AN EXCERPT FROM “PARADISE,”
Toni Morrison

An excerpt from Toni Morrison’s Paradise, formatted as a poem for your reading pleasure…

Love is divine only and difficult always.
If you think it is easy you are a fool.
If you think it is natural you are blind.
It is a learned application
without reason or motive
except that it is God.
You do not deserve love
regardless of the suffering
you have endured.
You do not deserve love
because somebody did you wrong.
You do not deserve love
just because you want it.
You can only earn — by practice
and careful contemplations —
the right to express it
and you have to learn how to accept it.
Which is to say
you have to earn God.
You have to practice God.
You have to think God-carefully.
And if you are a good and diligent student
you may secure the right to show love.
Love is not a gift.
It is a diploma.

MIDWEEK DEVOTION
John 13:34-35
34 I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.
35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”DEVOTIONSo, Valentine’s Day is coming at the end of this week. I thought it would be interesting to see how many times the word “love” appear in the English translation of the Bible… In case you are on the edge of your seat in anticipation… 587 times. Actually, it seemed a little underwhelming to me, but that is neither here or there.

The Greek word that Jesus uses in this new commandment is agape. This is not the warm and fuzzy kind of feeling we talk about, or the butterflies in your stomach feeling or anything else we would normally associate with love and Valentine’s Day. The word Jesus uses here is a verb – a thing to DO.

That is how it is with Jesus… Love is compassion, loving kindness, getting your hands dirty, hard work, commitment, faithfulness, without expecting anything in return. It requires sacrifice without resentment of what we had to give up. Jesus did that when he touched the lepers, when he smeared mud on the blind’s eyes, when he called Lazarus out of the grave. But most of all, this is what Jesus did when he walked all the way to the cross… he loved!

Jesus never just said – Jesus did. And Jesus gives us a new commandment – to love in the same way. Not just those who are close to us, but everyone. The sinners and tax collectors, the prostitutes and frunks, the gluttons and the party people, the Pharisees and Roman Centurion. And we cannot just say it – we have to do it. Treat with compassion, with kindness, with faithfulness and with sacrifice. Not fuzzy words, but dirty hands.

Because, in the end, it is in the way we love – just like Jesus, without distinction and with action, that the world sees what we are about. That is how the world knows that we are Christians (the Church) by the way we act… by the way we love… by the way we care.

Let’s pray

Loving God. You loved us into being, and you love us as your children – completely, fully, unconditionally. You showed us how you love us through the cross.
Help us to show our love to the world in how we love – in how we treat them unconditionally, sacrificially and fully. And may they know we are Christians by our love.

Amen.