From Danny- When We Practice Real Love

1 John SeriesDear Friends,

Hope this finds you doing well and having a great week. I want to lift up the work of our Leadership Council , which met this week. These are faithful lay leaders who give much to the church and its mission. We had an excellent meeting this week and I am grateful for all of them. The Spirit is moving at Sandy Springs Christian Church.

We will be sharing the officially amount in pounds of food that was collected during the three-week hunger challenge this Sunday during worship. I think you will be excited and inspired by the number and our collective efforts to feed the hungry. Be here on Sunday to hear the total!

This week, we continue with our series Living in the Light, as we challenge ourselves to live in the light of the resurrection. The book of 1 John serves as our biblical guide. In this week’s text, the question is posed “How can anyone abide in anyone who has the world’s goods and see a brother or sister in need and yet refuses help?” This is followed by the challenge of “let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action.” The difficulty of unconditional love in practice has been on display in Baltimore this week, as protesters and police have clashed over the death of a man in police custody. It is one thing to voice love, it is an entirely different thing to enact it. Much of the skepticism about people of faith comes from our failure to enact love in the way Jesus did. This Sunday we will explore the challenge of practicing real love. What does this look like? What are the challenges? What transformation takes place in us and in others when we do so? I hope you will invite someone to church with you this week.

This week’s message reminds me of the story from Rabbi Harold Kushner about the exercise he used with his students to identify their own moral development. He put this puzzle to his students:  Your business includes a string of coin-operated newspaper-vending machines. People deposit fifty cents, open the door, and take a paper. The problem is, once the door is open there is nothing to stop a person from taking more than one newspaper, significantly cutting into your profits. You decided to put a sign on the machine to keep people from doing that, and you are offered three suggestions as to what that sign should read:

  • A. This machine is under surveillance. If you take more than one newspaper, you will be subject to arrest. Stealing is against the law.
  • B. I depend on the income from this machine to support my family. Please don’t steal from me.
  • C. Please don’t take anything you haven’t paid for. What kind of person are you?

After posing this situation to his students, Rabbi Kushner then asks each student two questions:

1.which of those three signs do you think would be the most effective deterrent for most people?  2. Which of these signs would be most effective as a deterrent for you personally?

The results were almost always the same.  Almost every student rejected sign A because they could not imagine anyone getting arrested over a newspaper and therefore no one would be deterred by a hollow threat.

Almost every student chose sign B as the sign that would be most effective in deterring most people. They thought most people would be persuaded by feelings of sympathy for the vending machine owners.

And finally, almost every student chose sign C as the sign that would be most effective in deterring themselves personally from stealing a newspaper. The students said that sign C would remind them what kind of person they were and that people may not like them if they stole newspapers.

We need that reminder of who we are and whose we are, so that we may practice real love. I look forward to receiving that reminder this Sunday. .

“To affirm that God is God is to want to live in a particular way” Miroslav Volf

Grace and peace,

Danny

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