Day 129 – Trainee Love
On: March 9, 2015   |   By: admin   |   Under: Blog   |   Comments: Comments are off

“You unbelieving and perverse generation,” Jesus replied, “how long shall I stay with you and put up with you? Bring your son here.” Even while the boy was coming, the demon threw him to the ground in a convulsion. But Jesus rebuked the impure spirit, healed the boy and gave him back to his father. And they were all amazed at the greatness of God. [Luke 9:41-43a]

This is one of those incidents where it is helpful to cross reference other gospel accounts if we are to attempt an insightful diagnosis of what is going on.

Mark 9:22-23,28-29 reads, (The boy’s father said) “It has often thrown him into fire or water to kill him. But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.” … “If you can?” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for one who believes.” …  After Jesus had gone indoors, his disciples asked him privately, “Why couldn’t we drive it out?” He replied, “This kind can come out only by prayer.”

Matthew 17:20: Jesus replied (to the disciples), “Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”

There are three loves in action here: the father’s desperate love for his (only) son; Jesus’s practical and assured love in action; and the disciples’ “trainee” love.

I understand the father’s love: I have an only son (and a daughter) and would do anything to help or protect them – as would any caring parent.

I believe in Jesus’ love: my reading of scripture, broad awareness of two millennia of church history (the good, the bad and the ugly) and personal experience, convince me that the love of the Father expressed through the Son and experienced by the power of the indwelling Spirit is the real deal and will remain so for eternity. So far, so good.

Now we come to the rather more fragile entity of what I shall term “trainee” love. We will soon encounter Jesus’ marvellous summary of the Ten Commandments: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind; and, Love your neighbour as yourself.” (Luke 10:27)

This is a big ask – for anyone. At the foot of the mountain, the disciples, responding to the love of the boy’s father, were seeking to emulate the active love of Jesus they had witnessed as He healed the sick and drove out demons. They had done their best with all the faith they could muster … but failed. Why? Jesus points to prayer.

I’m going to stick my neck out, and suggest that the most crucial factor in exercising faith is whether we genuinely have at the forefront of our mind/heart, the interests of our neighbour. See the “Golden Rule” from Matthew 7 above.

Do we love them as ourself, or are we exercising faith as we would a muscle to develop it? One has me at the centre, the other my neighbour. The faith that Jesus points to is not a measure of strength, but love.

This love, if we listen to Jesus’ words, is exercised through prayer. In the context of the Golden Rule, this prayer needs to be a threesome, where we join together our neighbour, ourself and God.


Father God, change my heart that I might not just “minister to” those you send my way, but love them. Amen

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