Sunday, November 20, 2011

A Greater Love

This post is going to make a lot of people uncomfortable because it emphasizes principle over practice – putting one’s beliefs ahead of one’s preferences.  

All human relationships require compromise because we are all unique.  Where to eat dinner out, what color to paint the house, how to spend our income… every person sees the world uniquely.  Allowing for differences of opinion and taste is necessary for harmony.  Today’s post deals with differences of opinion between humans and God.  Shall we allow compromise there as well?

Clark, Ethyl, brother Stony
Growing up in Fairbanks, Alaska, I was fortunate to know some spectacular people.  Two friends of the family were close enough that we called them Uncle Ted and Aunt Ethyl – the most wonderful people to ever tread this earth.  Uncle Ted, a US Marshall*, had his work cut out for him tracking down bad guys in “the Last Frontier”.  Aunt Ethyl was a saint, A SAINT!  Spending the first years of her teaching career in remote Bethel, her school bus was a dog sled and she drove it!  When she celebrated her 100th birthday, her impact was so great that grandchildren of students paid their respects.  But Uncle Ted and Aunt Ethyl were not married and not blood related.  They were just friends, connected by love and best friends for life, but Ethyl would not marry Ted.  To explain why, let’s start with a word from our Sponsor.
And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.” (Matthew 19:9)
Aunt Ethyl was a spectacular person.  She played piano in church until her 100th birthday.  As a teacher, she breathed pure love into many a student’s heart.  She blessed, she encouraged, she inspired.  Pouring from her heart was the living water of the love of God.  In fact, she loved God more than she loved anything or anyone else – even Ted McRoberts.  Ted had been previously married and, though long divorced, Ethyl would not marry Ted because she felt scripture told her not to. 

How do you feel about that?  Do you think that you could deny yourself a relationship because scripture told you not to marry that person?  That’s a fair way of putting the question, but that is not how Ethyl saw it.  She simply saw her love for Jesus as greater than her love for Ted.  She was not going to compromise her relationship with God so she could have a relationship with a man.

Look at this another way.  16th century poet Richard Lovelace penned these words, “I could not love thee, dear, so much, loved I not honor more.”  The words were spoken by a man leaving his lover behind as he went off to war.  In essence he asked, “If I stay here with the one I love, I would be a coward and who would want to love a coward?”  Loving Jesus was more important to Ethyl than loving Ted.  I don’t know how Ted processed the whole thing, but I’m sure he asked himself many times, “would I prefer that Ethyl give up her devout love of Jesus to marry me?”

These are very difficult matters for Christians to resolve.  Our earth-bound minds have earth-bound desires.  Many times those desires conflict with what God's best for us.  Followers of Jesus feel this tension daily!  Followers of Jesus also know that compromising faith in the wisdom of God is never the way into deeper fellowship with Him.  Followers of Jesus, just like Jesus, Himself, daily choose   God’s wisdom over our earthly desires.  I count myself a fortunate man that I was able to watch Aunt Ethyl live her faith out in front of me.
I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.  (Galatians 2:20)
Clark H Smith

Note: In this post I am NOT arguing what should be the Christian’s position on divorce and remarriage.  If you’re interested in that, visit my paper on the subject.  Today, I am talking about a person who chose her faith in God over human desire and, I believe, was richly blessed for it.
* I just finished reading this book.  It is exceptional.  Even if you never dreamt of living in the Great Land, Ted adventures will thrill you and his good-heartedness will inspire you.  Get yourself a used copy and love it!

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