‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” (The Declaration of Independence 1776) This statement along with the many justifications given in the declaration for separation from Great Britain set our nation on a course for war. These words frame our values as American citizens and for them we are willing to fight and die.
In that, there is a paradox; that one would risk and perhaps give up what they have an unalienable right too; the cost of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; being life, liberty, and happiness. Why would anyone do that, why would someone give up everything? Because the highest value of human beings is love. Love gives it all. True love is directed to others, love is sacrificial. That is crazy, right? To give up everything valuable to us, so that someone else can be free to enjoy their life? Jim Elliot wrote, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.” He is right, since we all lose someday what we strive hard to acquire, when we breath our last, and others take what was once solely ours. Why not give it away now, share what we have for the sake of someone else’s happiness and freedom.
But let us not misunderstand; love is not just about things, it is all encompassing. The Love I’m talking about is not the sappy, romantic, touchy, feely, milk toast type; but is gritty and tough, it is fierce and enduring and even unconditional. “Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 New King James Version (NKJV).
Few would argue that there is evil in the world and the only thing holding evil at bay is good and good must triumph. There are also those who call evil good and good evil and the world seems to be filled with darkness as people fight and clamor to get what they want for themselves. Children are abandoned, abused and neglected while their parents run to excess trying to fill the void in their souls. What is the answer? Love.
There is light and darkness we are told, but I disagree, there is only light and the absence of it. Darkness cannot stand in the presence of light, so in terms of human values and all that is wrong in the world, Christ brings the one antidote; Himself. In John’s gospel we read: “In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it. There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. This man came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light that all through him might believe. He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light. That was the true Light which gives light to every man coming into the world.” In like fashion we bear the light of Love as we live selflessly in a selfish world. Love is a powerful, even irresistible light; so shine and when you are rebuked and ridiculed and laughed at and rejected; shine some more.
Rev. Tim Barton is lead pastor of Wallowa Assembly of God Church in Wallowa.