One Sunday not too long ago, our family packed up our canopy tent and our beach chairs and headed out to the park on the bay. Loaded down with our picnic and our fishing gear, we set up near the water while our two boys zoomed around on their scooters. After lunch, my six year old begged me to take the kite over to the wide open grassy area.
We bought it years ago, and with no backyard in a crowded city, it hadn’t seen much use.
Removing the kite from its packaging, I noticed there was an extra rod. There were three other rods already inserted into all the available slots of the kite’s frame and so I thought this extra one must be in case one broke. I held it in my hand while Henry started running with the kite. The rainbow fabric fluttered along the ground behind him, despite the windy conditions of the day. He glanced behind his shoulder, once, twice, then stopped.
“Here,” I offered. “Why don’t I hold it high in the air and let it go when you start running? That will give you a head start.”
The result was the same. The kite dove down to the ground and stayed there, despite his best efforts.
“Why don’t you let me try?” I offered next, thinking that my faster speed would nudge it up into the air. Failure again, my son’s face looking as droopy as the kite.
We took a closer look at the kite, wondering if there was something we had missed. Remembering the other rod in my hand, Henry was the one who noticed the two triangular flaps on either side of the kite.
“I think that rod goes in there, Mommy!” he said, hope filling his voice. I was skeptical because it seemed that the rod would fall out of these pocket corners, but I tried it anyway. Henry zoomed away, and sure enough, the kite rose straight into the air. He stopped, lifted his smiling face to the rainbow tails flapping in the wind, and laughed with delight.
We can’t fly without love
In much the same way, love is the crucial component in every Christian’s life. In 1 Corinthians 13, that famous chapter about love, Paul states:
“If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.”
Love is the cross spar that makes the kite fly. Without love, we are nothing. We are limp fabric dragged along the ground. All that we do in serving God and serving others is empty if it’s not motivated by love.
At Simon’s house
In the gospel of Luke, we read about a Pharisee who invited Jesus over for dinner. Pharisees were the religious leaders of the day – knowledgeable about scripture, fervent in their devotion to the law. Jesus often had harsh words for them because they were blinded by their legalism. Anyways, this particular Pharisee, Simon, in a gesture of hospitality, invites Jesus to a meal at his house. A woman in the city, upon learning his whereabouts, crashes the dinner party and makes a bit of a scene.
“As she stood behind Jesus at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them.” (Luke 7:38)
Simon’s reaction is to think to himself that if Jesus were actually a prophet, he would know this woman was a sinner. In response, Jesus tells a story about a creditor who cancels the debts of two men – one man owed 50 denarii and one man owed 500. Jesus asks Simon “Which of them will love him more?” The Pharisee answers “The one for whom he cancelled the greater debt.”
Jesus immediately turns to the woman at his feet and compares the way she loves him to how Simon loves him.
“Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.” (Luke 7:44-47)
When our actions aren’t borne from love, they mean nothing. And our capacity to love God and others directly correlates to how much we’ve been forgiven.
When we hide behind the fact that we’ve grown up in the church, that we go to all the Bible studies, pray every day, check all the Christian boxes, we lose sight of how much we have been forgiven. We forget our status as sinners, deny our need for a savior, and cheapen God’s sacrifice for us. Our capacity to act out of love shrinks accordingly.
But if we start from a place of humility, acknowledging our ever-present need for a savior, grateful for God’s love for us, then we cultivate the right posture from which we can love God and love others. It is then that we soar, flying on the winds of God’s delight.