Behind the Pastor’s Desk: Loving People as God Loves Us
Released on Friday, February 9, 2024 at 8:00 p.m.
“Behind the Pastor’s Desk” by Nancy Overgaard
When I was working in a kibbutz in northern Israel in the 1980s, I was excited to hear that a famous Israeli singer-songwriter was going to perform at our small kibbutz. I learned some of her songs in Hebrew and had two of her songbooks. I immediately made plans to attend.
Not so, one of my Israeli colleagues. Sarah was adamant that she would not go. When I asked her why, she said it was because the singer was a talented songwriter, but she had the worst personality.
She was right. The performer bounced around the stage with an air of arrogance, whispering into the piano and tossing his long hair. Even that image clashed with the lyrics of her gentle song.
As soon as the concert began, the soloist pounded his hands on the keyboard and shouted to the audience while playing and singing a deeply moving song about Jerusalem.
Even with my limited Hebrew, I could understand what she was saying. She was angry that someone came into the auditorium late wearing her clogs, and the sound of her stomping on the floor echoed throughout the auditorium.
The singer accused all kibbutzniks, not just the latecomers, of being disrespectful. As the atmosphere of the concert was shattered, the singer tried to continue by switching to a song with less emotion in her. However, the concert was effectively over. My colleague was overjoyed to be proven right.
In 1 Corinthians 13, the so-called love chapter of the Bible, the apostle Paul speaks about this very issue. He says talent without the right character isn’t worth much.
“Though I speak the tongues of men and of angels, but without love I am but a clanging gong or a clanging cymbal. Even if I have the gift of prophecy, and cannot understand all mysteries and all knowledge. Even if I had faith that could move mountains, but without love, I am nothing. But without love I have nothing.” – 1 Corinthians 13:1-3
In that chapter, the apostle Paul describes the characteristics of true love:
“Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, it is not boastful, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not selfish, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love delights in evil. and rejoice in the truth; always guarding, always trusting, always hoping, always persevering.” – 1 Corinthians 13:4-6.
As much as I’d love to say my character is better than the famous singer-songwriter, that’s often not the case. I myself am irritable and unkind. It’s always a work in progress and sometimes it’s hard to see progress even though I’ve been working on all the qualities Paul listed for years.
Lately, I have found solace in knowing that the only One who loves perfectly loves even the imperfect and beautiful.
The Apostle Paul says that even while we were still sinners, God in His mercy sent Jesus to die for us and our sins. (Romans 5:8)
The apostle John similarly wrote:
“This is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son to be an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” —1 John 4 :Ten
John then issues a challenge like this:
“Dear friends, if God so loved us, then we also should love one another.” —1 John 4:11
Jesus extended the challenge to love not only our friends but also our enemies and those who mistreat us with the same generous and unmerited mercy that God has loved us. Ta. (Luke 6:27-36)
As Valentine’s Day approaches, be encouraged by God’s great love for you as you strive to love others in the same generous way, even when you are imperfect.
Nancy Overgaard is a member of the Freeborn County Pastoral Association.