In Bread for the Journey Henri Nouwen writes:
“We belong to a generation that wants to see the results of our work. We want to be productive and see with our own eyes what we have made. But that is not the way of God’s Kingdom. Often our witness for God does not lead to tangible results. Jesus himself died as a failure on a cross. There was no success there to be proud of. Still, the fruitfulness of Jesus’ life is beyond any human measure. As faithful witnesses of Jesus we have to trust that our lives too will be fruitful, even though we cannot see their fruit. The fruit of our lives may be visible only to those who live after us.
What is important is how well we love. God will make our love fruitful, whether we see that fruitfulness or not.”
Sometimes we overcomplicate everything. It seems that Nouwen is so right here. We are driven toward results and what is more we want immediate results. Our’s is a society of instant gratification. This quote is a reminder of the long term impact that we have on this world and on others. That impact is born out of the act of loving. God is at work in how we love. Love is expressed in many ways, but wherever it is expressed God is made flesh. We need to trust that loving another is enough. The results of expressing that love may not ever be known to us.
Today (August 13), the church commemorates the life of Jeremy Taylor. Taylor was a clergyman and writer in 17th century England. Jeremy Taylor insisted that “Love is friendship set on fire.” I like that! We use the word friendship a lot in our world today. Indeed Facebook as taken the use of this word and carried it to a whole new level. Friendship implies more than having an internet contact however. Friendship implies that there is a level of care and concern that puts others first. The whole notion of friendship set ablaze reminded me of the words of Albert Schweitzer who wrote, “In everyone’s life, at some time, our inner fire goes out. It is then burst into flame by an encounter with another human being. We should all be thankful for those people who rekindle the inner spirit.” Think about that! So many people have been so important witnesses in my life. Many of those people have been ‘promoted to their Glory’ and have no idea the impact they had on me. Loving means taking risks for others. Loving demands that we sacrifice our agenda for another. Loving means offering ourselves where needed for someone else. Love is offered not for reward or result but because it is our mandate as a people of God. We love because God loves us: We remember that “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life (John 3:16).” On that promise we lean and respond in action.
We look to the world around us and pray for the courage to respond in love to those who need us. Make no mistake it takes courage to love. It is a courageous act because we look at the problems in our lives, our families lives, our friends lives, or in the world and we get exasperated at the magnitude of it all and think that no matter what we do, it makes little or no difference. we can think that way because we are looking for results today. Nouwen reminds us that we are called to be a people of love and action. He also reminds us that we have no way of knowing the impact that our loving may have on another person. We need to forget about reward or result and love for Love’s sake. “We know love by this, that Jesus laid down his life for us–and we ought to lay down our lives for one another. How does God’s love abide in anyone who has the world’s goods and sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses help? Little children, let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action (1 John 3:16-18).”
Let us take time to see ways to love and do it because we are called to. The results will work themselves out.