Thought for the Day 10: Let’s celebrate Friends and Family.
It has been particularly hard over recent months to deal with our inability to meet up with friends and family members in person. The restrictions on meeting are gradually lifting, but some friends and family are still far away and we can’t meet them for that socially distanced walk or a drink in the garden. And even when we can meet, we will be limited as to how close we can be to one another. No touching, not for some time yet.
As we think about what we hope will be happier times ahead, it’s a good time to be thankful for and celebrate all the relationships we have or have had, with friends and family, that are centred in the love that we feel for one another. Love that connects us and has carried us through the last months. Don’t think that this means a soft focus, dreamy sort of love. This is what we know or ought to know as Christian love, which has a different focus altogether.
Love – a word that’s probably the most over-used in the English language. I love ice cream. I love big budget action films. I love Liverpool Football Club – well not actually but I imagine that would have resonated with the millions of Liverpool fans around the world recently!
For the techno savvy, you don’t actually have to say anything about love: there are a number of different abbreviations for love and friendship that you can use in texting or messaging – a “less than” sign with a 3 after it, is a sideways heart, if you look closely and means love; and the more 3s you add, the more intense your affection for that person! 143 means I love you – think about it!! LOL can mean lots of love but also laugh out loud, so be careful to make sure the recipient understands which one you mean!
Generally, then, the word love is overused and means liking something a lot or it’s something best kept for private conversations!
Have a look at the Bible extract at the end of this – you’ll likely have heard it – or a version of it – if you’ve been to a few weddings in church or maybe a funeral, where it’s been read. So much so that it’s all too easy to let the words sort of flow over the top of us. We don’t really need to concentrate, we’ve heard it all before.
It was written, by St. Paul, to Christians in the city of Corinth. Corinth was a new Christian community and St Paul was telling them how they should live if they wanted to follow Jesus. As a piece of social history, it’s quite fascinating because this letter was really all about how the Christians there shouldn’t be listening to fake news! How times change – or not! 2000 years ago, there were people peddling untruths, no different from many today. And Paul talks about the way they ought to behave to one another – and how all that they did should be bound up in love.
There are, of course, many different types of love, in addition to the love for family and friends. Love for God, for our fellow men, for our country, for our planet, the love that we should feel for those who have suffered during their lives because they themselves were not shown love. And the love, so important at this time, that we should feel for those in our communities here and overseas, who have been persecuted for their ethnicity, their religion, their culture, or their sexual orientation. In a world where so many seem to want to highlight differences, or who choose to ignore what is happening, how important it is to stand shoulder to shoulder with those who are suffering. Love means the same in any language and we are all one family, God’s children, and he loves us all uniquely.
St Paul was explaining what Christian love actually means – something we should all bear in mind as we reflect on the way we behave towards family and friends: compassion, Paul says, kindness, meekness, humility, patience, forgiveness. All things that involve putting someone else first. There simply shouldn’t be any room for unkindness, or impatience, or bearing grudges, or arrogance. When you put the one you love first, you’ll be quick to listen, slow to speak. Indeed, how many problems arise simply because of people not listening to what one another is saying, wanting to get their opposing argument in before the other person has finished. Assuming we know best. We’ve all been guilty of it.
Light hearted remarks about this seem to be confined to stories about marriage for some reason! For example – a man once told his wife, rather gleefully one imagines, that men use about 15,000 words a day while women use about 30,000. His wife replied that women had to repeat everything because their husbands never listened first time round. “Sorry – what was that” said the husband?
Whether you’re married, living together, or spending time with friends or family, that has to be a salutary thought. When someone else needs to talk, we should each of us listen – and stop watching the television, or reading the newspaper, doing the crossword or playing on our phones!
True friendship and the best of family should bring laughter, companionship, support and comfort in difficult times – demanding commitment and trust. And the ability to acknowledge and regret when we have made a mistake and hurt someone and the corresponding need for forgiveness. So, like anything else in life, we have to make the effort to ensure our relationships are the best that we can make them.
One of the effects, I think, of this strange period, is that it has brought home to us exactly what is important to us, what are our priorities. Because there has been so much less to confuse and distract us.
So, perhaps we need to think about what we have learned about our relationships with friends and family during these months apart. Recognise and be thankful for how God loves each of us. And reflect on what it is that should be important to us, as we come out of lock down and meet one another in person again.
1 Corinthians 13: 4-13
4 Love is very patient and kind, never jealous or envious, never boastful or proud, 5 never haughty or selfish or rude. Love does not demand its own way. It is not irritable or touchy. It does not hold grudges and will hardly even notice when others do it wrong. 6 It is never glad about injustice, but rejoices whenever truth wins out. 7 If you love someone, you will be loyal to him no matter what the cost. You will always believe in him, always expect the best of him, and always stand your ground in defending him.
8 All the special gifts and powers from God will someday come to an end, but love goes on forever. Someday prophecy and speaking in unknown languages and special knowledge—these gifts will disappear. 9 Now we know so little, even with our special gifts, and the preaching of those most gifted is still so poor. 10 But when we have been made perfect and complete, then the need for these inadequate special gifts will come to an end, and they will disappear.
11 It’s like this: when I was a child I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child does. But when I became a man my thoughts grew far beyond those of my childhood, and now I have put away the childish things. 12 In the same way, we can see and understand only a little about God now, as if we were peering at his reflection in a poor mirror; but someday we are going to see him in his completeness, face-to-face. Now all that I know is hazy and blurred, but then I will see everything clearly, just as clearly as God sees into my heart right now.
13 There are three things that remain—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love.