Saturday, April 19, 2008

Sunday School - fruit of the Spirit - love

A script, 6 kids, and a "marinator" (my son's word for "narrator") will help us perform a drama of the parable about the "Good Samaritan" at Sunday School this week.

We'll be adding the strawberry of love to our fruit of the Spirit banner tonight.

All kinds of big Bible ideas about love go through my mind, especially after yet more over-zealous preparation. (As well as some confusion: why does the covenant of love God made with Israel in the Old Testament sometimes seem conditional - "I love those who love me," and sometimes unconditional - God's faithful love for his unfaithful people? An enormous question for another day!)

I chose Luke 10:25-37, because it has both a great summary of love - "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind' and 'Love your neighbour as yourself," and a fantastic story about what love looks like in practice - the Parable of the Good Samaritan.*

But when I looked at the parable more closely, I noticed that it's not just a story about love. Jesus told this story to a self-righteous religious teacher who wanted to show how well he kept the law, including God's demand that we "love our neighbour" - perhaps if we limit the word "neighbour" to people like me?

As usual, Jesus raises the bar on what God requires of us: he wants us not only to love people like us, but also to love our enemies. Like the Samaritan who loved the Jew who probably despised him. A Samaritan who was a religious outcast, but who was so much more loving than the self-righteous religious people in the story (ouch!). And Jesus even got the teacher of the law to admit it.

No-one is this loving - not the teacher of the law, not us. When Jesus says "Do this and you will live," there's a barb in the tail. We can't love like this. Which is why love is the fruit of God's Spirit, something only God can produce in us.

For isn't this what children - as well as adults - find hardest? To love those who hate us, who despise us, who are our enemies?

Like my friend's 8-year old daughter, who was the only girl in her circle of friends not to be asked to her good friend's party. I was so impressed by how her mother encouraged her to keep loving the girl who had hurt her!

That's the kind of nitty-gritty love I'm going to be talking about with the children today.

* This is the point that I step in and give the parable a startling new name, showing how well I understand it, except I can't think of one. Over to you, Gordon. Maybe "The parable to show the self-righteous Bible teacher how he doesn't keep God's law very well at all, really."

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