What Would Love Do

1 John 4:19-5:4

 

We deacons don't hear confessions, but I imagine that if I were in the position to listen to people confessing their sins and providing council to them, I might want to prepare for it by prayerfully immersing myself in this First Reading today.  Why do I say that?  Well, I believe it is because the most successful pathway away from our sinful tendencies, no matter what sinful situation we encounter, or how burdensome, would come by way of answering that all important question: "What would Jesus do?"  Maybe better yet, "What would love do?"  What would be the loving approach to overcome our sinful temptations? No matter the sinful activity, love is the best antidote.

 

 

 

The First Reading points us to this pathway when it says, "This is THE commandment we have from God: Whoever loves God must also love his brother." There are no multitude of commandments when it comes to our true reconciliation. All roads lead through, and emanate from, love.

 

 

 

Today’s first reading also tells us that God's commandments are not burdensome.  Easier said than done, we might say.  For us, it does feel like a burden to examine our consciences and force ourselves to change. But John shares with us the secret to making it easy: Our faith.

 

 

 

Faith conquers all, he says. But, as good as that sounds in theory, and as much as I might aspire to having great faith, I don't always feel that I have enough of it to resist all the temptations that are out there.  We're told today that each of us has received the Holy Spirit during our baptisms, and faith is a gift of the Holy Spirit. This means that we’ve received it (faith) in abundance, which is an inspiring thought. But how come we keep missing the mark? Why do we do things that aren't holy?

 

 

 

It may be because we haven't been looking at our faith through the lens of love.  Love is the key to preventing the commandments from feeling burdensome.

 

 

 

If we know that God loves us unconditionally, regardless of how sinful or holy we are, then we naturally want to love him with our whole heart, whole soul, and whole mind.  And when we love him that much, we naturally want to unite ourselves to him in loving everyone whom he loves, even those that seem to us to be unlovable.  When we truly love others, we are less likely to sin against them.

 

 

 

We could see this theory in action by watching a Leave it the Beaver episode (those familiar with LITB know that where there was a homily and life lesson in every show). It would be like young Beaver having a tough time with a classmate, Jimmy, who was causing the Beav all kinds of grief.  Jimmy called Beaver names, made fun of him in front of others, and in general, brought out the worst in the Beav. He made him angry. 

 

 

 

But one day, Beav comes home from being out playing ball with his pal, Larry. And who does he find sitting on his living room couch yucking it up with his dad, Ward (who he loves)?  It’s the troublemaker, Jimmy. It turns out that Jimmy's dad had borrowed a tool from Ward, and was having Jimmy return it.  Beaver comes to realize that Ward and Jimmy really hit it off, and Ward was very impressed by this "fine young man."  Beav is left with the thought, "My dad really likes this kid, but all he does is irritate me! Dad must really see something in this kid that I don't see." Knowing his father is fond of Jimmy, despite his apparent flaws, maybe the Beav will come to see Jimmy through a different set of eyes.

 

 

 

We as children of our heavenly Father, must acknowledge he loves those that irritate us as much as he loves us. And our call today is to view, even the Jimmy's of the world, through the lens of love.

 

 

 

If we try to obey God's commandments simply because he says so, it is a burden. Holiness is then as difficult for us as it was for the folks of the Old Testament who lived by the letter of the law without the help of the Spirit of the law, the Holy Spirit.  Only Jesus could succeed in fulfilling the law perfectly. But Jesus added love into the equation. Whereas the old laws allowed people to demand an eye for an eye when they were wronged, Jesus commanded: "Love to your enemies." And he gave us his Holy Spirit so that we could succeed at it.

 

 

 

If we desire to obey God's commandments because we want to remain united to his love, it becomes much easier to resist sin.  In fact, we feel less tempted. We'll have greater patience because we notice that those less-than-lovable types are really more wounded than we are, and instead of getting angry, we'll maybe even pull for them.

 

 

 

So, we pray today that we can rely more frequently on the Holy Spirit to help us live our lives through the lens of "What would love do?" It will help us to resist temptation, and avoid sin. And as we do, we will be counted among those (as the reading said) that are assured victory, conquering the world through faith.

 

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