Love is the Whole Ball Game

love is the whole ballgameGenesis 4:1-12

John Ortberg in his book, When the Game is Over it All Goes Back in the Box, has an interesting paraphrase of the first few verses of 1 Corinthians 13 (the love chapter):  “If I make a fortune, get the cover of Time magazine, and become attractive, comfortable, and secure, but have no love, I have rolled snake eyes. No matter how much I win, if I win alone, I lose. Love is the ball game.” (p. 203.)

In Genesis 4 we encounter the first sibling rivalry.  Cain murders his brother Abel in a fit of jealous rage.  When quizzed about his brother’s whereabouts, Cain responds: “How should I know?  Am I my brother’s keeper?”

The source of Cain’s beef with his brother was that God accepted Abel’s animal sacrifice and snubbed his own fruit and vegetable offering.  In other words:  Abel’s work was #1 and Cain’s work was an “also ran.”  So Cain played hard ball and took care of his competition.  Cain’s rival for God’s affection was removed.  So Cain won the struggle with his brother, right?  Of course not!

God says to Cain:  “What have you done?  The voice of you brother’s blood is crying to Me from the ground.”

How we respond to others when they block our goals matters to God.   When we treat with contempt a person that He has created… one precious to Him…  it does NOT escape the hearing of the Almighty! “His blood cried from the ground!” God told Cain.

Abel’s treatment broke the heart of God… for God loved him as His very own.  And God feels the same way about your rivals and your enemies.  And that can be a difficult thing to remember in the heat of competition.   Empathy is an emotion tossed aside when we are denied victory.  So we vent and we back stab and we claw our way to the top…  and in the end we MAY win.  But our win is entered in the loss column.   Life was never about winning or striving for perfection.  It was always about love!

I am called to be my brother’s keeper.  But who is my Abel?  An Abel today could be anyone who has been hurt, abused and discarded by others… anyone oppressed or forgotten.  God still asks of you and I:  “Will we continue to pursue selfish agendas or will we become look out for our brothers and sisters?  The call to love them is rooted here in Genesis… and blossoms in the words of Jesus:  “Love one another as I have loved you.”  and “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”  In the Kingdom of God there is one one game we participate in:  Love.  And it will be that way for eternity!

Author N. T. Wright wrote:  “Love is the language they speak in God’s world, and we are summoned to learn it against the day when God’s world and ours will be brought together forever. It is the music they make in God’s courts, and we are invited to learn it and practice it in advance. Love is not a “duty,” or even our highest duty. It is our destiny.”  (After You Believe, p. 188.)

Go live your destiny!

 

 

Do Beauticians Exist?

1 Peter 3:15-16

The battle over the existence of God is waged no longer exculsively on college campuses and theological seminaries… it has moved to street level.  Ordinary people are buying the lie that there is no one in the cosmos that sees, knows or cares for them.  It isn’t enough for God’s people to debate it only in Sunday School class.  We have to have an answer for anyone that asks us why we believe.  I love this story shared by pastor John Ortberg:

“A woman I know named Sheryl went to a salon to have her nails manicured.  As the beautician began to work, they began to have a good conversation about many subjects.  When they eventually touched on God, the beautician said, “I don’t believe God exists.”

“Why do you say that?” asked Sheryl, who has MS.

“Well, you just have to go out on the street to realize God doesn’t exist.  Tell me, if God exists, would there be so many sick people?  Would there be abandoned children?  If God existed, there would be neither suffering nor pain.  I can’t imagine loving a God who could allow all these things.”

Sheryl thought for a moment.  She didn’t respond because she didn’t want to start an argument.  The beautician finished her job, and Sheryl left the shop.

Just after she left the beauty shop, she saw a woman in the street with long, stringy, dirty hair.  She looked filthy and unkempt.  Sheryl turned, entered the beauty shop again, and said to the beautician, “You know what?  Beauticians do not exist.”

“How can you say that?” asked the surprised beautician.  “I am here.  I just worked on you.  I exist.”

“No,” Sheryl exclaimed, “beauticians do not exist, because if they did, there would be no people with dirty, long hair and appearing very unkempt like that woman outside!”

“Ah, but beauticians do exist,” she answered.  “The problem is, people do not come to me.”

Exactly.  (Faith and Doubt, pp. 117-118.)

With your friend:  Defend with compassion, answer with gentleness, but whatever you do, don’t  forget to give a reason for the hope that you have inside.  Their destiny may depend on it.