In Paul’s letter to the Romans he talks about how, when we unite in Christ – or more generally, when we unite in the spirit – we are all one body, with all of our various skills, and we belong to each other. As such, there is one thing that is essential: “Your love must be sincere.” That phrase caught my eye. What does it mean to love sincerely? Or insincerely, for that matter? As we batted this question around yesterday, we came up with some of the following answers:
- Put others first
- Not forced
- Not harmful
It strikes me that you can have some of these – caring, helpful, respectful – without love. But you can’t have sincere love without including all of them. One person suggested that insincere love is an oxymoron, because if it is truly love, it must be sincere.
(For the full video version, click here.)
One friend of mine has a really hard time talking about this concept. As a child she had been forced to express love when she didn’t feel it. Not only was she was told she had to tell her aunts she loved them, worse yet, she was told, even after her father was mean to her and yelled at her, that she had to go tell him she loved him. Now she limits deep, sincere (“real”) love to people that she is willing to do absolutely anything for. Like if I say I love you, I had better be willing to bail you out of jail, pay for your college tuition, take you into my home, pay your bills and care for you until you’re on your feet again. While it is great to be able to help folks like this, it typically would then limit your field of those you can love sincerely.
But if sincere love is a state of being, we are able to include all creation as receiving parties.
In his book, An Active Life, Parker Palmer believes that God acts in this world, but only “incarnationally through the various forms of embodiment that God takes on earth, including our own human form.” He goes on to say that “the theology that makes Jesus a one-and-only incarnation” of the Divine “tends to excuse the rest of us from responding with everyday actions that incarnate God’s abundance.”
We each have the Divine spark within us, we each are an embodiment, an incarnation of the Divine and the closer we touch this, the more we act with sincere love towards others.
Sadly, on a regular, everyday basis, we tend to forget that our essence is one with God, or one with anyone else, and so we get caught up in the stories of our lives, our society and our families. We look for differences, we make judgments, we risk only so much around people we don’t know, and we’re afraid of how we’ll be judged and labeled.
My daughter, moved into the dorms at UW-Milwaukee this last Wednesday and her first comment about her roommates was that she felt a “vibe of unwelcomeness.” But that stage of life is the epitome of a time in life when we’re nervous, scared, anxious, and used to being judged for how we look and what we wear. Hopefully over the course of time they’ll become friends and eventually have that sincere love between them.
The flip side of that are the many stories coming out of Texas this last week. Many folks are being hailed as heroes for their live-saving efforts after Hurricane Harvey, but it seems to me that in life and death situations we let go of some of the things that normally keep up from expressing sincere love. When your community is in danger, it doesn’t seem to matter anymore what religion someone is, or what color, or what political party, or whether they are in the country legally. People band together, without even knowing each other’s names, in an effort to save lives – human and animal alike. All life is sacred. We are all one.
Sincere love sees no color, has no boundaries, no language, or accent, or sexual orientation. Sincere love is an outpouring of the Divine Spirit within. Perhaps sometimes it shows up in small bursts – like in disaster situations – giving us hope once again in a benevolent universe. But the reality is that the capacity is always within us… it doesn’t require any money or any resources… it simply requires awareness.
I have pastored churches that expressed sincere love, but eventually something happened and they started judging and labeling. It didn’t last.
Many of you have expressed to me your amazement at how warm, and welcoming, and genuinely caring Sacred Journeys is. And I agree, and I’m thrilled. I encourage us not to take what we have for granted, but to continue to be intentionally welcoming, open, accepting and caring. To do so respectfully, without judging. To be hopeful, enthusiastic, “rejoicing with those who rejoice and weeping with those who weep” (to quote Paul). To love sincerely, of the Divine Spark that is within us.
Then our challenge is not to just do this within our own community where it feels safe, but to live this love more and more, offering a conduit for the work of the Spirit in our world.
Love & Light!