Love is such a powerful word, and it accomplishes so much. In 1 Corinthians Chapter 13, when the apostle Paul talks about love, he refers to it as charity in the King James Version of the Bible. He tells us all what love is and does, Paul tells us that love will not fail and that love is a symbol of all that is good. Love defines what a Christian is all about. Love is never out of season, love is never old fashioned, and love is what keeps sanity in our fast moving world today.
I remember way back in the 1960s and 1970s there was a slogan that stated love is the answer. But I was not sure what the question was, but I knew the answer. Today there are still people searching for the answer to all kinds of problems, love may not seem to be the right answer to the people searching for the answer, but it is not far from the answer. In this fast-paced world we live in, love is used so easily. It gets confused with lust so often, but love and lust are so far apart that they are not even related to each other. In the Gospel of St. Matthew in Chapter 22, Jesus tells the Pharisee as he asked Jesus which was the great commandment, this is what Jesus told him: "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and mind." This is the first and most important commandment. The second most important commandment is like this one and it is to "love your neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and prophets."
In Romans Chapter 13, Paul the Apostle says to "owe no man anything but to love one another: for he that loves another has fulfilled the law." So as I understand the Bible, then I owe a debt of love to my fellow man. The Bible also says in Romans 13 that "love works no malice to his neighbor, so that love is fulfilling of the law of God." Several years ago, I preached a sermon that I titled "What Kind of Shadow Do You Cast?" or how far is your love reaching out. This question goes out to the church today and also the individual. A few weeks ago, I had the annual charge conference for the East Elkins Charge of the United Methodist Church. At the same time I was interviewed by my district superintendent. He asked me a question, "What did I think was most needed in West Virginia in order for church growth?" My answer was commitment; the lack of commitment is essentially the lack of love. If you love God, you want to be committed to your home church. You realize you owe a debt of love to your fellow man or your neighbor. Oft times, we as Christians think that we are home free when we become Christians. But along with the name Christian comes responsibility. You might say, "what kind of responsibility?" The responsibility to live a life out in front of my neighbor that would present to them Christ.
How are they going to recognize us as Christians? Is there a credential that Christians carry with them all the time? Yes there is, it is called love. There is a song in some of the hymn books that say "They Will Know We Are Christians By Our Love." If you were on trial today for being accused of being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you? This might seem to be a harsh question to ask, but it is one that needs to be asked of every person that claims the name Christian. What kind of shadow are you casting today? Is it a very dim or a very bright shadow? How far does your shadow reach? Is it a shadow that stands as if it were right under the light and the shadow is only covering the person that the light is shining on, or is it one that has chosen to move out of your comfort zone and go out to try to reach some person in need? The church today has the greatest opportunity to cast a shadow than it ever has before in history. With the economy as shaky as it is today, the church has such an opportunity to shine as never before. There is always a need to be filled and if the church is not there to fill it, who will be there?
There are two things required in order that there is a shadow. The first thing is a source of light. The second thing is an object for the light to shine upon. In the Gospel of St. Matthew Chapter 5 verse 14, Jesus tells us "that we are the light of the world." In verse 16, he says to "let your light shine before men, that they may see your good works, and praise your father which is in heaven." You know as I think about light, it is a wonderful thing. Without it, we would not be able to survive. Light is required for survival of all life forms. It is the same way for a Christian. Without the light of Christ, we cannot survive. The moon has no light of itself; it has to reflect the light of the sun. We as Christians are the same as the moon:?We have no light of ourselves, we have to reflect the light of the son (Christ).
Love is not an option. If you are a Christian, it is a requirement. Love is enduring, love is not easily provoked, love is kind and love is not prideful. The list could go on, but these are benchmarks by which each one of us may judge ourselves. There is the age-old question of what is wrong with the world today? The answer is commitment or lack of commitment. You never hear anyone ask what is right with the world. The answer is love is the only thing that is right with the world. Love, the word, encompasses many things. When disaster strikes today, the faith-based community is always there. This sometimes aggravates some of the organizations that are not faith based. They are sometimes a little slower or have more requirements for the people affected to meet in order to get the help that is needed. But with the faith-based organizations, love is the ruling factor. If there is a need, then love is the answer.
Love will always win out over hate because the only thing that you must do to ensure that the supply of love does not run empty is to give it to someone in need. Hate on the other hand must be fueled everyday. You must constantly remember why you hate someone, you have to do this every moment or you will forget. Hate is a consuming foe, it must be fed. But love is an endless supply if you give it out everywhere you go. What kind of shadow do you cast? Ask yourself this question often. Hold yourself accountable to love. Make sure you never forget about the debt of love you owe. May God richly bless you as you go about doing the work of love.
(The opinions of this article are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Inter-Mountain, the Randolph County Ministerial Association or the author's church affiliation.)