Dunedin, New Zealand, my city - my people

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Love and stuff.

The Apostle Paul wrote these words in Romans 12.

9Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; 10love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor. 11Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord. 12Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. 13Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers. 14Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. 15Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. 16Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are. 17Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. 18If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. .............. 21Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. 

What is genuine love? I am basically a shy person who does not find it easy to meet new people. I do that in my job, but I am super sensitive to how people react to me. When I decided to train for ministry people were quite sure I was not really cut out for the job, but here I am forty years later still in the job.  Theologians are quick to point out that the love that Jesus commanded was not the "feeling" sort of love, but a love that is first and foremost "willed". But Paul says, "Let love be genuine".  One of the surprising things I find is that I actually love people! I am not always good at expressing that love, but I do deeply feel for and with people. "Fred" was the tipsy guy in Drop-in centre last week. He was in a way a nuisance disturbing the peace, but I really really ached for him. The town drunk we'll call here "Jill", wants a hug from me and I hug her. My hugs, to my surprise, are a genuine expression of affection. I was talking to a very attractive lady who had difficult decisions to make. I could sense she was aching inside, and all I wanted to do was to give her a hug! (Which I dare not do because it would be interpreted in the wrong way) I ached with her about her predicament. I see people saying stupid things, making silly decisions and under the power of addictions or others expectations and I genuinely feel sorry for them. I see people whose actions I loathe, but I still feel for them as a person, and I grieve that they distort their lives in the way they do. I am genuinely sad for them, even though I loathe their behaviour. You see as this shy guy shares with people, I actually do "weep with those who weep, and rejoice with those who rejoice." And I am sorry theologians, but it is not so much a "willed" love, but a deep current of feeling that makes me want to do things to help these people.

This surprises me, because as a sort of insecure young person, I naturally tended to be selfish and not expose myself to others. I would say that as a young man I was not a person that could be described as "loving". Maybe even now, I am not good at expressing the love I feel. But somewhere along the way there has been some sort of inner spiritual transplant that causes me to feel deeply about the people I encounter. This feeling helps me to overcome some of my timidness. It also gives me a weird sense of connection to the "sacred", I sense that I join "him" in the loving journey. It comes from deep within, but somehow is not "me", but something - some one - bigger than me that possesses me.

I am sure that some people think that I am stupidly naive - that I have rose tinted glasses and just see the good in people. Some think that I do not know when people are ripping me off or pulling the wool over my eyes. People also think that I am too soft on people, that their predicament is their fault and that they should be left to sort themselves out. (People have implied such things in comments made to me.) I have been around people long enough to know that we all are a mixture of bad and good. I am not naive or soft, I know perhaps more than most the ugly side of people. I certainly see the destruction that evil causes. When I was a little boy I remember reading a book entitled "Give a dog a bad name." It was a book about a little boy who befriended a wild dog. The villagers all said this dog was bad and chased it if they saw it. This boy believed that the dog was not as bad as the villagers made out, his theory was that because they chased the dog and saw it as bad, it sometimes snarled at them - treat it right, see it as good and it will be good. So I believe that focusing on the bad in people only makes them bad. They live up to or down to people's expectations.  If I can love them in spite of the bad, maybe they will become more loving. I am not stupidly blind to the bad, (And I have met some real bastards) but choose not to let it determine my feelings toward my brother or sister. To my surprise I find I really love some bad buggers. 

It is a strange, mystifying yet deeply gratifying experience. Me, Dave Brown, a mixed up twit, with all sorts of dysfunctional parts to me, actually genuinely loves people! Amazing! Miracles happen! I am pleased because it enriches my life so much!

I waffle and burble, but its me trying to express that which cannot be expressed. Amazing Grace!

1 comment:

Linda Myers said...

Just this morning I had a conversation with my neighbor. We have new neighbors across the street who appear to have set up a car-demolition shop in the driveway. At all hours, with noise. The couple have three children who are always outside, mostly in my neighbor's yard. Nice kids, a bit on the rowdy side. We're trying to decide how to handle the auto shop. Do we call the police? Talk to the neighbors? I know it's a violation of the municipal code.

My young neighbor wants to be kind but is being taken advantage of because the kids are always in her yard. I'm more about setting limits. Still, what would Jesus do? I'm not a Christian by religion, but I am a fan of Jesus and St. Francis.