Monday, January 23, 2017

“In my culture, there is no word for love.”

This was the response of a pastor from the jungle this morning as we entered a time of discussion. I had just taught a session on loving others unconditionally. This was for a group of leaders from the Amazon jungle. There were four languages represented, Spanish and three tribal groups. The point of my lesson was that the priority of our ministry is love. 

After I taught, with our chairs in a semi-circle, the leader, my friend Tony Murrin, asked how this lesson could be applied in the various cultures of the leadership present. The first man to speak said the quote above, that there is no word for love. 

I did not fully understand his explanation because Spanish is both of our second language, but the gist of it was this. The concept of love is expressed with a phrase that says you have done good to me so now I will do good for you. 

It is the very foundation of conditional relationships. 

He went on to say that there is also no word for, nor a concept of, forgiveness. The idea that you have done bad to me, but that is okay I will still do good to you and we will live in peace is not present in their culture. 

Another of the tribal leaders from a different culture spoke up and said the same thing. They do not have a word for love, they have a word that means, more or less, to return action. 

As I listened to them talk about how hard it was to communicate unconditional love and total forgiveness to a culture that has no concept of either, I contemplated how much modern America culture has in common with these jungle tribal villages. 

The truth is, we in our culture do not really have unconditional love. If we do, it is the rare exception. We have conditional relationships. We will maintain these relationships as long as the conditions are met.

I will ‘love’ you and be your friend, unless you want to pass more gun laws. 

I will ‘love’ you and maintain a relationship with you, unless you vote for or are part of a different political party. 

I will ‘love’ you and treat you well unless you are a devout member of a different denomination. 

I will ‘love’ you and stay married to you, as long as you bring me pleasure and enjoyment. However, if I start to feel like my input exceeds your output in this marriage….well, look at the divorce rate in/out of the church. 

I will ‘love’ you and we can work together as long as we are at the same socio-economic level. However, do not expect me to love or care for the poor or those less fortunate the me.

We may have a word for love, but we do not know what it is. We do not love. Our love is “You have done good to me, so now I will do good to you.” We are just like the jungle tribe. 

We also do not understand forgiveness. The leader speaking on this said that what happens in a village is that when someone has been truly wronged, one of the two families involved would actually move. They would start another village with some friends down the river, or they would simply go to another village in existence. Forgiveness was not an option. 

Same thing in our modern culture. Once more, look at the divorce rate. We move to another home in a ‘trial’ separation that always ends up in divorce. What happens after the divorce? Hatred. Contempt. Anger. Hostility. 

Look at the job change rate. We get hurt or angered at a co-worker or boss and quit. We move to another job. 

Look at the way that we turn on people who were once friends. We move to another group. 

We have a word for forgiveness, but we do not understand the true concept. 

Imagine what would happen if we:

Treat others the same way you want [s]them to treat you. If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. If you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners in order to receive back the same amount. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, [expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. (Luke 6.32-36)

Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you. (Eph. 4.31-32)

Just a thought.


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