Love can be so simple
It is soooo simple.
Sometimes, the answer to a complex question is simpler than
You’ve heard the
saying: “It is as
plain as the nose on your face.” (Whenever this phrase is said
during the sermon, the preacher always slowly touched his nose with
his finger, and this repeated gesture helped drive home the point of
the sermon.) Your nose
is obvious to everyone else, but it is very difficult for you to see
it. And sometimes the
solution to a problem is plain to everyone else, but you can’t see
it because too close to you. The
solution is “as plain as the nose on your face” which you
can’t see very well.
You’ve heard the
saying: “You can’t
see the forest for the trees.” Sometimes, the trees are so much in front of you that you
can’t see the forest. The
trees are right in front of you but you forget that they are part of
solutions are sooooo simple, right there in front of you, and you
can’t see them. Let
me give you some examples from around the house to illustrate my
O’Neal, my colleague in the ministry for the past fifteen years,
is a mechanical genius. He
can fix anything. Not
me. I am a mechanical
moron and I can’t fix anything that is very complex.
I am a mechanical moron and proud of it.
By that I mean to say, I am standing before you as a living
example of a person who can’t fix anything and am, by some
standards, still successful in life.
I am a living testimony that you can be a mechanical moron
and still do quite well in life.
So, the other day,
I couldn’t get the front seat of my car out, and I notice two
little screw-things holding the seat in place.
I went to my tool chest which is very tiny, and pulled out
two long slender things. One
is named after Darrell Phillipson in our church; it is called a
philips screwdriver; and the other one was just a plain one.
I don’t know the name of the plain kind.
I took this philips and pushed and twisted and that little
screw wouldn’t come out. So I big, long, husky looking phillipson screwdriver and
really leaned into that screw.
Nothing happened except for creating a round hole on the top
of the screw. So I got
out my hacksaw and was going to cut the top of the screw off....
and....and....I noticed two little levers.
I pushed them, and out came the front seat.
It was so easy. It
was so simple, but I had made the solution to the problem so
illustration. Have you
ever been in that situation where you call to your spouse, child or
friend and say: “I
need another pair of eyes. I
just can’t see it.” So
my tape measure has this problem of forever getting lost.
It wanders away from where I place it.
So the other day, I couldn’t find it again and called to my
wife, Jan, to come and help look for it.
I needed a fresh pair of eyes.
And she said, “There it is.
Right there by the tool chest.”
And she was right. It
was right there in front of my eyes.
The same thing
happens at church. Carol, our church secretary, will put a needed piece of paper
on my desk, and after looking for it for a while, I finally call to
Carol after fifteen minutes of looking and ask for her eyes to help
me find it. “Here it
is,” she says, “right underneath your telephone directory.”
You know that story. The
answer is right there in front of us; we just can’t see it, for
principle, “the solution is often as plain as the nose on your
face,” also applies to human relationships.
Let me explain. I have been a marriage counselor for nearly
thirty-five years now. I
was first trained back at Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge,
Illinois, where I took four quarters of Clinical Pastoral Education.
And I have been counseling couples ever since.
And when people come into see me, their marriages are often
such a mess. Like when
a fishing reel spins and all that line comes reeling out and creates
what seems like a thousand knots.
That fishing line becomes a tangled mess and many marriages
seem the same way. Or
like a ball of yarn in the closet, all tangled together in one
glorious mess. And when
you work with these marriages that feel like tangled messes, you
don’t know where to begin. Do
you try to unravel each knot, each conflict, and each argument?
And sometimes you have to cut through the tangled mess of
fishing line and come up with simple solutions.
Like...I have found that most marriages get into trouble
because of a breakdown in communication and a breakdown in
commitment. I am not
sure which comes first; if the breakdown in communication leads to a
breakdown in commitment or a breakdown in commitment leads to a
breakdown in communication. But
of this I am sure: that
in this tangled mess of a marriage, if both the husband and wife
strengthen their commitment to the marriage and their communication
with each other, it always gets better. It does. Sometimes
the solutions to complex conflicts can be so simple; as plain as the
nose on your face.
application of this principle.
I have had many people talk to me lately, echoing the theme:
“I just don’t’ have any purpose anymore.
