Monday, December 17, 2012

Love Does No Harm

"Love does no harm to it's neighbor" - Romans 13:10, NIV

When I set out to begin this blog eight months ago, I had thousands of ideas swirling around in my head. I was told by several sources that a blog should have a niche or specific topic.  This made sense to me, but I was confused.  How would I ever choose a theme and narrow my focus?  What did I want to write about?  Farming?  Homesteading?  Sustainable living?  Environmentalism?  Healthy living?  Stewardship?  Nutrition? Animal Welfare?  How could I choose just one?  As I tried to sort out the ideas in my brain and put them into neat little categories, I began to see that all these topics are intricately tied together.  Try as I could, there was no way to separate them from the tangled web they formed. 

But I began to see a common theme for each topic - they all focus on love.  Each one of these topics is dear to my heart because they reveal to me ways I can express my love for God, for my neighbor and for His magnificent creation.  Love is what holds everything together.  Love is what motivates me to "live well, live wisely, live humbly".  Love is the greatest.  God IS love.

Lately,  I have found myself constantly meditating on these words of Jesus found in Matthew 22:36-40:

36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’[a] 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[b] 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

It was with great grief and sadness that I realized I have failed to follow the second commandment.  Wrapped up in my own selfish world, I repeatedly fail to love my neighbor... and in doing so, I also fail to follow the first commandment.  How can I love the Lord with all my heart, all my soul and all my mind when I'm so wrapped up in myself?

For the past few months, I have been living in a state of  deep repentance.  God has opened my eyes and allowed me to see how I was really living.  He revealed to me my selfishness, my lack of concern for the needy, my pride, my foolishness in seeking trivial, worldly things.  He crushed me, left me raw and ragged, stripped down to nothing.  Everything I once thought true was turned upside down.  All I knew was this - GOD alone is unchanging.  GOD alone is my firm foundation.  GOD alone brings life.  I clung to Him like a drowning woman.   

He ripped out my old, hardened selfish heart and replaced it with a new heart, a heart the breaks for what breaks His heart.  It hurt. Badly. This process has been awe-inspiring, gut-wrenching, breathtaking and painful all at the same time.  I've been a wee bit of an emotional wreck as I've sorted through these intense feelings.  My eyes have been opened to the suffering of those around me, the suffering of all of God's creation as it groans in pain, awaiting the return of Christ.  I've slowly begun to realize that every choice I make throughout the day can either heal or harm.  What I buy, purchase and use each day directly impacts others around the world. Did this $5 shirt I just bought cause harm to the person (child?) that was forced to make it in a sweatshop in a third world country?  Did that bag of apples contribute to increased cancer risk in the farmer who had to spray toxic chemicals on the apples to make them look pretty enough for me to buy?  Will my grandchildren's generation struggle to find clean water because my generation has polluted the waterways with all our trash and toxic waste?  It's enough to make your head spin, people. 

No longer am I living a life blissfully unaware of these truths.  No longer am I wrapped up in my self-centered, self-serving, me-first world.  No longer is life easy and carefree.  No, life is more difficult and complicated then ever.... but strangely enough, I feel truly alive for the first time.

I want every choice I make, big or small, to reflect my love for God and my neighbor.  And that,my friends, is why we at Third Day Farms choose to live with way we do.  Everything we seek to do is a tangible reflection of love - recycling, gardening, choosing to support organic agriculture, seeking out fair trade goods, treating animals with dignity and respect, striving to be careful stewards of what God's abundant blessings, being thoughtful about what we purchase and eat, attempting to keep our bodies free of harmful toxins.... all this and more, we do as a reflection of love for our God and our neighbor (and the future generations of neighbors).  "Love does no harm to it's neighbor".  Each act we perform each day can be a statement of social justice.  Each choice we make, each purchase we make, can help to bring God's kingdom to earth now, to display His goodness.  Each day we have the opportunity to live intentionally with purpose or to live carelessly, habitually and inattentively. 

Is this a lot to think about?  Yes.  Is this overwhelming?  Of course it is.  Do I make mistakes?  You bet I do.   Friends, I am far from perfect.   Am I hypocritical?  All. The. Time.  I can't help it - I'm a sinful human.  But my God is a God of grace, mercy and forgiveness.  He loves me just the same, regardless of my successes and failures.  All He requires is that I do my best and seek His will in all things.  There is no need to feel guilt, but I believe we should embrace conviction - it is good, it drives us to change.  Guilt paralyzes.  Conviction empowers.  We live in a world where we are told we should seek happiness at any cost... but I think we're short changing ourselves if we fail to grapple with the "hard stuff", those convicting moments.  Pain encourages forward movement.  Pruning results in increased and stronger growth. 

The verse below has become my mantra that I repeat several times each day.  I want to live well.  I want to live wisely.  I want to live humbly.  God has revealed to me that actions truly speak louder than words.  I'm sick of talking the talk, but not walking the walk, if you will.   Change is not easy, but nothing is impossible with God. 

"Live well, live wisely, live humbly. It's the way you live, not the way you talk, that matters." -James 3:13, The Message

So, what is the theme of this blog?  I wish I knew... all I know is there are several topics I feel called by God to speak about and it would be foolish of me to try to put them all in their separate boxes.  It's not possible.  So, perhaps this is simply a blog about.... living.  Thanks for joining us along the way.

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