Just Love People

Photo credit: Josh Felise

Photo credit: Josh Felise

Happy Valentines Day! Do you guys celebrate Valentines Day with gifts? Chocolate? Cards? Flowers? Fancy dinner dates? I’ve never been too big on Valentines Day, but I know my social media feeds are full to the brim with heart-shaped everything and lots and lots of pink.

But sometimes I need a reminder that cutesy little valentines and chocolate aren’t what Valentines Day, let alone love, is really about. If our love is limited to buying and exchanging gifts, we’re missing out.

I’ve been thinking about love more lately, mostly because I chose beloved for my word for 2017. Valentines Day serves to remind me in just one more way that loving the people around me is paramount.

Have a posture that is humble and not above or beyond certain tasks. Actions speak so much louder than words. In the words of Maya Angelou, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” What if we worried less about saying the right thing or trying to demonstrate our theological knowledge and just tried to simply love people—with no agenda. That is hard to argue with. There are endless opportunities to love people well and serve them, it just takes humility and the courage to be obedient.

– Courtney Bareman

When I don’t know what to do, when I feel lost and purposeless, I come back to what I know is true: people matter more.

People matter more than things.

People matter more than accomplishments.

People matter more than titles.

People matter more than money.

People matter more than the American Dream.

And our people need us to just love them. They don’t need us to solve all their problems, say the “right” thing, or whisk them away to a world where everything is just peachy. They just need to know they’re not alone, they’re cared about, and that at the end of the day, they’re loved just as they are.

What if we remembered that people matter more every day of our lives? What would it look like if we loved people because we believe they are all worth it? What if we loved them with no agenda, loved them just because they are people and they are lovable?

Maybe it looks like sending a friend a hand-written note or thoughtful message, calling your grandparents, doing someone a favor, lending a hand to a friend in need, encouraging a neighbor or coworker, providing meals for someone going through a hard time, or sending someone unexpected flowers (after all, ’tis the season!).

Today, as we celebrate Valentine’s Day, I encourage you to remember that no matter what you do or don’t do to celebrate, the thing that matters most is how you love people. Roses or no roses; chocolate or no chocolate.

Have a great Valentines Day!

 

 

Further reading:

You Can Talk About Your Faith Without Being Annoying by Courtney Bareman, Relevant Magazine

 

 

Image source: https://unsplash.com/collections/806/valentines-day?photo=jjj1rHyYyG0

Now What?

I generally stay away from posting about politics, but now that the results are in, I wanted to share some brief thoughts on the subject as we move forward.

Despite how we may feel about the results of this year’s election, may we all remember that:

God is good. He has given me (and us, collectively) so much, and nothing that goes on in the world of politics can change that.

God is in control. I have no idea how things are going to play out, but He does.

God works outside the confines of the American political system. He is far bigger and greater than we give Him credit for.

God, the Gospel, and our purpose have not changed. We are called to love those around us. That’s what our life is about. That hasn’t changed.

We, the Church, are not limited to our ability to vote for a particular political individual or party to enact change. Our influence reaches into the lives of those around us by other means. We can do more. We are called to care for widows and orphans, to give a helping hand, not just to cast a vote and call it good.

Fear hinders us only if we let it. The future is unknown and scary, but God knows what it holds. We’re called to be faithful to the end, not cowering in the face of change or challenges. We can tap into God’s strength and press on even when we don’t know what lies ahead.

God allows all things to happen for a reason and makes it all work out for good and His glory in the end. Even when we can’t see it because we’re standing in the middle of the mess. He sees the bigger picture.

We are blessed to live in a country in which we can take part in electing our government representatives. Whether or not the people we are rooting for are the ones who garner the most votes, we got to have a say. There are many places throughout the world where people don’t have that privilege.

This election really could have gone one of two ways, and neither one would have been a smashing success. We all know this political season was especially volatile, and we would have chosen an imperfect, fallible human to guide us forward regardless of which box we checked on the ballot.

