When you were growing up, what kind of love did you experience in your home? Hopefully, you felt loved and accepted. We call that unconditional love, where we feel OK about ourselves, because mum and dad loved us for who we are.
I realise not everyone has that experience. We sometimes call this ‘agape love’—the kind of love God has for us, and how we can translate that into love for each other, with our families. The Apostle Paul wrote many years ago (probably 2,000 years) to a group of quarrelling, cranky argumentative church members in the community of Corinth in Greece. My wife and I and a group of others have stood in the ruins of that city, and realised what it must have been like, as Paul said to them in 1 Corinthians 13:1-7 (ESV):
If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing. Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Agape love—the active, patient concern for the wellbeing of another person—is life-changing. We can know that in our families, in our friendship circles. In a Sunday School class the nine-year-olds were to write a couple of sentences about what God’s love and the love of their family meant to them. One little girl wrote these words, I am glad I am who I am. I like being me. Even when I do the wrong thing I am still the right person.
That is a profound statement of grace and healthy self-love. Think about what this nine-year-old girl said, Even when I do the wrong thing I am still the right person. Can you say that about yourself? It is true. It is God’s truth about your life. It may be the way you learned to think about yourself from your family or, perhaps from your church.
The Beautiful Vase
A 43-year-old woman was reflecting about how she came to love herself and have a healthy picture of herself, and the importance of her relationship with her mother in establishing that self-image. She vividly remembered a time in her childhood when she was five. She was playing with her toys in the living-room of her home—a place she had been cautioned about because her mother had placed there a large and beautiful vase, which had been in their family for three generations. It was a family heirloom.
It was a beautiful piece of art and was very important to her mother because of its family connections. As she was playing she happened to bump the stand the vase sat on. It shook and the vase slowly tumbled to the wooden floor with a very loud crash and broke into many pieces. The child was very frightened by the accident and cried out—not only out of her fear but because she knew how important that piece of art and history was to her mother.
When she screamed her mother ran into the room, saw what had happened and immediately hugged the child to her chest. The girl was crying out of surprise and fear. Her mother soothed her and the first words her mum said were, “I am so glad you are all right. When you screamed I was afraid you were hurt. I am so glad you are all right.” Now at the age of 43, looking back on that story from her childhood, the woman who is now herself a mother said: “I learned that day that I was the family treasure.” It’s a beautiful, simple illustration I think.
You Are One of God’s Family Treasures
Some of us grew up with brothers and sisters, but in families where parents showed each of us were treasured beyond words, that each of us is a family treasure. Others of us learned and heard about that unconditional, seeking, accepting, grace-filled love from people outside our family—perhaps even in the church. And that is the way it should be. That is part of our role as Christ’s community—to show that agape love for each person.
Sometimes it’s in our families where we learn these truths: You are loved; you are cherished; you are a treasure; you are meant for great things; you are a child of God. I see a striking resemblance. As a child of God, you have an incredible inheritance. God wants to give you that inheritance. God has great hopes and dreams in store for you. How privileged you are if that was you!
Do you realise that each person is a loved child of God, one of God’s family treasures?
Lord, What do you want to do through me? What do you want to do, Gracious God, so that each person may know that they are your family treasure, your precious child, and go on to claim the inheritance that you have created each of us for?
© 2011 St Andrew United Methodist Church.