Monday, January 2, 2017

put on love

Today's reading in Thomas Keating's Daily Reader for Contemplative Living tells us something very interesting, and not at first intuitive.

He talks about serving others. Which is part of the lifeblood of being a Christian. Not all Christians realize this, and wonder why they're not "growing in their faith". While there may be many reasons why a follower of Jesus has found a dry patch in their journey, one that often pops up is not serving others. The metaphor of the Dead Sea comes to mind. The Dead Sea has many streams and rivers that feed into it, including the Jordan River in which Jesus was baptized. But the Dead Sea has no outlet. The salinity of the Dead Sea is so high that if you open your eyes under water, it can blind you. Almost nothing grows in the Dead Sea, hence its name. And all of this because it "selfishly" takes and takes water from its sources, without ever giving back by having an outlet. So it can be with our lives, if we never learn to give.

But the thing that Keating tells us that seems counterintuitive is from Paul's letter to the Colossians, where we're told to "put on love." That kind of sounds fake, doesn't it? I mean, shouldn't it say something like "let love naturally spring up within you"? "Putting on love" sounds like putting on clothes, or putting on an air. Something artificial. So why are we instructed to do it?

Well, as anyone who has tried to follow Jesus for any length of time will tell you, sometimes loving people is hard. Sometimes it means ACTING like we care about someone even when we don't really feel like it. It sometimes means PUTTING ON love, and performing acts of love, even though our hearts would rather be doing something fun and enjoyable. And much of the time (though not always), after we have put on this love for awhile, it DOES naturally start to spring up within us, and we find ourselves FEELING the love that we've been expressing.

But much of the time, it starts with putting on love.

God, please help us to put on Your love, and to love those who most need it.


Bethany Skinner said...

This is an excellent reminder. Thank you for sharing.
I think it's similar to exercising or eating healthy: I may not FEEL like doing it, but that is never a legitimate excuse not to. In fact, if I waited till I FELT like doing so, I might never do anything healthy. However -like you mentioned about choosing to show love to others- once it becomes a consistent thing it also (but not always) becomes something I desire to do. I could train for a marathon, but consistently loving others, that is much harder.
A principle you mentioned in your article "Desiring God" could also apply here. When I don't even want to love others, I can ask God to give me that desire. He gives good gifts to His children and will certainly answer "yes" if I ask for the will to do something He commands us to do. =)

Jeff Reedy said...

good thoughts, Bethany :)

Tara Brelinsky said...

I just booked a flight to be with my estranged family during a crisis and this post was a beautiful reminder that sometimes we need to love even if we don't feel it. Thanks for being His instrument in my life today. If I'm tempted to feel selfish during my stay, I will reflect back on this directive to put on love like Christ.

Jeff Reedy said...

so glad to hear His love in your heart. God bless you.