Text: Gracia Grindal Tune: James E. Clemens
1. Give, our Lord has spoken,
Give to those in need.
Only when your hands are open
Can your hearts receive.
2. Give, and you’ll be given
More you can hold,
Measures full, the wealth of heaven,
More than can be told.
3. Pressed down, running over,
You’ll in turn get back
All the treasures you’ll discover
You have never lacked.
4. Christ will help you flourish
Deep down to your root,
He will keep you strong and nourished—
Good trees bear good fruit.
5. Come to us, Lord Jesus,
With your healing pow’r.
Let your life flow in and free us
So our faith can flow’r.
Love beats at the heart of the universe, Christians believe. God is love and has utterly spent himself so we might live and flourish in the freedom his love bestows on us every day. His grace, amazing and full, changes everything in our lives. We can live as if in heaven because we are with and in him. He gave himself for this--a God who wants company and the best for all his creation. Here in Luke's version of Jesus' Sermon on the Mount, Jesus is clear: love, even your enemies. We can because of his love for us.
Truth be told we have made a mess of his gifts. Because we are so curved in upon ourselves it is very hard to love even as we are commanded to throughout Scripture. Love, love your enemies, love. Not surprisingly we have even perverted what it means to love. We have changed the very strong transitive nature of the word which always takes an object, into something passive, that is all feeling. We know that God's love comes to us without our deserving, but that is not the end of the story. God's love flooding through us is to be shared. Christ’s picture on what we do when we love our enemies has nothing to do with our feelings, but with our deeds—give one’s enemy the coat on your back, return good for evil, love and expect nothing back.
An old pastor, Henry Horn, I taught with for some years, observed that we had changed the meaning of love to a warm feeling. In the world of Scripture, love is active and works for the neighbor, even one who is the enemy. It is hard, difficult, but possible. Love is deeds of compassion toward another—no matter who, regardless of how one feels about the other.
First of all, we cannot love without the love of God. His love in Jesus Christ transforms us and gives us the power to do deeds of love for our neighbor, the ones closest to us whose needs are obvious. Change the diaper of our child, take care of our aging parents, work to bring food to the local food shelf, etc. Those closest to us call us to serve them first. It may be easier to work for bigger abstract causes that seem loving, but keep us out of the fray. They may be so abstract we feel good we have done something loving, but have no idea whether the gift we sent really made any difference. Like Mrs. Jellyby in Bleak House who let her children live in squalor around her, while writing letters to Parliament about the needs in the far reaches of the globe. Dickens writes that "she never saw a need closer than Africa." We are called first to those next to us, and then the wider world.
We also need to be thoughtful about the way we love. Too many parents these days have confused indulgence with love. They have thought that doing and giving their children whatever they want is love, but it is not. To spoil a child is not really being loving. A parent who is lazy and indulgent and does not have the grit to say no when it is not good for a child to have their requests fulfilled, is not loving. It takes patience and guts to be strong and loving to a child by saying no.
I have spent enough time around children to know that. You are there to help the child form healthy boundaries so they can live a fruitful and happy life.
A lecturer on the human cell I recently heard made the observation as he spoke of the alveoli in the lungs that are so small only one molecule could go through at a time. He observed that life is not possible without walls. Something that the trillions of cells in our bodies need to do their work. When the walls are broken down, the cell becomes cancerous or dies.
The saying that good fences make good neighbors is the macro version of that. Pastor Horn noted that when the late sixties were in full swing with their project of breaking down boundaries--some of which needed breaking, but not all--he realized that he would spend the rest of his ministry treating the wounds that such trespassing had caused—(I like the phrase in the Lord’s Prayer, Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. Sin is trespassing on another, entering areas where we are not to be, breaking something, like trust, or violating another, etc..) Transgressions of all sorts were valued and feted by the young.
Christ’s love cures those broken by such trespassing. The Samaritan woman was healed and brought to eternal life by one who saw her wounds and could treat them with this love. Even by hearing him name her sorrows—five husbands who had probably not been loving—she felt more whole and healed. She marveled at that and brought her neighbors to see and hear Jesus. To be whole, no longer broken, means one is healed and now has a character with clearer boundaries, ready to turn to the neighbor with love.
One being mended by Christ’s grace can reach out to another who needs the healing powers of love. And then, as is always true, what one has given of love seems a pittance in the face of all one receives in doing acts of love. Christ promised us we would never go without blessings, far beyond what we could have ever supposed, blessings pressed down and running over!
This hymn is a riff on Christ’s sermon in Luke where he instructs us to Love one another, especially our enemies, those who are difficult for us. And to love without expectations of reward, all the time ready to be overcome by the blessings we will receive.