Love thy neighbour...as you love yourself!
No that long ago, at my son's wedding breakfast, I concluded my rather light-hearted, perhaps even humorous (at least I thought so!) yet deeply heartfelt and personal "Father of the Groom" speech with a very famous and personal favourite New Testament bible text from St Paul’s letters/sermons to the young church at Corinth. Immortalised in 1Corinthians 13: verses 4-8a it reads:
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy; it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking. It is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices in the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.” And then at verse 15, Paul concludes
“And now these three things remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is Love”
Uncannily, I had not been aware (although it was not surprising) that this would be one of the bible readings at the wedding ceremony earlier in the afternoon so my speech only served to reinforce those sacrosanct words for the guests on that most joyous and memorable day.
But it was at a Church Council meeting last week, when this text was briefly discussed and analysed by one of my church friends, Bruce, as his Devotional offering to open our church business meeting, that I more fully contemplated and understood the real depth and purpose of St Paul's message. Putting it into context, it was the key part of a faith lesson to a very fragile young church community in the early days of Christianity following the Crucifixion and Resurrection of Jesus. Their situation clearly was not a joyous wedding celebration but rather one of human conflict and fear and Paul was instilling the need to "stick together", not to be at odds with one another, and to draw on the teachings of their Lord to bind them together. From Jesus' sermons to ordinary people thirsting for a better world came powerfully memorable phrases to live by, such as:
love your neighbour, as you love yourself (Matthew 22:37; Mark 12:30)
Do to others as you would you would have them do for you (Matthew 7:12; Luke 6:31)
A new commandment I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so must you also love one another (John 13:34)
to encourage people to get on better with one another rather than being belligerent towards and generally at odds with one another. During his ministry there are countless examples of his compassion for, and love of his fellow man - a humble man who loved humanity and who went to great lengths - indeed he suffered inconceivable suffering - to encourage us to share (and practice) the same values. And similarly, this is what St Paul was also doing for the very proud yet conflicted young church in Corinth 2000 years ago.
But my friend Bruce went one further step in his analysis of Paul's words by stating that the basic Human Default - what we, all of us, fundamentally default to if in doubt - is SELF. We are fundamentally selfish - put ourselves first and foremost and there are countless examples of it time in memorial and indeed in our own modern world, dare I say in our own communities, even our own households - but there it is! Everyone else is at fault - though not me! Here in lies the essence of what Jesus and Paul were preaching - by practicing love of others you put yourself second but more importantly you bind together and consider the needs of others first. Bruce's very simple yet concise analysis resonated with me immediately.
When working for all those years no doubt many of you experienced as did I, the very cut-throat, dog-eat-dog world of corporate politics - everyone posturing with selfish motivation to succeed no matter what, no matter who they might hurt in their selfish push to the top! Here are some more descriptive ("self") phrases we hear regularly which, now we are retired and more considered in our actions might find offensive - certainly none of them are a "good look"
As retirees we are in a better position to help our self-propelled world - we are more able to dedicate time and resource to charitable causes, to help others less fortunate in our communities and in some instances even travel abroad with Aid agencies to contribute to a diverse grey-army workforce doing all manor of community welfare work. Our capacity to volunteer should not be under-estimated!!
During the week, I had cause to call by our local Men's Shed - which is located in facilities on our own Church grounds - I always marvel at the selfless yet cheery attitude of those retired gentlemen as they help others in our community. In this same week, She and I attended an afternoon choral concert put on by U3A - University of Third Age - in our community. The choir consisted of 70 retirees mostly in their 70s and 80s, who put on a first class recital for an audience of over 300. What a wonderful event and by charging a small entry fee of just $10 were able to raise over $3,000 towards an annual Cancer charity event here called Cancer Relay for Life. These are clearly both good examples of Retirees who are helping others by "staying connected" and helping themselves in the process - win/win - love it!
Now I've written a number of articles on the need to stay connected, to join in with community activities and not to abandon old friends, old values in retirement.
It might seem I'm preaching here a bit but really mine is purely a regurgitation of things we were told 2000 years ago which so often go unheeded. No different than my blog at Christmas encouraging world peace or my last article about my upcoming rendezvous with my Brother in Dubai, having not seen him for more than 10 years. It may be an aging thing, but as I get older relationships - family, old friends, former work colleagues and in the wider community engagement - are far more important to me. Just a night or two ago and email dropped into the blog address - it was from old school friends from 50 years ago who are organising a reunion of our year. What a marvellous thing but interestingly they reached me via this blogsite rather than via my personal email - regrettably we'll be away so not able to attend but I have passed the flyer on to some dear school friends I remain close to after all those years and they will surely attend. Hopefully with others doing the same, the organising committee will achieve a high reach and response. More retirees recognising the importance and value of "old friends"
For Christians the much used word JOY is an acronym for
But regardless of your faith, there is no doubt we should all put others before ourselves and above all, "love your neighbour"
...and remember...have a fabulous retirementLIFE....