Monday, January 14, 2013

If I Lived Out A Love Song

A Devotional by Margot Cioccio 

“If anyone says, “I love God,” yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. And he has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother.” 1 John 4:20-21 NIV1984

I was looking around Youtube to see if there were any songs out there about loving God by loving your brother or your neighbor. I have not really found any. There are a fair number of God I love you kind of songs expressing ones emotions and feelings to God. I wonder if we are writing love songs to God when this verse says that if we loved God we would love our brothers. It all seems like lip service when I look around at all the broken and hurting people in our world. If we as the church did more than sing love songs and did more in the way to lift the burdens off of our brothers our expressions of love might have more depth and compassion.  

I wonder what if our lives became a love song in each small act of kindness that we might expres towards our fellowmen. So I found a beautiful harp song that perhaps will inspire and move your thoughts to consider how you might express your love to the Lord in living a life of worship rather than just singing another song on Sunday that makes us feel all warm and fuzzy. Will that song move us to change how we go about living among a world filled with broken people. Is our worship or love of God very deep if we can't love our brother that we can see?

Our city recently gave the people living under the bridge notice that they must move their stuff. They can't live under the bridge anymore. At the same time the temperatures have dropped to the point that our church has openend at night as an emergency warming center. Suddenly our parking lot is filled with shopping carts and stuff carted around by the homeless.  On Saturday when I arrived in the morning to meet with my music students I had to wade past bundled homeless people on the steps and all the stuff they had piled up near the building. There were two folks arguing with each other about the piled up stuff. As I walked past them I told them if they could not get along they should get off the property. We had to call the police on Sunday and have them come to move folks and their stuff along. One couple had six shopping carts and could not figure out how to move them all. Some claimed that the police had told them they had to vacate under the bridge but they could come to our location. As a church we ask ourselves what things we can do to help our neighbors. We provide a meal and feed between 100 - 200 folks almost every Sunday. Earlier this year we were asked to apply to be an emergency warming center by the city because no one else had applied. It meant jumping through a lot of hoops. We had the space but not the man power to pull of the task. So we partnered with the Union Gospel Mission who now provides the man power. 

I realize that I still have a long way to go on loving my brother.  I found myself a bit short on compassion as I had to make my way to our building on Saturday. I was thinking how uncomfortable and unsafe it made me feel and how akward I would have felt if my students were not people from my church.  I had a hard time looking past all the clutter that came along with the people to see the cold, miserable hurting humans in the mix. 

We often talk about the obstacles we face trying to grow a church in this neighborhood. We can get the homeless to come but its hard to find healthy christians who are willing to make their church home along side of people who smell of the streets. Yet as I read my bible I'm pretty convinced that Jesus would be here. Yet what seems to grow and thrive in America's churches is who can put on the best show, and who has lots and lots of things to offer that are going on to entertain us and our kids as we wait for the Lords return. We seem to think we have embarked on an all expense paid trip on the Love boat. I saw a great video that I will embed for you about how we choose a church. 

I found this quite from Mother Teresa. "One day I picked up a man from the gutter. His body was covered with worms, I brought him to our house, and what did this man say? He did not curse. He did not blame anyone. He just said, “I’ve lived like an animal in the street, but I’m going to die like an angel, loved and cared for!” It took us three hours to clean him. Finally, the man looked up at the sister and said, “Sister, I’m going home to God.” And then he died. I’ve never seen such a radiant smile on a human face as the one I saw on that man’s face. He went home to God. See what love can do! It is possible that young sister did not think about it at the moment, but she was touching the body of Christ. Jesus said so when He said, “As often as you did it for one of my least brothers, you did it for me” (Matt. 25:40 RSV). And this is where you and I fit into God’s plan."

Many are approaching today's verse and struggling just to love your immediate family and friends and maybe that annoying neighbor.  It becomes a greater challenge when the people we are to love are not like us. In James 1:27 it says 
"Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world." We tend to want to distance ourselves from the outcasts of our society as if their plight or their poverty or shame is some how contagious. We would help them but we worry we will be polluted in some way by their condition. 

Though I am disturbed by all the junk that has landed in our parking lot as the result of being open as a warming center on the coldest nights.  I am also thankful that there may be fewer found this year frozen under a bridge or in some lonely alleyway this winter. I think that love is not always convenient, its not always warm and fuzzy. It is often in the willingness to sacrifice my own convenience or the excess I could have, so that someone else can have their most basic of needs met.  

Love is not what I once imagined it to be -  filled with wonder and romance and warm feelings. I suppose it is that at times, it's certainly the kind of love we seek in relationships and even in our understanding of God's love.  I did find one song called if God Wrote A Love Song.  God is all about people - loving messy people. I need to be about what He's about - loving messy people. Whatever I do for the least of my brothers, I have done to Him. You and I are God's love song. 

Prayer: Help us to grow in our love for you in more than warm fuzzy feelings but may our lives express your love, grace, mercy and compassion to a world filled with broken and hurting people. May what we do for the least of these be to you our expression of love.  

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