I am not sure what I am doing, where I am going, what the
purpose of my life is.” It
seems to me these comments are being made primarily by people in
their 30s, 40s, and early 50s. These are often tough years.
O yes, I know the toughest times in life are “growing
up,” from early teens to the late teens or early 20s.
It is tough growing up, going through all those transitions
from childhood to adulthood. And
another toughest time in life is “growing old,” when you can no
longer live in your home and you have to get rid of your things and
move into a nursing home, like Agnes Tronson is doing now, after 65
years of marriage. It
is tough growing old; it is tough growing up.
And in between, there are some other tough times such
as in those middle years when people often say:
“I lost my sense of purpose.
I’m bored with my job, bored with by wife, bored with the
family, just going through the motions and drifting emotionally.”
And somewhere in that conversation, I may say: “Well, the
purpose of your life is pretty simple; it is pretty clear.”
“O yah, like what?”
“Well, to love other people like God has loved you.
That’s all. Pretty
basic.” “Pretty basic is right.
Pretty simplex. Pretty
simple for what I am going through.”
“You may be right, but the purpose of life is...as simple
as the nose of your face. To
love one another as God as loved you.”
It is with this
beginning that we approach the Bible passage today from John 15.
We are still at the last supper of Jesus where he teaches for
four chapters, giving a long discourse about many things.
And when we get to chapter 15 for today, we hear these grand
words about love: “As
my Father has loved me, so I have loved you;
as I have loved you, so you are to love one another.
And this is my commandment, that you love one another, as I
have loved you.” This
commandment is so very, very simple.
Some people want to
make the Christian faith as something complex, as a tangled fishing
line of knots and theological conflicts and problems to be solved,
as a tangled ball of yarn from the closet, with so many odd pieces
and slices and rave lings of Biblical truth.
Some Christians want to mix it all up and tangle it all up,
like a mess of fishing line. To
illustrate, like many of you, I try to have devotions every day.
Right now, I have all the books highlighted in yellow, except for
Jeremiah, so I almost done highlighting this Bible of mine. So let’s say we’re going to read the whole Bible in
one year; that is 66 books, 1189 chapters, and at three chapters a
day, five minutes per each chapter, that totals 92 hours of reading.
So I want you to summarize the whole Bible, the 66 books, the
1189 chapters, the 92 hours of reading.
What would you say? How
would you summarize the whole Bible? With a tangled history of the
Jews? With a tangled
list of theologies that appeal to?
How would you summarize all your reading?
Jesus summarizes the whole Bible with eight words:
“Love one another as I have loved you.”
Eight words to summarize 66 books, 1189 chapters and 92 hours
of reading. Eight
words. It is so simple, so very simple.
It is as plain as the nose on your face. But some Christians aren’t satisfied with that.
They prefer a messed up fishing line, all knotted and
Some people always
want to make the simple truth more complicated.
One time a nit-picking lawyer approached Jesus and asked him
what he must do to be saved and inherit eternal life.
Jesus said: “Love
the Lord your God with all your heart, mind and soul and your
neighbor as yourself. Do
these and you shall live.” And
what was the lawyer’s response? Make it more complicated.
“Well, who is my neighbor Jesus?” or “How
would you define the word, “all,” or the word “love?”
Some people always want to complicate the simple truth of
loving God and neighbor. They
want to make it so hard.
Let us listen to
the key lines in the text again:
“As God the Father has loved me, so I have loved you.
And as I have loved you, love one another.”
So the logical thing to do is to focus on the words, “as I
have loved you, so love one another.”
“As I have loved you.”
How has Christ loved you, me, the world?
How has Christ loved? That
is the way we are to love each other.
So I asked myself
this past week, what was Christ’s finest hour of love here on this
earth? What was
his finest moment, when the love of God shown through most clearly?
I think that most people would answer:
“When he died on the cross.”
As Jesus was being killed on the cross, he looked out at
those who were crucifying him and taunting him and with the look of
compassion in his eyes, he said:
“Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are
doing.” I think that
was Jesus’ finest hour of love.
And Jesus says: “Love
each other in the same way.”
When those around you, family-school-work-, hurt you, taunt
you, create great pain in you, we are to have a heart of love.
