Sunday, June 25, 2017

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"What is love?" - Insights from pillars of the Jewish community

“But Golde … do you love me?”

Ah, the famous question from the immortal movie, Fiddler on the Roof. Tevye, a Jewish man living in Russia before the communist revolution, asks his wife (Golde) of 25 years, “do you love me?”

In a memorable musical number, the couple realizes that although they only met on their wedding day, they do indeed love one another. Their love was not expressed by some abstract feeling or biochemical stimulus. Rather, they chose to love by acting in the best interest of each other. And yet in our modern society, divorce and marital heartache is rampant (even among believers) despite that we “marry for love.” Perhaps we should take a cue from Tevye and Golde.

We can also take a cue from another pillar in the Jewish community: Isaac, son of Abraham, 2nd patriarch of the Jewish nation. Genesis 24:1-67 provides a stunning account of Abraham’s servant’s quest to find a wife for Isaac, the child of promise from the Lord Himself. In days long before eHarmony, the servant finds a suitable bride for Isaac by the hand of the Lord. The servant returns from Nahor with a bride for Isaac, a lovely girl named Rebekah. On the same day she arrived with the servant in the Negev (south of modern Israel), Isaac and Rebekah were married. But my point here is what follows: the Scripture informs us in Genesis 24:67 that Isaac not only married Rebekah, but he loved her.

Just like Tevye, Isaac had never seen his wife before their wedding day. Yet he loved her.

Isaac didn’t know what she looked like (she covered upon dismounting the camel). Yet he loved her.

Isaac had no idea what Rebekah was really like in personality or politics. Yet he loved her.

This isn’t to say that arranged marriages represent the Biblical norm for today. And it isn’t to say they did not have troubles in their marriage. Rather, the point is that Isaac made a choice to love her from day one. God put Rebekah into his life, and Isaac responded by loving her.

The Lord does the same thing to us and with us.

God made a choice from eternity to love you. He expressed that love by sending Yeshua to die in your place for your sins even while we were sinners in rebellion (Romans 5:8). He didn’t have to do it … He chose to do it. Yeshua wasn’t killed in a tragic accident, but He willingly laid down His life and allowed us to murder Him for our benefit (John 10:18). Out of love. For you. How special is that?

But it does not stop there: just like Isaac and Rebekah, the Lord puts different people into your life. Some will be very kind and friendly; others not so much. Some will be helpful and thoughtful; others not so much. Some will edify and bless you; others not so much. Yet if Yeshua chose to love those who beat Him and accused Him, well I think we can follow suit and love those around us too. Even the stinkers. Note this does not excuse sin and bad behavior. Rather, it is to recognize the preciousness of God’s creation and follow in His footsteps.

It is easy to love those who love us (Matthew 5:46). And yet we often fail to do even that when we neglect to love our brothers and sisters. It is much harder to love the ones who show us no love in return or even who hate us. The examples of Isaac and Yeshua should demonstrate to us that to love others is a choice. Our Master made that choice from day one (well, actually from before day one, technically speaking …)

Lord, help us to see others as You do, and lead us to speak and act lovingly, just as You have done and continue to do.

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