Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Mission 2013 #2. Do Relationships Matter?

MT 22:34 When the Pharisees heard that Jesus had left the Sadducees speechless, they met together. 35 One of them, a legal expert, tested him. 36 “Teacher, what is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
37 He replied, “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your being, and with all your mind. 38  This is the first and greatest commandment. 39  And the second is like it: You must love your neighbor as you love yourself.40  All the Law and the Prophets depend on these two commands.”

From this passage we at Sweeten Life get our tag line and mission: "Building a lifetime of great relationships". I was not reared in a church or a region of the country that talked a lot about the fruit of the Spirit, caring relationships, or healing. The rough and ready farming folks in southern Illinois were largely uncomfortable with the talk about love. However, they certainly did the walk. Now that I am older and wiser I can see how often the country people acted out the passages about loving God and neighbor but rarely preached about it. 

For example at a death the entire population went to the visitation at Johnson's Funeral Home in Ina and Whittington. The parents, grandparents, kids and cousins all piled into their best Sunday-go-to-meeting clothes ans gathered to pay their respects to the grieving family and friends. Accidents, illness, diseases and death were a natural, normal part of life so we rarely heard people make those stupid statements about God's will that are heard so often now. There were no deep philosophical questions about God's will or God needing beautiful flowers in His garden above as answers to the reasons why someone died. It was life and life meant death sooner or later. 

My Mother died at age 82 in 1995. At the graveside service I met a man I had not seen since we were both boys growing up in Ina. He had joined the Air Force and overcome drug addiction to become an officer and a skilled leader. I went over and greeted him with a surprised "Hi, Ron. It is great to see you after all these years. I am so surprised that you came to Mom's service." 

He replied, "Hi Gary Ray. Well, your parents were a couple that treated my Mom and me with a lot of love despite Dad's alcoholism and their divorce. They brought food to us and your Dad kept me from getting suspended from school after I broke in and vandalized it one night. They came to my Dad's funeral and your Mom sang 'Amazing Grace'. So I came back to say thanks." 

Ron remembered my parents for doing things I was frankly embarrassed about. I was not happy to go with them to every funeral home visit in our region. I was embarrassed that they fed poor people and alcoholics. I was not happy when Mother sang at all those funerals. But the people to whom they ministered were impressed. 

I often hear Conservative Evangelicals talk about the importance of performing well at work, school, preaching, teaching, etc, to be "good witnesses". In fact, I think they have it backwards. Talents, skills and great performances rarely impress people spiritually. It is impressive to see love in action but not talent in action.  Sermons rarely bring people to change but love does. 

Our materials promote love in action. See them on the eBook bookstore


Gary Sweeten
January 2013

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