Marvin Repinski: Another look at the practice of love

Published 6:03 pm Tuesday, February 22, 2022

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“There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish; but what good are these for so many?” (John 6:8)

Lessons from the Bible: “Jesus said to him: “Feed my lambs.” (John 21:15).  “And now I command you to God and to that gracious word of His that can build you up…” (Acts 20:32).

Scott Peck, in his realistic and incisive book “The Road Less Traveled,” has written:  “Love is not simply giving; it is judicious giving and judicious withholding as well. It is judicious praising and judicious criticizing.  It is judicious arguing, struggling, confronting, urging, pushing and pulling in addition to comforting. It is leadership. The word judicious means requiring judgment, and judgment requires more than instinct; it requires thoughtful and often painful decision-making.”

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This quotation deserves a second or third reading and then we ask ourselves how it applies to five factors.

One: What is the reasonable life-advancing result of our giving?

Two: What will our giving have in effecting our promises, legitimate needs, and the stability of our lives?

Three: How will our giving be fairly spent, given for instance in the operation of a charity or an agency that is established to help or enhance the life of others?

Four: In the political world, some people label it as a government hand-out. Where and what is the accountability and the state of the recipient?

Five: The helping hand or assistance to a person or family, some questions may be the state of health, housing, other resources, age, children’s situation or a person’s willingness to be employed?

Most people are willing to assist in the difficulties or hardships of a society.  Many of us respond in person or through the mail to various organizations that request funding. But we wisely attempt to respond to the degree that our budgets allow. And if we were reared in a religious setting, we recall the pleas that echo with, “The Lord loveth a cheerful giver.”

Sometimes I am cheerful, but often I think “Maybe this will help,’’ but afterwards I ask myself, “What happened to the check I sent last month?”

A Methodist pastor of some years ago, E. Stanley Jones, wrote of his experiences in bringing educational opportunities to several nations. “Give to him that asks — not necessarily what he asks — you may give him more — you must give him the disposition, if possible, to stand on his own feet and be self-respecting.”

In expanding our exploration of the many dimensions of love, our attention can be served by not just viewing the big things, but the small items as well.

It may have been Mr. Gerkey, in a high school mechanical drawing class, who now and then repeated:

“For want of a nail the shoe was lost;

For want of a shoe the horse was lost;

For want of a horse the rider was lost;

For want of a rider the battle was lost;

— all for the want of a two-penny nail.”

Your promotions at Hormel or Dairy Queen may have begun with doing janitorial work, stocking shelves or creating snow-cones, but you started somewhere! Humbling? No!  You had a talent that was developing; a love of your work that was pleasing to others.

When retrieving books from a book shelf and packing them for the upcoming Austin Public Library book sale, a surprise was hidden behind the stacks from when I was a student at Luther Seminary.

It was a gift, a book given to me by a teacher, Professor Robert Roth. Most endearing were a few very positive lines praising my work as a student, an affirmation of my studies that would lead to ordination. To our own progress, promotion, or growth of self-esteem, we certainly count the little things that make all the difference — the slacker has been redeemed from the house of slack, by circumstance — people we admire or the family tree that nourishes us.   

Being a person with physical disabilities was, no doubt, a limitation, but Helen Keller broke through restraints with marvelous accomplishments. She said: “There are moments in our lives so lovely, they transcend earth, and anticipate heaven for us. This foretaste of eternity  has made clear to me the perpetual and all-embracing service that friendship should ever be.”

The scenes I write about, I believe, are encased in radiating out of a love that is the core of our stability and mastery.

All of the above is crystallized in the lines of II Corinthians 7:3-4,”…..You are in my heart forever and I live and die with you.  I have the highest confidence in you, and my pride in you is great.”

This is important when it comes to looking at the words of John Wesley, an early leader of what in England became the Methodist Church. We read: “Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can.”  I’m sure some of the ordered, scholarly life that affected so many searching persons, was shaped by his British Oxford University.

The long-term enlightenment, emotion, strengthening, person-changing effect of love is captured by a popular public writer or speaker to significant gatherings is Ann Weems.  A statement of hers:

“If I could, I’d write for you a rainbow

And splash it with all the colors of God

And hang it in the window of your being

So that each new God’s morning

Your eyes would open first to Hope and Promise.

If I could, I’d wipe away your tears

And hold you close forever in shalom.

But God never promised

I could write a rainbow,

Never promised I could suffer for you.

Only promised I could love you.

That I do.”