This is Love   Leave a comment

When Jesus was asked to love the world composed of individuals, He carried His own cross the Calvary. For those of you who think God is a cosmic meanie who delights in abusing mere mortals, just take a pause and consider that for a moment. Jesus was God Incarnate – God in the flesh — and He chose to go to the cross for your sake, even if you hate Him.

In 1945 Roddie Edmonds, a 26-year-old US Army Master Sergeant, was the highest-ranking soldier among the 1292 American POWs in the camp. Circumstances had made him their commander, responsible for their well-being. He’d been in the camp for a month when the German commandant ordered all Jewish American soldiers to line up outside the barracks the next morning.

Edmonds told his men “We’re not doing that. We’re all falling out.”

Image result for image of grocery checkout hellThe commandant knew all 1300 men could not be Jews. He knew there were about 200. When he ordered Edmonds to identify them, Edmonds, an evangelical Christian, insisted they were all Jews. The commandant put a pistol to his head and again demanded that he identify the Jews.

 

Somehow, when most men couldn’t think, Edmonds rattled off his name, rank and serial number. He then reminded the commandant that if he shot Edmonds, he’d have to shoot the entire 1300 and that would assure that the commandant would be tried for war crimes since everybody knew it is was just a matter of time before the Americans won the war. The commandant walked away. Months later, Edmons and his men were rescued.

We’d all like to think we would show the same resolve as Edmonds did in similar circumstances. I suspect I’d wet my pants. Would I have started identifying the Jews? I don’t know. Survival is a pretty high ideal of mine. With a gun to my head, I’m not sure if I could have thought so clearly.

Pastor Chris Edmonds, who only recently learned of his father’s bravery, points out that none of the men under Edmonds’ command pointed out the Jews. “They all stood together.” Chris Edmonds adds that his father’s story “is a clarion call to love one another regardless of our choices or faith. He stood against oppression. He stood for decency. He stood for humanity. This thing we call life – it’s about all of us, not one of us.”

Jesus gave up His human life for all of us, though we still come to Him as individuals. In the Western world, we think of love as a personal relationship with another person, but that “love” appears dependent upon what the other person does for us. The Greeks had a whole vocabulary for “love” that included mere lust, friendship love and agape love, which is the big expansive love for our fellow human beings that can express itself as caring for the well-being of another group of people without thought for our own well-being. It’s more than a personal love. Edmonds showed that love in practice.

That day in 1945, Edmonds’ decision was to love the men under his command with his own life. He didn’t choose to be an individual that day, but to live or die as a member of his troop. Maybe the commandant was actually bluffing that day, but I suspect the authority of agape love somehow overwhelmed his own authority. He couldn’t pull the trigger because he too recognized the love that Edmonds was representing.

Agape love doesn’t just happen on the battlefield. Christians are called to express it in every circumstance. Yeah, the world is full of jerks, but that doesn’t mean we have to become jerks ourselves. Brad absolutely hates to go through the checkout line at the market because there’s always someone there doing something stupid. They can’t figure out how to scan one item or they are in the “less than 15” line with 30 items or they can’t find their POS card. He gets himself all worked up inside his head and he carries that anger with him after he leaves the store. He tends not to say anything aloud. That would be me, but I’m irritated far less often … not that it makes a bit of difference to our relationship with Jesus, our fellow shoppers or with ourselves. The thing about sin is that it occurs within us before it leaks out to the surface. It’s our thoughts and actions that cast a shadow on our day, not the actions of the other shopper. Oh, yeah, we justify our irritation. We were right and they were wrong.

And yet, as we drive away, we may be tense and fuming, causing damage to our own bodies. We blame the world for not yielding up the perfect set of circumstances. We comfort ourselves that the other shopper was at fault, not our weakness of character. We tell ourselves that people like Roddie Edmonds are special and that the range of human choices is different for us than for them.

People like Edmonds will seem rare until more of us honor our mutual interdependence as we encounter the small things in life. When faced with a big challenge our self-serving behavior may kick in because our muscles to practice agape are flabby. There’s no reason to hate ourselves for that. We just need to learn to see the world through Jesus’ eyes. When we give into the anger that the world seems to bring about, then we only hurt ourselves and our witness as Christians.

Take a moment. Take a deep breath. Resolve to do better next time. Remember, we’re all in this world together … and God no doubt had a reason for doing it that way.

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Posted January 15, 2017 by aurorawatcherak in Examined living

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