Agape: April 4, 2020

Agape: The 2020 Lenten Devotional for St. Paul's Episcopal Church

“The commandment we have from him is this: those who love God must love their brothers and sisters also.” -1 John 4:21

As a child, loving your brother and sisters isn’t too bad. I mean, I could do that. Sure, they can be obnoxious brats sometimes, but I still loved them. So, I’m cool with God, right? But then my Dad set me down one day and very seriously said, “Sandy, God says you must love your neighbor as yourself. Do you love your neighbor?” I had to think seriously about that. You see there was this big 2nd grade girl who hit me several times, knocked me down and broke my glasses and I sure didn’t love her. But she lived down the road a long way (probably 2-3 blocks) so I said, “how far down the road are they my neighbor?”

That is still the question isn’t it? Who are my sisters and brothers and how far down the road do we have to count them? Surely, God doesn’t count that jerk that cut me off in traffic. What about homeless people, or homosexuals, or foreigners, or Muslims, or people of color? Is God okay if we love them from afar without having to associate with them?

Those don’t bother me, but my test came when a man deliberately caused physical and lasting emotional pain to my daughter. I found I couldn’t even pray for him, much less love him. God, are you seriously asking this of me? How can I possibly be called to do this? It is just too painful. What I ended up doing was, I came to church and explained to several of my friends what had happened and asked them to pray for him since I could not.

On the surface, this commandment seems easy, but there are times when we are pulled up short and have to look deeply into our hearts or into our personal prejudices. Other times following this commandment means walking our talk and what you need to do is start making your actions match your beliefs. I know it is easier to love others when nothing is going wrong. But the commandment is clear, and it doesn’t list exceptions.

Dearest Lord God, I know the answer to my earlier question, “God are you seriously asking this of me?” Sometimes I forget that every person out there is a child of God. Help me Lord to always remember that the answer is YES. You have commanded that we love them all as you have loved each of us. Sometimes that is really hard. Help us, Lord. Amen.
-Sandy McDougall