My focus for September is on love and I am aware that it is a word that most of us use on a regular basis, either to say it to someone or about something or someone and it’s the focus for so many songs, films, and books etc. I bet even now you can think of at least 10 songs off the top of your head with love in the title! Go on give it a go! ‘All you need is Love’. That ones on me…
The symbol for love is most commonly a heart and we literally see them everywhere, especially at the moment when they seem to be particularly popular for home furnishings and stationary etc. I found that when we moved house I had amassed quite the heart collection without even realising that I was collecting them! I seem to be drawn to hearts and I think it’s because of what they symbolise.
As a Christian I am daily challenged by the words of Jesus when asked by the Pharisees (who were trying to test Him), which commandment was the most important?
Matt 22:37-39 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.
Jesus made it clear and simple that all you need to do is to love in every circumstance you find yourself in and with everyone you come into contact with-yikes!!! So easy to say but much harder to do.
I don’t know about you but in the past I have definitely lived next door to neighbours who have made it difficult to love them. They have included, if I can recall correctly one particular set of neighbours that had their lounge on the same floor as our bedroom and loved to listen to a boy band called Blue, on repeat and at volume. There were a lot of strange comings and goings in the night as people seemed to do a moonlight flit and new neighbours would arrive! There was also a family who used the back garden as a storage facility for all their junk and a family who liked to burn stuff, don’t ask!
An observation I have made is that we seem to have become more inward focused as a population and often not particularly friendly with those people we share a neighbourhood with (it may be different for you) but it’s an observation of what I see in London. People commute to work every day with the same people, often for years and stand next to them or sit next to them on the train and never talk. In fact, I would go so far as saying if you tried to chat to someone on the train or tube they would think you’re weird so people seem to hold their newspapers and magazines up high to avoid eye contact! Sad but true.
Another thing I notice as I go into the centre of London particularly is the amount of people who sleep rough and have to beg to get food and drink. People are in such a hurry going about their day and almost don’t want to acknowledge what is happening in front of their eyes because it’s just too ugly. I find this particularly challenging as there are so many who need help and it feels like whatever you do isn’t enough.
But, if we just stop for even one, notice them and talk to them, buy them a drink or a sandwich we are making them feel valued and when we show love in even the smallest way we are making God visible and that is what we as Christians are called to do.
John 3:16-18 This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. 17 If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? 18 Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.
I was recently in a coffee shop with the Lovely Mr B when we bumped into a guy I recognised from my insta account called Joshua Coombes. He has been spearheading an amazing campaign called #dosomethingfornothing. He is a barber and is out and about in London cutting hair for people who live on the streets, for free. The campaign has been really gathering pace and has recently been on the news and is spreading world-wide. We spent about an hour chatting with him and he is an extraordinary man who is motivated to make a difference using the skills he has. The people whose hair he cuts get to feel ‘seen and heard’ and it gives them back a sense of self-worth, which is such an incredible gift.
It was an absolute privilege to meet him and spent time chatting with him and it really motivated me to want to make eye contact with people who need someone to notice them and not look away in disgust. When I am out and about I am listening for the Holy Spirit to point people out who need someone to show them some love and in doing so make God visible in my own small way.
So, here is a challenge, for me as well…
As you go about your week, how about taking the time to actually try and connect with neighbours, people on the way to work or even colleagues you don’t know well and make God visible by loving them well.