What would your day look like if from the first thing in the morning until the last thing at night you acted completely in love?
Take a few moments (if not now, then at the end of today’s Give Us This Day) and visualize your day in terms of what it would look like if you resolved to act only from love today. To do this, we need a working definition of love, which may be defined as “an unconditional, voluntary, and sacrificial seeking of what is best for another.” It is this kind of love that marks God Himself, within Himself as He loves Himself, and spills out of Himself and over into His creation.
Love is simple for God, because what He wants is also what’s best for Him. For humans, however, what we or others want is not always what’s best for us.
So, what would your day look like if you perfectly acted in love today? Remember the adiaphorous things from yesterday? Perfect love would give up every one of them and more for the sake of loving another. St. Paul returns again to put food on the table again. Why food? What is it about food that would make people sin? It seems so completely indifferent and adiaphorous that Paul’s repetition of it almost seems out of place.
But then I remember that it was a dispute over food that got us kicked out of the Garden in the first place. Only back then the issue wasn’t an adiaphorous one: it was essential. God said that Adam and Eve could eat from any tree but one: guess which one they chose? Because God prohibited the one tree, to eat from it was sin, which is always over something essential. The thing over which we sin may often be unimportant, but the attitude and orientation of our hearts is always an essential matter.
And so Paul comes back for a second helping of the topic of food. God once again says that we can have any food we want. But if our desire for food causes our brother to stumble or hurts him, then we are no longer walking in love. Do not be as Adam was and destroy the work of God for food (verse 20).
It is food that damned us, but it is also food that will save us. We must eat from the Bread of Life to find life, and there is only one bread from heaven and only one body. Paul often uses the image of putting on Christ, but I also like the image of putting in Christ, that is, to feed off Jesus Christ as our heavenly food.
By ingesting Him, by faith, through the Word and Sacrament, He becomes a part of us and we are enabled to love as He loves us. This love, which is God Himself, is our daily bread: it is how we can keep the Law and how we can be made righteous. As we participate with Christ in His death, so must we participate with Him in His life of love.
This love within us will seek what Christ seeks, which is others in love. It will therefore pursue peace with and the edification of those around us (verse 19). One of the ways peace can be readily restored is if, in love, we give up the things that are adiaphorous (and remember that are life is composed of many adiaphorous things). If the old woman in front of me at WalMart is taking forever to find her checkbook, or I don’t have enough money to buy The Thing my heart has been lusting after, or someone says something that hurts my feelings, or someone makes noise in the pew in front of me in church – I can quietly let go of these things and pursue peace, within myself, with the other person, and with God.
Relinquishing my demands on the adiaphorous things in my life has wonderful, powerful spiritual benefits. A stunning clarity dawns when all of the adiaphorous things that cloud my life are let go. The dross is purged away and what remains is what is truly essential or important. When I let go of the indifferent things, I also find that I have much more time and energy for the important and essential things. To love by relinquishing the adiaphorous things is a powerful spiritual purgative. Maybe that’s why Christian saints of the past have so often advocated simplicity in life.
We, however, consider it a badge of honor to be able to juggle more things and manage a more complex life with a myriad of possessions to herd.
More than merely seeking peace by relinquishing the things indifferent, love positively pursues what is edifying for others. In every human encounter, we should silently be asking ourselves: “What is best for _____ in this situation?” and “Am I seeking my will or the will of the Lord in relation to _______? What does God desire me to do in this situation?”
Try asking yourself these questions sometime. They’re quite disarming!
But beware! Once you’ve asked these sacred, loving, questions, they will have a power over you – the power of love. If your Christian heart has been trained to love at all, you will find yourself compelled to obey in love. You may have to wrestle with the Old Man, but make sure that you don’t just ignore the work of the Spirit on your conscience once you begin to ask the questions of love.
“He who serves Christ in these things is acceptable to God” (verse 18). In seeking what is best for others in love, you are really seeking and serving Christ Himself, who is in you. In serving others in love, you become an acceptable and living sacrifice to God, as Christ Himself was first for you.
Prayer: Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen.
Points for Meditation:
- Say a brief prayer asking for love before each new human encounter you experience today. Or ask yourself in your human encounters today: “What is best for _____ in this situation?” and “Am I seeking my will or the will of the Lord in relation to _______?”
- Visualize your day: what are some key points at which you should be alert to be loving?
Resolution: I resolve to begin and end this day by consciously seeking to love as I have been loved.
© 2016 Fr. Charles Erlandson