In life, we get hurt so deeply, so very deeply, sometimes by
those the closest to us, and our deepest desire is to get even or
get away from them, and Jesus says:
“Love one another as I have loved you.”
It is as plain as the nose on your face.
During this past
week, I was thinking, how has God loved me, has loved us.
What are the ways? And
I thought of how God has been so abundantly generous to our lives,
showering his blessings upon with such abundance.
This past Wednesday night, Chris Kramer, our youth director,
gave a great sermon in which he described standing underneath the
surging, flowing rush of water called Snoqualmie Falls, standing
underneath the falls trying to catch the water with a little plastic
bucket. And then he
told how God, in the book of Malachi, compares God to opening up the
windows of heaven and pouring out a waterfall of blessings upon us.
Likewise, I have been trying to catch the abundance of God
with a little bucket. The
abundance of nature that I love:
the sun, moon, stars, heavens, mountains, Mt. Rainier, Puget
Sound, the flowers, the trees, the. the..the list is endless as I
try to catch God’s blessings in my little bucket.
And then the abundant blessings of my family:
mother, father, grandparents, brother, sisters, aunts,
uncles, cousins, wife, children, grandchildren, friends, you.
How can I catch all of this abundance in my little plastic
bucket? And this
abundant waterfall has no end.
I stand in one moment of time and I look up the fall and I
cannot see the top of the waterfall and it never ends but rises up
out of sight. I then
look down the waterfall and it never ends but falls out of sight
into all eternity. This
abundance of love for you and me is for all eternity; we cannot see
nor comprehend the beginning or ending.
God has shared this abundant generosity with you and me,
freely, and we am to love in the same way, sharing the abundance of
generosity with all of God’s children around us.
It is as plain as the nose on your face.
It is soooo simple. Love
one another, as I have loved you.
The heart of the
text for today is this: As
God the Father has loved me Jesus, so in the same way have I loved
you people; the way I
have love you, you are to love each other.
So then I focused on the words,
“as God my Father has loved me. love each other.”
But instead of Father, I put in the word, Mother.
“As my mother, Edith Markquart loved me, so you are to love
each other.” Each of
us has someone on this earth who epitomized the love of God for us
and to us. Today, on
Mother’s Day, you may think of your mother, but it may be someone
else. Who, more than
any other person, symbolizes God’s love for you?
So I telephoned my
sister, Rene, and asked her, “What was Mom’s finest hour of love
here on this earth? If
Jesus’ finest hour of love was his death on the cross, what was
Mom’s best moment of loving.”
And Rene said: “The
way she made each and every one of us think that we were so special.
Every grandchild thought he or she was Grandma’s favorite
because she treated every one so special.
She lifted each one of us up.
Each one of us was so sacred to her, so very special.”
And the way that my Mother loved us is the same way that we
are to love those around us. Treating
all those around you as
special, as a favorite special person to you.
It is sooooo simple, as plain as the nose on your face.
And my sister
asked: “Well, Eddie,
what do you think was Mom’s finest hour of love?”
I said, “Well, that she loved Dad so deeply at the end.”
“Oh yes,” she agreed.
You see, my Dad had hurt my Mom deeply during his life.
Sometimes, people get messed up for a number of years and
they inflict enormous pain on those around them, and my Father was
messed up for many years and the pain was enormous within my mother.
We children never could quite forgive our Father for who he
was and what he did. But Mom? She not
only forgave Dad. She
truly loved him at the end of their lives together.
And the way that my Mom loved us is the same way that we are
to love those around us. And people around you will go through some
bad times and do some pretty terrible things to you, and perhaps the
miracle of God’s love will be yours, so that you will be able to
forgive and even more, to love them at the end of your time here on
earth. Why, it is sooo
very simple. It is as
plain as the nose on your face.
Tomorrow morning, I
will pick up my Bible again for morning devotions.
I have almost read the whole thing. Only Jeremiah left.
I highlight in yellow as I read.
I am almost finished with 66 books, 1189 chapters, and 92
hours of reading. And
when someone asks me to summarize the whole thing, all 66 books, all
1189 chapters, all 92 hours of reading, I may start to give a long,
complicated dissertation, but then I will stop and use eight simple
words that Jesus used: “Love
one another as I have loved you.”
It is so simple, as plain as the nose on your face.