I began leading small group studies in high school. I hadn’t learned how to study inductively at that time, and was under the false assumption that a book study written by a Christian could be a “Bible study.” Now I believe differently, but then it was a start, a good way to read good books.
The first study I lead was from Eugenia Price’s book, Make Love You Aim. I had been deeply challenged by her book the year before. Maybe it was the start of letting go of some of my legalistic upbringing. It certainly did hit me where I needed to be struck. Here are a few excerpts:
Love always gives…We cannot keep to ourselves the love we receive from Him; real love is giving love and remains in active motion toward another. Real love gives freedom to the loved one because it concerns itself first of all with the well-being of someone else and never with how that “someone else” is making the lover feel….
Real love frees the loved one, but it also frees the lover. If I love, if you love, we are free. We are free because our reactions to a set of circumstances are never, never dependent upon the circumstances themselves. We are not free if our state of mind is determined by what someone else does to us or leaves undone. Those who love are free because their reactions are determined by what they are. We become hopeless unless we are convinced once and for all that we cannot love, as God would have us love, without His love being operative in us. We are what we come to see about God Himself!…
It is easy to love a stimulating friend, one who brings out the best in us, the most colorful in us. But what about the bores? The dullards whose interest seem so narrow we have to work at making conversation? What about the rigid souls who judge us by their inflexible standards and conditioning? How happy are we in what we call Christian “fellowship” with those whose prohibitions do not match ours? For that matter, how successful are we at loving a tight-lipped, humorless person who not only takes himself too seriously but misses all the sparkle of our great wit? What about the touchy soul around whose personality we must tread softly? The self-righteous one who has yet to admit his first mistake? Are we to love the person who wrongs us? Who cheats us? Who connives to hurt us? Are we to love the neighbor whose life seems motivated by thinking up new ways to torment us? Are we to love the neurotic relative who keeps track of every activity and interprets it according to his or her warped mind? Are we to love the unfaithful friend or husband or wife or child? Are we to love the liar? The gossip? The Communist Politician?…
Or Jesus was wrong.
In no way did Jesus describe the kind of neighbor we are to love…He did not locate our neighbors nor confine them to the same street or the same block or the same country…He pinpointed it by telling us to love our enemies outright — those who persecute and mistreat us [Does this include the terrorist?]. Paul was extremely specific to the Romans:
Owe no one anything, except to love one another, for the one who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law. For the commandments, “Do not commit adultery, do not murder, do not steal, do not covet,” (and if there is any other commandment) are summed up in this, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no wrong to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law. ~Romans 13:8-10
The Christian who gossips about his neighbor can attend church for the rest of his mortal life, support ten missionaries, keep all his group’s prohibitions, read his Bible through twice a year and still not fulfill the law of God. “Love does no wrong to a neighbor.”
Some of this makes me a bit uncomfortable. What about you?