Several years ago my newest son-in-law asked me if he could marry my daughter. We have a rather archaic tradition in our family, one that I must admit I started when I asked my wife’s father if I could marry his only daughter. Both of my sons-in-law asked me if they could marry our daughters. It takes a lot of courage. Of course I know that I could never say “no” because by the time I am asked, the question is merely a formality. My newest son-in-law, though, was taking on a bigger challenge, and he knew it.
You see, my daughter has a son by a previous marriage. He has two daughters by a previous marriage. As a minister I know that blended families can be tough to pull off no matter what the circumstances are. For several years I served as a “male figure” to my grandson as his mom balanced being a mom and a career. He became my Monday “shadow buddy” spending the whole day with me.
One evening my soon-to-be-newest son-in-law called me and asked if we could have a “boys” lunch the following Monday. The place where he worked was closed for a federal holiday and my grandson did not have school. It would just be the three of us. “Sure”, I said, “I’d like that. Where should I meet you?” He named my grandson’s favorite restaurant.
We ordered our food and then he got down to “business”.
“I want you to know that I love your grandson. And I love your daughter. I want us to be a family. Do I have your permission to marry her?” I hadn’t expected this but it didn’t come as a surprise, either. What did come as a surprise was the way that he asked. “I love your grandson and I love your daughter. I want us to be a family.” It was a trifecta! No father or grandfather could ask for more.
I remember in John’s gospel that Jesus once told his disciples that whoever loved him would also love those whom he loved. The statement begs the question, “And who does Jesus love?” Answer, “Those whom God loves”. “And whom does God love”? Well, John 3: 16 and 17 tells us, For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son so that whosoever believeth in him shall not perish but have eternal life. God did not send his son into the world to condemn the world but that the world might be saved through him. (my emphasis) Followers of Jesus are called to love those whom God loves: each human being regardless of where they live, whether they are rich or poor, “one of us” or not, the color of their skin, the language they speak, background from which they come, their politics or even their faith tradition. Each one of us are created in the divine image, sons and daughters.
This Love is not easy. It is not about feelings but a matter of the will. It has been said that there are three elements to love; Passion, Emotion and Will. We cannot have Passion 100% of the time. Nor can we feel an Emotional connection 100% of the time. Passion and Emotion are only partially under our control. But our Will, our Will is another matter. We can decide to act in a healthy loving way 100% of the time. The problem is that we just choose not to. Too often we allow fear and worry and public opinion to sway us.
As followers of Jesus we are called to a new way of life, a better way of life, a life that both glorifies God and enjoys God forever. We are called to a life of Love.