January 8, 2022
Happy New Year! 2022 is here with or without a Jetsons’ space car in our garages! Disappointing…but maybe next year!
Still, with or without the Jetsons, for most of us the new year means new hope, new opportunities, a fresh start with new resolutions to do better, be better, eat better, exercise…on and on. It’s a hopefulness we will attempt to maintain for at least 365 days.
One spiritual discipline I have actually maintained for several decades is to continuously read through one Bible after another.
I don’t try to read a Bible a year – scripture isn’t a race to ‘get through’ just to say I did it, but rather a journey to savor; sometimes reading a sentence, sometimes reading several chapters at a time; reading and pondering for however long it takes.
Unfortunately, I have rarely read the introductory material at the beginning of the various Bibles figuring that there really isn’t much there – such arrogance!
This time, in light of that self-correction, as I begin making my way through the Cultural Background Bible, I slowed down to read the preliminary material first! What a valuable lesson I learned!
As I began working my way through the Hebrew to English translation chart, I was caught up short, right at the beginning, by the Hebraic word for ‘create:’ bara, בָּרָא:
a “creative act which often entails giving something a role, purpose or function in an ordered system.
The definition’s emphasis is on God acting with purpose and giving things a purpose rather than on simple materiality.
The definition of what I thought I knew changed dramatically as I discovered what ‘created’ actually meant.
And I began to wonder….
Since God didn’t create us just for grins or because the Holy One was having a slow day, but with holy intentionality, what is that intentionality and holy purpose?
Knowing that answer makes a difference!
I have always believed that as long as we are breathing we have purpose.
Purpose defines who we are in the human scheme of things and often self-chosen based on our skill sets.
But purpose changes over the course of our lives, and is lived out to the best of our human abilities as we grow and mature, age and approach our final days on earth.
- We have specific purpose in our families, communities, and places of worship.
- We have specific purpose in our schools and places of employment.
Yet are these preferences and world-defined purposes the reason we were created?
Of course, the answer is ‘no.’
Love is our overarching and unchanging purpose. (1 Corinthians 13),
Loving actions centered in God are the basis of our new life in Christ; the mark of a ‘true Christian.’ (Romans 12:9-21),
Everything we do is to be done within the context of this divinely created purpose which brings order out of chaos, life out of death; the genesis of which is found in Genesis. (Genesis 1; Matthew 28: Mark 16; Luke 24; John 1:1-4, 10-18; John 20; Acts: 2)
Anything done apart from this divine purpose for our lives lacks significance at the end of the day.
Love is the unchanging divine purpose for our lives.
As I considered that brief definition for ‘create,’ God’s purpose for my life and considered why gathering the two points together made such an impact on me, I was caught up short and wondered:
- Am I living into my divine purpose?
- Am I able to love those who are unlovable?
- Those who don’t love me back?
- Those who think differently from me?
- Those who actively want to do me harm or derail my hopes and dreams?
- Those who think ‘this whole love thing’ is highly overrated and a naïve delusion?
What difference does it make to know that my purpose is to love and receive love from God and then share that love with all God has created?
Just looking at the bullets above and consider:
- If I can only love those who love me, love becomes transactional and self-serving, which to my mind isn’t really love at all. Love bears all things. (1 Corinthians 13:7)
- If I can’t love those who think differently than I do, love becomes a mirror of myself, a way of affirming what I already believe. Love is a willingness to listen to and value the thoughts of another. (1 Corinthians 13:1)
- If I can’t love even those who actively want to do me harm or derail my hopes and dreams, I feed into the violence that threatens us all daily. Love will eventually dissipate violence because love never dies. (1 Corinthians 13:8)
- consider the concept of the thrusting of a closed fist versus the offering of an open hand. (Romans 12:14)
- If I allow others to diminish God’s purpose of loving creation, then I am allowing them to diminish the purpose of God’s created order.
So many other things could be said about this divine purpose of our God for human life; maybe another time, but for now…
This year I intend learn from the love/not love choices made by those I will once again study in scriptures.
I will become more intentional and self-aware of my own love/not love choices: is what I’m doing lovingly informed by the love of God, or am I just ‘doing stuff’ that ‘seems the loving thing to do according to my own preferences?
The answers will let me know if I am fulfilling God’s purpose for my life or not. Hopefully, I will become self-aware enough to know when I am falling short and will self-correct through the Spirit patiently continuing to work in and through me. After all, loving as God loves requires that I abide in Christ and that the Spirit of Christ abides in me. (John 15:1-17)
Many folks are thinking of ‘words to work on’ this year.
I believe my word will actually be three words: divinely purposeful love.
Not sure what will come of it, but I live in hope that I will be transformed by love and perhaps, God willing, be an instrument of God’s loving transformation in the lives of others.
So, what’s your word for this year? Bet it involves love…
And to God be the glory! AMEN.