Rev. Owen Derrick, Venice Presbyterian Church

All who believed were together and had all things in common. – Acts 2:44

By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. – John 13:35

If you’re like me, you probably get a lot of e-mails and see a lot of posts on your social media accounts!  Some of them you enjoy receiving.  They amuse, encourage, bring glad tidings – all of these are always welcome.  Others go straight in the virtual trash bin.  These vary from the annoying to the downright disgusting. Unfortunately, humanity’s propensity to be inventive in its attempts to extend the bounds of depravity seems to know no limit.  Sometimes, it seems that this is the principal purpose of social media – to be a vehicle through which twisted minds can share their contortions with the widest audience possible. 

Then there’s another category.  They provoke us to think.  Sometimes they annoy us.  Sometimes they entertain us.  Sometimes they prod us to action.  Sometimes they simply get noted and left in cyberspace with no further action taken.  These are those e-mails and posts, forwarded from friends, and the friends of friends, that contain “words of wisdom” or “cute stories.”  Often, we pause when we receive them; read, assess and decide what to do.  I received one such post.  Here’s an edited version of what it said.

People come into your life for a reason, a season or a lifetime. When you know which one it is, you will know what to do for that person.

When someone is in your life for a REASON, it is usually to meet a need you have expressed…They may seem like a godsend and they are.  They are there for the reason you need them to be.  Then, without any wrongdoing on your part or at an inconvenient time, this person will say or do something to bring the relationship to an end.  Sometimes they die… What we must realize is that our need has been met, our desire fulfilled, their work is done.  The prayer you sent up has been answered and now it is time to move on.

Some people come into your life for a SEASON, because your turn has come to share, grow or learn.  They bring you an experience of peace or make you laugh.  They may teach you something you have never done.  They usually give you an unbelievable amount of joy.  Believe it, it is real. But only for a season.

LIFETIME relationships teach you lifetime lessons, things you must build upon in order to have a solid emotional foundation.  Your job is to accept the lesson, love the person and put what you have learned to use in all other relationships and areas of your life.  

The post concludes with the usual “send this on to everyone you know…” stuff at the end.  Let me tell you – I didn’t!  Instead, I wrote this article.

So, be honest.  How did that make you feel?  Did it brighten your day?  Did you feel glad when you read it?   That’s how you were meant to feel, but I have to say, when I received it, I felt deeply SADDENED.   Read it again.  The entire e-mail is predicated on the assumption that everyone in your life is there for YOUR benefit.  Whether it’s REASON, SEASON or LIFETIME, according to the writer of this post, your entire circle of acquaintances exists only so your life can be better.  It even sounds like the writer is taking umbrage at those friends who have the audacity to die – especially at a time that isn’t convenient for them!!

Unfortunately, all too often, this is how we view the people in our lives.  They’re there to make life better for us.  Their value is only measurable in respect to the benefit we can derive from knowing them.  This is so counter to the Gospel view of Christian life.  The book of Acts shows us a vision of Christian community exemplified in the verse quoted above.  The image presented is one of selfless commitment to one another, not selfish expectations of each other. 

At the very end of this month, we will celebrate the crux of our faith – the death and resurrection of our Savior.  When we talk as a presbytery of moving forward, we always do so in the context of what Easter means.  Christ died to demonstrate God’s love for humanity.  The Cross of Calvary is not some divine tweet in which God tells you what you can do to make God feel better.  Precisely the opposite.  The way forward from the Cross is the way of self-sacrificial love.  It is a road along which Christ calls us to follow him.  Unlike the posting above, the way of the Cross does not see our needs as the central driving force in our lives.  At the Cross, we become servants rather than the served; last rather than first; humble rather than proud.  This is our high calling as Christians.

Easter is a time of great rejoicing.  And rightly so!  God incarnate gave so that we might know the extent of God’s love for us.  If we simply absorb that love into our selfish selves, then we miss the message.  We must reflect His love and live in that love by sharing it with those we meet. 

Now, pass this on to everyone you know …