Faces on Faith: The essentials
Over the years, I have read books and attended seminars related to time management. As a young teacher, I was required to submit weekly lesson plans. Later, as a coach, I worked with the rest of the staff to develop a game plan. Then, as a pastor, the first thing I did on Monday mornings for the past 40-plus years was make up a “things to do” list. I believe in what Steven Covey called “a First Things First” mentality. This may sound very rigid, but it helps me stay focused on what I deemed essential.
Of course, as you might guess, there were many days or weeks when my well-intentioned plan was disrupted. For example, often I would receive a call that a loved one had been taken to emergency. I would drop whatever I was doing to be with my parishioner and her family during their time of difficulty. Emergency care was essential; the essentials being that which is absolutely necessary.
Today there is tension and division over what is necessary. We can remember back to this past spring when we were ordered to stay at home or shelter in place. This decision affected businesses, schools, places of worship, weddings, funerals, et cetera. Yet it seemed absolutely necessary if we were going to slow the spread of COVID-19. Since that time, reopening has begun. Today, there is still a lot of tension and division.
It seems that we are being held hostage by feelings of fear, anger and despair. Certainly some relief will come with a safe and effective vaccine. Hopefully, COVID-19 will subside, but what about the hard feelings that might linger? There are no easy answers, but we can choose to follow the higher ground. The Apostle Paul encouraged the Church at Corinth to follow a more excellent way. Many of us are familiar with I Corinthians 13. We call it the love chapter and is often read at wedding ceremonies, but Paul wrote this letter because the church was hopelessly divided. I am sure there were hard feelings, but Paul speaks of what is absolutely necessary. Verses 4-7 talk about a higher road: “love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always preservers. Love never fails.” In the Greek this is called agape, or loving with no strings attached.
Just like in Paul’s day, we can choose the higher road, which is the way of love. It is essential, absolutely necessary. Once a lawyer came to Jesus to test him. His question was, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus answered with two questions: What is written in the law and how do you read it? This man knew what was absolutely necessary. He answered: Love God and love neighbor. Jesus replied, “You have answered correctly; do this and you will live.”
During these difficult days, as we face many challenges as individuals and a nation, let’s take the high road. The way of love is essential. It is the most difficult but also the most rewarding thing we can do.
The Rev. Larry L. Marshall is the pastor at the Captiva Chapel by the Sea.