Friday, March 30, 2012

Heart Models

. . . I have said before that you are in our hearts to die together and to live together. — 2 Corinthians 7:3 (NASB95)
Jane Leavy recounts comments from (Mickey) Mantle's last press conference on July 11, 1995. Mantle had been an alcoholic.
"God gave me a great body and an ability to play baseball," he said. "God gave me everything, and I just … pffft!" What would be remembered most was the anguished plea to children: "I'd like to say to the kids out there, if you're looking for a role model, this is a role model. Don't be like me."
A reporter asked Mantle if he had signed a donor card. "Everything I've got is worn out," he said. "Although I've heard people say they'd like to have my heart … it's never been used."
Jane Leavy, The Last Boy(HarperCollins, 2010), p. 374

Our church has been hit hard this week by two deaths. One, a young man in the prime of life, died in a diving accident. The other, an old man long in years and life, finally gave in to the ravages of aging. The first, nobody was ready for. It was a total shock to learn that Larry had died. The second, everybody was ready for, especially Russ, himself.

You would not necessarily think the two had all that much in common. I think you would be wrong. Allow me one huge commonality. Heart!

Both were men of heart. Both loved people. Both loved the Lord. Both wore their hearts on their sleeves. Both were tender-hearted when it came to people. Larry was always doing something for someone. Russ was a long-sought-after spiritual counselor. Both loved to laugh. Both had unique ways of relating to people. Both loved life. Larry showed that in the sheer zest for life and living. Russ was constantly pointing out something he observed like it was the first time ever seeing it. Both will be greatly missed by a lot of people, and it’s because both men had lots of heart.

Mickey Mantle told kids, “Don’t be like me.” Speaking about his heart, he said, “. . . it’s never been used.” If you’d like a role model for “heart,” let me suggest two for you. A young man named Larry, and an old man named Russ. If you know them, you know what I’m talking about. If you don’t know them, come talk to me. I’ll put you in touch with a boat-load of people who will tell you about them. They will tell you about men with hearts.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Loving People Fervently

Since you have in obedience to the truth purified your souls for a sincere love of the brethren, fervently love one another from the heart   —  1 Peter 1:22 (NASB95)

The main evidence that we are growing in Christ is not exhilarating prayer experiences, but steadily increasing, humble love for other people.  –  Frederica Mathewes-Green, First Fruits of Prayer (Paraclete Press, 2006), p. Xv

How about we all participate in a mass confession?  Loving the brethren isn’t something we really want to do.  After all, some of the brethren aren’t all that lovable.  Some of them are kooks and cranks, and not a few border on being nut cases.

Then there are the mean-spirited brethren, the nosey-and-in-your-business brethren, the forever-complaining brethren, the negative, critical, fussy, never-satisfied brethren.  Throw in a few holier-than-thou and better-than-thou brethren, and pretty much anybody can see why loving the brethren can be a problem.

If everyone was as easy-going as, say, I am then it would be a much easier task.  In fact, I think that’s the main problem.  Too many people aren’t like me, and that’s what makes them hard for me to love.  Have I just betrayed myself and possibly you, too?

I think Jesus had amazing insight into the human heart when he said, “Love your neighbor as you love yourself.”   I think he knew that most of us love ourselves.  The problem is that we don’t always love the other guy.  But if we could love the other guy, we would need to love him as we love ourselves.

Peter doesn’t help much.  He not only expects us to love our brethren, he evidently expected that we would love with some zip to it.  He said, “. . . fervently love one another from the heart.”  Fervently!  You can’t do something fervently and look bored, or tired, or like you wished you were somewhere else, doing something else.  The very idea of “fervently” just shouts energy and sincerity.  To be honest, if somebody was going to love me, I think I’d like for them to do so fervently.

Ever wonder what would happen to a church where everybody loved everybody fervently?  I’m not sure that will ever happen, but I think it would be terrific.  Wonder how we could get that going?  There must be a way.