DANA MARK STRUVE
As any proud grandparent would do, I dote over my grandchildren. I brag about what they can do and am amazed by some of the comical statements that come out of their mouths. But I also notice that they have certain characteristics and habits that their parents did not teach them and I certainly didn’t.
Take the occasion when our five-year-old and two-year-old grandchildren accidentally collided while running in the house. They ended up on the floor, a few tears were shed and then the two-year-old got up and wacked the five-year-old right in the face. How did he learn that at such a young age?
If children can learn those habits so quickly without being taught, how is it that most of us take so long to learn the really valuable lessons.
Prior to World War II, the German people and the nations around them idly watched, allowing a tyrant like Hitler to arm his country for war. When the dust had settled after the Second World War, 80 million people were dead. Now, Russia has invaded the Crimea. When will we ever learn that aggression of one nation against another carries too high a price?
We as average citizens can wring our hands and say, “We have learned that lesson, but what can we do?” And that seems to be true. What can one average person do about aggression in the Crimea?
But there is an equally important lesson that every person can learn, which may not directly affect international affairs, but which can make the world in which you live a better place. That lesson is learning to love God and love our fellowman.
When Jesus Christ was on earth, he was asked, “What commandment is the most important?” He said, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength and the second is this – love your neighbour as yourself.”
It didn’t take me many years of life to learn that I was hopelessly unable to obey the two commands God tells me are the most important. I found that any attempt on my part to please God in regard to His commands was counteracted by this confounded drive inside me to tell God to leave me alone. My plans and ambitions were much too important to ruin by trying to please God.
It was only in a situation of desperation, when I faced my sin head on, and looked at the consequences of my sin, that I was willing to tell God, “I’m desperate – I can’t do life on my own; please forgive me. I am now willing to adopt Your plans for my life and surrender my selfish ambitions.”
Since that day, when my life was completely turned around, I have been learning that what I was unable to do, and really didn’t want to do – love God, and love my neighbour, through God’s strength I am now able to do. What a liberating discovery – what God wants of me is what God gives me the strength to do. Paul, the apostle faced incredible challenges in his life as he sought to live his life in obedience to God. Some Jews hated Paul so much that they vowed to put him to death. Eight times he was beaten for preaching about Jesus Christ. How did he face those difficult experiences in life? He said, “I am able to do all things through God who strengthens me.”
If Paul through the power of God could face those challenges and continue to love God and others, then God is also able to give you the power to live a life filled with love for Him and the people who live in your world. This is the most important lesson any of us could ever learn.
Dana Mark Struve is the reverend at Meadowbrook Church.