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Letter from Home: The more excellent way

By Rev. Ann Mann
annmann@comcast.net

Love is the more excellent way. My heart was overflowing with love this week when my daughter brought her son, my grandson, for a visit. As I watched him toddle across the floor of the library during story time, I sat in awe. My heart was so full.

Love has a way of melting our hearts. Whatever else is going on in the world around us, when we focus on the love within us and right before us, everything else can fade away. JJ came for a visit on the 12th anniversary of my mother’s passing.

On a day when I could have slipped into the silence of loss, I chose instead to focus on the life before me. A 10-month-old boy who is finding his way, one step at a time. What amazed me about this sweet grandson of mine, was the way he embraced the other children in the room.

He was shy at first, but the little boy beside us had a smile that never stopped. JJ was drawn in by his kindness, by his welcome. And when that little boy walked across the room, JJ headed off to be with his new friend. That little boy, and his mother, were so kind and generous.

The library employee, Ms. Jessica, was wonderful. She was so patient with the children who did not always pay attention. She was so kind to each of the families. Her gracious attitude helped make it a wonderful place to be. I saw Christ at work in her and in that room.

She was a living embodiment of the attribute of love described in the Apostle Paul’s letter to the church in Corinth recorded in 1 Corinthians 13:4-11. Love is patient. Love is kind. Love does not insist on its own way. Love keeps no record of wrongs and does not rejoice in wrongdoing.

This is one of the most beautiful passages in all of scripture. It speaks of the kind of love that is only possible by the grace of God. Paul describes love as the more excellent way. Paul is making the case for peace over conflict, justice over justification, and confidence over fear. Yet our world is filled with division.

In the world today we see racial, denominational and political division. These divisions are difficult to resolve because people choose sides. Taking a stand for our beliefs is not a bad thing. But too often, we proceed to tear down the other side with words that do not reflect the love of Christ.

We are all aware of the conflict in the Middle East. An Archbishop in Nazareth working toward reconciliation between Arabs and Jews says “The one who is wrong is the one who says ‘I am right.’” Let’s think about that for a minute. It points to the real problem in most conflicts. We only see things one way, OUR way.

The only way for these conflicts to end is for the peace of Christ to reign in the hearts of all people. We cannot live into our life as children of God until we are at peace with God and with each other. Christ modeled this kind of life for us.

So how do we hold on to our beliefs and stay true to this more excellent way described by Paul in Corinthians? We focus on our shared mission Jesus describes in Luke 4:18-19. We focus on bringing good news to the poor, proclaiming release to the captives, recovery of sight to the blind, and setting the oppressed free.

We stop letting our disagreements create a separation between us and others. Think about the people we fear. The people we feel disdain or indifference toward. The people we criticize. The people we resent or disregard. The people with whom we disagree. And we ask ourselves, how can the love of Christ transform our heart.

Jesus created us for community. And he gave his life to give us the gift of reconciliation, not only with God, but with each other. Regardless of how hard it may be, our challenge is to love as Christ loves.

The kind of love Christ lived and died and rose again for, the kind of love Paul is describing defines the life of people set free from competition and comparison. Instead, we focus is on compassion. Christ calls us to set aside our fear, dislike, criticism, resentment and disagreements and pursue the mission Jesus sets before us.

Bringing good news to the poor, proclaiming release to the captives, recovery of sight to the blind, and setting the oppressed free. This is what love looks like. This is the kind of love I witnessed in the eyes of the innocent children in the library. May the little children lead us, as we remember that love is the more excellent way.

Ann Mann is an Emmy Award winning journalist, now serving as pastor to Barnesville First United Methodist Church. Her email is annmann@comcast.net.

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