Our hope for the future shouldn’t hang on who wins or loses, because our hope shouldn’t rest on the shoulders of people at all. Neither administration would have solved all of our current problems or avoided causing any future ones; believing they have that kind of power immobilizes us as citizens and strips us of our motivation to utilize our own strength to stand up.

We have a responsibility to one another, despite the divide that politics has caused in this country. We have to fight for the truth and stand up for causes that are nearest and dearest to us. We have to stand together.

The newly-elected officials have limited reach and a finite term in office. While not everything hinges on who we elect, we get the opportunity to do so again in the future. Whether you’re content or concerned about how things played out, this is not the end.

There is a myriad of emotions surfacing in the wake of this, but I hope we choose compassion and hope over fear and hate.

We have so much to be thankful for. If nothing else, the ads are over and we have four more years until we have to go through this again!

 

Further reading/viewing:

Ellen DeGeneres’s Post-Election Message

Kid President on Disagreeing Respectfully

James Corden’s Post-Election Monologue

How the Church Can Move Forward Past Election Day by Janice Wood, Relevant Magazine

How to Be Worry-Free in Times Like These by Jennifer Dukes Lee, (in)courage

5 reasons why America will be OK, even if your candidate didn’t win by Josh Hafner, USA Today

Donald Trump Is the President-Elect. What Now? by Aaron Cline Hanbury, Relevant Magazine

Being a Good Neighbor

What does it mean to be a good neighbor? We were exploring this question as a church this weekend, and I found it to be a particularly interesting one. As my pastor explained some of the cultural nuances of the story of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37), it dawned on me that we, the body of Christ, so often act like the priest and the Levite in the story, not the Samaritan. This parable wasn’t just for the people Jesus spoke to, but for us as well.

As the story goes, there was a man who was robbed and beaten, left on the side of the road to die. A priest approached, and crossed to the other side of the road. A Levite came down the street, and he also crossed the road. Finally, a Samaritan stopped to help the battered man, taking him on his donkey, bandaging his wounds, bringing him to an inn, and paying for his stay until he could return to cover any additional costs that might have accrued in his absence.

We would like to think that we wouldn’t behave in such a way if we encountered someone in such bad shape, that we wouldn’t ignore that kind of suffering. But in our own world, there are people who live in squalor only a short distance from the front gates of those living in opulence, people sold into sex slavery as part of a disgustingly profitable trade, people dying of hunger and preventable diseases while others gorge themselves on rich foods and throw away the leftovers. In short, our world is no different than that of the one described in this parable.

The priest and the Levite, the ones whom Jesus’s audience would expect to come to the rescue of the dying man, made the conscious decision to cross to the other side of the street instead of stopping to help him. They saw a need and deliberately walked away from it, carrying on as if nothing was wrong, keeping themselves separate from the devastation of those around them. Reading this, we find ourselves thinking how detestable this reaction to such obvious need is. But if we think about it, we –the ones the poor and destitute of the world should be able to look to for help– ignore the needs of others in situations just as desperate as the man of this story. We avoid getting our hands dirty, turning our backs on a hurting world right outside our doors, thinking it’s not our job to help them, convincing ourselves that someone else will do it.

The Samaritan, however, saw this man and had compassion for him. He did what the other two were expected to do. He stopped. He cared for him. He dressed the wounds. He paid for the lodging of this complete stranger. He offered to pay for any other expenses, securing the robbed man’s recovery for as long as he needed to stay, no matter the cost. He cared far more for this hurt stranger than he did for himself. He took time out of his day, detoured in his travel to wherever he was going, gave two full days’ wages to provide for the man, and risked his reputation to associate with a cultural enemy. He knew what the repercussions of choosing to help could be in a society that condemned the interaction of the opposing cultures, but he also knew what the likely consequences of ignoring the man were, and he chose to help despite what results might follow.

Once we open our eyes to the needs of those around us, we are forced to act. We no longer can pretend that our world doesn’t need our help. We may not be able to change everything, but we can all do something. What gifts have we been given, in the form of talents, possessions, wealth, influence, and time, that could benefit those around us? How can we begin today to open our eyes to the needs of those around us and start acting like the good neighbors we’re called to be?