Monday, May 11, 2009
Current Study: First Peter
Today’s Topic: Love Liberates
Scripture Reading: 1 Peter 1:22b …love one another deeply, from the heart.
Have you ever wondered how birds teach their young to fly? Well, using various forms of the same basic method, they generally push them off their perch. Eugene Peterson tells how he saw a family of birds doing just that.
Three young swallows were perched on a dead branch that stretched out over a lake. One adult swallow got alongside the chicks and started shoving them out toward the end of the branch—pushing, pushing, pushing. The end one fell off. Somewhere between the branch and the water four feet below, the wings started working, and the fledgling was off on his own. Then the second one.
The third was not to be bullied. At the last possible moment his grip on the branch loosened just enough so that he swung downward, then tightened again with bulldog tenacity. The parent was without sentiment. He pecked at the desperately clinging talons until it was more painful for the poor chick to hang on than risk the insecurities of flying. The grip was released, and the inexperienced wings began pumping. The mature swallow knew what the chick did not—that it would fly—that there was no danger in making it do what it was perfectly designed to do.
Birds have feet and can walk. Birds have talons and can grasp a branch securely. They can walk; they can cling. But flying is their characteristic action, and not until they fly are they living at their best, gracefully and beautifully.
We have been designed to do lots of things well, but loving is what we do best. It is the air into which we were born. It is the action that was designed into us before our birth. Some of us try desperately to hold on to ourselves, to live for ourselves. We look so pathetic doing it, hanging on to the dead branch of self-worth, turning life upside down. We’re afraid to risk ourselves on the untried wings of loving others. We don’t think we can truly give ourselves away because we have never tried. But the sooner we start the better. Some day we are going to have to give up our lives, and the longer we wait, the less time we have for the soaring and swooping life of grace.
When we love, we are most free. When we live for self, we become prisoners in our own bodies. When we seek to protect who we are and what we have, we become bitter and cynical. We hang on to for dear life to what is no life at all. If we would just let go, the nature of God in us would set us free to fly in love.
That requires us to stretch ourselves a little – or a lot. But that’s exactly what Peter said in today’s Scripture verse. You see, the Greek word for “deeply” in this verse means, in its root form, “to be stretched out.” Peter is telling us to love each other in ways that stretch us, and to stretch out our lives to love as God loved us. Just think of how far Jesus stretched out His arms in love when He died for us. That’s how deeply we are to love others.
I love this story which makes the point most clearly for me. Years after her concentration camp experiences in Nazi Germany, Corrie ten Boom met face to face one of the most cruel and heartless German guards that she had ever contacted. He had humiliated and degraded her and her sister. He had jeered and visually raped them as they stood in the delousing shower. Now he stood before her with hand outstretched and said, “Will you forgive me?”
She writes: “I stood there with coldness clutching at my heart, but I know that the will can function regardless of the temperature of the heart. I prayed, Jesus, help me! Woodenly, mechanically I thrust my hand into the one stretched out to me and I experienced an incredible thing. The current started in my shoulder, raced down into my arms and sprang into our clutched hands. Then this warm reconciliation seemed to flood my whole being, bringing tears to my eyes. ‘I forgive you, brother,’ I cried with my whole heart. For a long moment we grasped each other’s hands, the former guard, the former prisoner. I have never known the love of God so intensely as I did in that moment!”
To forgive is to set a prisoner free
and discover the prisoner was you.
To love that deeply is to be free to fly.
It’s what God designed you to do.