We had one of the home ed families over yesterday for the children to play. The grown ups got talking around a nice cup of tea and the subject of love came up. How we love God and how we teach our children to love Him and what that love is exactly. I said that love is something you do, not necessarily something you feel. I mentioned that when we go through the long dark night of the soul, there doesn’t seem to be much love feelings and yet the love has to be there. It has to be done.
I was directed then to an old MP3 of the Baptist preacher Tony Campolo (who I think I once heard at Greenbelt but I could be wrong) preaching about family traditions and how important they are for building relationships and memories. He makes it clear that love is something you do.
God commanded that we love. He never said ‘feel the love’ he simply said “love” in a do-it kind of way. We are warned in fact that if we don’t love the people we can see we can hardly claim to love a God we can’t. Perhaps it could be that the less we see Him in others the less we see Him-I don’t know. We do have His example of how to DO love; he got crucified for us.
In his talk Tony Campolo mentions research that shows that power struggles break up families and other relationships. Instead of trying to serve one another as Eph 5 commands (not suggests) parents, spouses etc try and force others to do their bidding. Power often comes in the form of holding people to ransom. There can be the expectation that the person with the self-perceived power wants others to grovel, tug their forelock and beg for the crumbs from the table.
Jesus had some tough words for those kind of people and hell was mentioned more than once in connection with this sort of attitude and behaviour. And yet, it remains prevalent because no one believes they truly have to sacrifice for the other. They will do what is nice and comfortable for them-but not anything that might be remotely inconvenient unless there is some good solid payback.
I am about half way through reading Caritas in Veritate. While the encyclical is written from the perspective of behaviour on the world stage in politics and human development it does speak to us at a family level. Charity in truth with its expression in “courageous and generous engagement” needs to start at home and in the extended family and then it can reach out to the local community and further into the world.
There’s a hymn (that I know a lot of people cringe at but it makes a point here) with the words “They will know we are Christians by our love” and in one verse it says we will “Guard each man’s dignity…”
I think the major reason there is so much loneliness, sadness and the sheer amount of struggles that so many face is simply because those who can don’t love enough. They will not make the sacrifice for the other. Too many people who call themselves Christian simply have never given anything up even for Lent let alone to help someone else.