TITLE: How To Love
DATE: February 16, 2019
TEXT: Matthew 19: 8 - ESV - He said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so
Years ago I knew a pastor who didn’t play games with people when they came to him for advice.
He was a unique individual and because he was so special, he could get away with things which other preachers didn’t dare say. I remember a couple from his congregation who told me how they had, years before, gone to this pastor for counseling. Actually, that’s a misnomer.
They weren’t looking for counseling, they wanted him to give his blessing to their divorce.
The conversation began something like: “Pastor, lately things have been a bit rough around our house and, well, we’ve decided to get a divorce, and we want to make sure that you and the church approve of what we’re doing.” They hoped he would say something like: “Goodness, gracious, of course. If you’ve tried, you’ve tried.
What He said was: “Scripture tells us you’re supposed to love your wife as Jesus loved the church…That means you’re willing to die for her, if need be. That is, after all, what Jesus did.” Then the pastor lowered his voice and said, “Do you think you can love your wife that way?”
The wife looked all sort of smug-like as she heard her husband gave a nervous laugh and reply, “Loving her that way would be impossible.”
The pastor nodded and then he turned to the wife who was still smiling from ear-to-ear. “And you, the Bible says you’re supposed to look up to and respect this fellow. I would imagine you would be willing to set the example and do that. Am I correct?” She gave a negative response.
The pastor backed up and tried again. “OK”, he said, The Bible’s ideal is hard. How about where Jesus said, “We should ‘love our neighbor as much as we love ourselves.’? Can you do that? Both objected vehemently, maintaining the other was incapable of loving that way.
When they stopped to take a breath, the pastor volunteered: “I guess we can strike that idea off our list. Right?” For the first time that day, maybe in many days, the husband and wife agreed. The pastor added, “When it comes to fighting, you guys aren’t amateur… you’re good enough to go professional. Then he asked, “Tell me, does anybody ever win these battles?” The husband spoke first, “She wins them all, she thinks.” She shot back: “I do win them all. That’s because I do think.”
Seeing he was losing control, the pastor continued: “You came to ask for my approval. I will give it to you… if you are willing to try a small, three week experiment. It’s obvious you can’t love as Jesus did; and you admit your inability to love as neighbors should. Then how about this: the Bible says, “Love your enemies and do good to those who persecute you.” That’s what I’m going to ask of you. For the next three weeks. If you really are enemies, then be Christian enemies. If the other person is persecuting you, I want you to do good in return.”
Now I don’t know another pastor who could have managed to pull this off, but this guy did it. And amazingly, the couple tried. It was incredibly hard, but they did give it their best shot.
When one of them got nasty, the other got nice. Amazingly, the bloody battles became less frequent, less intense. Fights became skirmishes, skirmishes became struggles, and struggles eventually got to the point where they looked at each other and laughed.
As their pastor had hoped, this couple progressed from loving each other like enemies, to loving like neighbors, and, although they had some serious setbacks they ended up loving as the Lord had wanted them to love.
THE PRAYER: Dear Lord, grant that I may let Scripture speak to me. May I hear the spirit, as well as the letter of Your Word. In Jesus’ Name I pray it. Amen.
The music which introduces and concludes our devotions was written by Guy Baumann, one of my long-ago confirmands. He is singing with three brothers. This song comes from the album: The Baumann Brothers which may be ordered here: http://thebaumannbrothers.com/index.html