We all go through difficult times in our lives, times when we struggle to learn new ways, when we realize we have it all wrong, when we have to find a way to adjust our behavior or lose something dear. Such a time occurred to me many years ago. I was seeking counsel and the counselor told me the story of the caged bird. She was trying to explain the idea of true love, and I needed a clear explanation. Her story went like this: it is so easy to keep a bird in a cage; you can always see it and you always know where it is. However, birds want to be free. The best thing would be to let the bird out of the cage, let it fly away, and let it have its freedom. What a joy you have when you open the cage, let the bird go free, then it returns to you because it wants to be with you? That is true love.
This little story fits well with Pastor Labberton’s chapter entitled “Free to Act.” “God made human beings free to act….If I were God, I am quite sure I wouldn’t take this risk, unleash this danger. I would prefer tighter management.”
That is not the way God works. From the beginning of time, God has given us freedom. We have the freedom to make the world a better place or we have the freedom to destroy the world.
What does God want? He wants us to live and love in freedom and to choose to use our freedom wisely; He wants us to choose to love Him.
And then we have Jesus…
The New Testament is full of passages where Jesus urges us to act: “Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain fell, the torrents raged, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because its foundation was on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not act on them is like a foolish man who built his house on sand.…” [Matthew 7: 24-26]. Actions are the “pay dirt” according to Jesus. They are an overt indication of what resides in our hearts. What we do speaks volumes about what we believe, what we hold dear, what is truly important to us. What we don’t do speaks volumes too.
You see in His Son Jesus, God is telling us that not only should we love Him, but we should also love each other. In the book The Dangerous Act of Loving Your Neighbor, the key scripture is Matthew 22: 38 “Jesus declared, ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”
I suspect God’s intent for us is to work against the acts of injustice we see in the news every day. These acts are so obvious because people hurting each other are in the news all the time. People cheating and lying make the headlines on a daily basis. Cruelty sells papers and increases viewership on the television networks. It seems we are fascinated with the opposite of the second part of the Greatest Commandment.
As a believer, I refuse to give in to the steady drumbeat of bad actions. I believe there are overwhelming numbers of wonderful human beings doing loving acts for other humans. They care about injustice. They are committed to doing what is right. Their acts go unnoticed but they are making sure that neighbors in need get care and attention.
Maybe this is part of God’s plan. Many daily acts of love go unnoticed but are signs that human hearts have been transformed. Too many followers have this notion that following Jesus Christ is a way out of loving the world. Labberton says following Jesus is a way into loving the world.
God truly gives us freedom… freedom to act.
At times when I hear another story of human cruelty, injustice or inhumanity, I agree with Pastor Labberton: I wish God had tighter management on us human beings.
Then I just imagine that God would have a smile on His face…when He looks down and sees overwhelming numbers of people helping other people with no need for recognition, choosing to love their fellow human beings.
Choosing to love Him.