Love Is Hard; An Excerpt from an Apostolic Ministries Lecture

Posted: December 5, 2012 in Leadership/Pollitics, On Being Apostolic, United Pentecostal Church
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Love Is Hard

Jesus spent such a great deal of time talking about love that I wonder if he did so because he knew that the most difficult thing any of us would ever have to do is love each other.  One of the most difficult things that that any minster of the gospel will have to do is love his or her fellow ministers.

It’ll be hard because they’re different than you.

Often they’ll be very different.

While we most of us would profess to be find differences among people engaging, even stimulating, it’s more telling to take a look at your group of friends.  For the vast majority of people, the majority of their friends are remarkably like them, sharing the same values, same politics, same language, same culture, same race, same religion, and same philosophy.  Surrounding yourself with sameness is a natural thing, for sameness reduces the chance for stress and fracture.  You understand what you’re surrounded with, and it’s comfortable.

It’s hard to love those who are very different from you, and this truth shows up in the relationship the disciples had with each other.  The disciples were each very different.  While they were all taken from one religious group, about the only thing they had in common was a Judaism more or less practiced.   Reading through the gospels will provide even the most occasional reader with a glimpse into the tensions that existed between the disciples.

Loving someone very different from you takes a lot of effort, a lot of understanding, and the willingness to believe that some things don’t matter so much as other things.  The first two require that you are actually interested in someone enough to invest in building a relationship.  Sadly, most aren’t willing to do this.  Relationships with people who are the same as you are easy, but friendships with people different than you are aren’t.  The last is extremely difficult for apostolics because we tend to place the same level of significance on every belief we hold, and since they’re all significant we have no room to ‘give’ on any of them.

It’ll be hard because you’ll have conflicts with them.

Minsters don’t handle conflict with each other very well.  It’s rare that you’ll find two ministers who are able to disagree vehemently over what they feel is a very significant issue, and still be friends.  By “friends” I mean people who actually still like each other and want to be together, not the kind of “friends” who smile tightly at each other at conferences, pat each other on the back, and say, “Luv ya, bro” and never speak the rest of the year.

You will have conflicts with your fellow disciples because you’re a cluster of leaders, often with strong personalities, who believe in the rightness of your personal perspectives.  Since ministers deal with eternal issues, they tend to stand dogmatically, stubbornly sometimes, where they feel they are right.  Frankly, it’s hard to love people you’re in conflict with.

It’ll be hard because you’ll at times question their motives and values.

And you may be right in doing so.

Some ministers will seem to act from a hidden agenda, and may indeed be doing so.  It will seem at times that others act from motives that are less than pure and honourable, and may indeed be doing so.  Others may seem to have values diametrically at odds with those of our Saviour and the 12, and may indeed do so.  And if you’re doing your best to minister from a pure heart with pure motives, openly and transparently, you’ll find it hard to love those who don’t.

It’ll be hard because they’ll betray you, abandon you, isolate you…

…and any number of other decidedly unchristian things that will surprise you with their unseemliness.

They’ll actively recruit members of your church and feel justified in doing it because their hair is an inch shorter than yours and your bass player has a beard.  This makes them holier than you, and God gives them a pass on ethical behaviour.  Or because they are the best pastors in the world and your poor saints deserve to be ministered to by them rather than you.  And these things may only be the tip of the iceberg.

Two Responses

These types of things make love hard because love is connected to our emotions, whatever we say otherwise, nd these things affect our emotions.  It’s very difficult to ‘love’ those who affect your emotions negatively in such a core, fundamental way.  It’s challenging enough when someone who has a deep emotional investment in your life (parent, sibling, spouse, long-time friend) does these things.  Frankly, most of your ministerial colleagues will never connect to you in any meaningful way.  This means that it’s far easier for these kinds of things to drive wedges between you and your fellow disciples, and far harder to remain emotionally connected to them.

There are essentially two responses open to you, other than prayer and all of the other altruistic remedies and pat answers that you’ll be served up.

Redefine Love

First, you can redefine love.  That’s the first place we usually go; we redefine love in a way that allows us to maintain our emotional disconnect and even our ill will, while hiding behind a facade of ‘love’.  “It’s love like God’s love…distant, unemotional, not personal and invested.”

Yeah.  Right.  Sure.

But human beings can’t love like that.

Adjust Your Expectations

Or, you can adjust your expectations.  Instead of expecting your fellow ministers to be godly, or even Christ-like, simply expect them to be human, with all the associated conflicts and weaknesses.

When you expect them to be more than human…other than human…and they disappoint you, you will esteem them as less than human.  (With respect to Anthony Trollope) You will feel justified in doubting their calling, their real effectiveness, and you’ll even hesitate to connect people to the churches they may minster in.

  1. Shelly says:

    Loving others with the love of Christ is very challenging but necessary. Thank you for your perspective and encouragement. I also posted a blog about loving others.

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