After reading the foreword, I did not foresee that each discourse would be so packed. I imagined short discourses that would focus on one area of how love is displayed through our actions. Instead, I found the first reflection to be much more in depth than I expected. The first discourse was on love’s fruit and how it can be recognized. However, the piece did not only compare love to a tree that yields fruit but it addressed subjects such as hypocrisy and deception and how they are an obstacle to love yielding its proper fruit. Within the discourse, there were a few passages that I found to be the most revealing–at least personally.
I have had many conversation about short-term mission trips with my roommate. We always say what we think and comment on what we have seen and the experiences we have had with such trips, but we are always left with one question: is it really for the good of others, or is it for our own good? There was a passage in the first discourse that quickly reminded me of said conversations:
“There are, indeed, acts which in a special sense are called works of love. But, in truth, because one makes charitable contributions, because he visits the widow and clothes the naked–his love is not necessarily demonstrated or made recognizable by such deeds, for one can perform works of love in an unloving, yes, even in a self-loving way, and when this is so, the works of love are nevertheless not the work of love” (30).
It makes me ask myself, when I think I do something for the good of others, is it them that I truly have in mind or am I acting to make myself feel better, look better?
Now, the second passage that called me to reflect further read,
“For the divine authority of the Gospel speaks not to one man about another man, not to you, the reader, about me, or to me about you–no, when the gospel speaks it speaks to the single individual. It does not speak about us men, you and me, but it speaks to us men, you and me, and it speaks about the requirement that love shall be known by its fruits” (31).
How many times have I judged others’ actions by placing them as self-loving, as opposed to seeking the good will of others? Perhaps, I should stop wondering about people and short-term mission trips. Maybe I should let them carry on with their action and let the Gospel speak to the single individual.
There is one last passage I want to leave with you to ponder on: “To cheat oneself out of love is the most terrible deception; it is an eternal loss for which there is no reparation, either in time or in eternity” (23-24).