding all the outward appearances of success. But he and I have struggled to find success in our relationship over the years. I recently found myself sobbing in the arms of my boyfriend after yet another unsuccessful attempt to help my father understand that I just want to be close to him and want him to want the same thing. I want to be included and I want to belong. Considering this relationship with my earthly father, gratitude for the love and belonging that I feel with my heavenly Father flows easily. Thank God that He is a God of relationships.
As we continue down this journey of the Marks of Discipleship, our time together perfectly illustrates the focus of today’s meditation: relationships. Together, we have been bound through each of these meditations, growing corporately in our understanding of each mark of discipleship, and growing in our intimacy with each who has shared their meditations. The relationship is at the cornerstone of the Marks of Discipleship:
· Daily Prayer strengthens our relationship with God and drives the connection between us and those for whom we pray.
· Reading Scripture helps us relate to those who have gone before us, helps God to relate to us, and gives us the ultimate self-help guide (as Ron put it) to relate to each other.
· Weekly Worship unifies us as we show our love and appreciation to our God.
· Service to Others provides the roadmap for how we are to relate to each other through love.
The Bible provides us with numerous examples of the importance of relationships. “The Lord God said, ‘It is not good for man to be alone.’” – Genesis 2:18. Throughout the old testament, relationships are central to God’s lessons to his chosen people. He finally chooses to save us by being among us in flesh, relating to us intimately and providing us a way to be even closer to Him. And through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, we have God’s promise to “put my law within them, and I shall write it on their hearts…for they shall all know me” as prophesied by Jeremiah (31:33). Clearly, connection, closeness, and relationships are important to God. And He is also clear with us how He wants us to relate to each other: “Above all, clothe yourselves with love.” As disciples of Christ, we are called to love and to teach others to love, in our homes, in our communities of faith, in our broader communities, and in the world.
But here’s the rub – this is not new news. We know that we’re called to love. Yet time and again, we find ourselves challenged to love each other. Why is it so hard and what can we do about it?
Marianne Williamson says that the opposite of love is not hated; the opposite of love is fear. This concept has helped me tremendously to clear the cobwebs that get in the way of my ability to love others, including my father. When I find myself frustrated, angry, impatient (any of those opposites of the 1 Corinthians 13:1 description), I ask myself “what are you afraid of?” And once I know the answer, God and I can do the real work of forgiveness and letting it go. And then, miraculously (not used lightly), I find love and can give love.
I’m reminded that my struggles with my earthly father are not just a result of his challenges with intimacy. They are compounded by my own fears of not belonging and of not being loved. When I bring these fears to God, He reminds me that my father and I are not so different. My fears reflect his. And He reminds me just how much I do belong and how much I am loved, and I’m able to let go of my fears. The Rt. Rev. Dr. Stephen Pickard says, “to know God in the midst of our suffering means not turning away from pain but rather allowing it to stretch and open our hearts to one another.”
My father called me earlier this week, told me that he misses me and wants to see me and that he and my stepmom will be here to spend time with me in October. Love has won over fear.
Each of us faces the temptation to stray from love daily – loss of patience with a family member, turning a blind eye to a person in need, anger at a political figure for what we perceive as leadership failure, anger at one side or the other amidst our current civil unrest. As we evaluate our relationships and the importance that they hold for our ability to spread the love of Christ in this broken world, let us face our fears, give them up to God, and through His grace remember that “all you need is love.”