Thursday, March 3, 2011

The Critical Ingredient

"By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another" -- John 13:35

I like to bake. Sometimes I go on baking binges, continuously making my favorite treats for friends and families. One year the recipe of choice was Hawaiian sweet bread.

I made loaf after loaf and became so good at it that I did not need the recipe. One day, in the midst of constant distractions and interruptions I tried to make a loaf. It wasn't until I tasted it that I realized that I forgot to add the sugar.

As you may suspect, "sweetbread" without sugar can no longer be called sweetbread, and in this case, it could hardly be called bread at all. I had removed the essential ingredient -- that through which the bread was defined.

Here in Hungary, the word for "sugar" and "candy" are exactly the same word: "cukor." It makes perfect sense because, after all, what is candy but straight sugar with a little coloring and packaging added.

So the pressing question for me, in the spirit of reaping lessons from everyday life, is: What is my essential ingredient? What is the fundamental characteristic in me that defines who I am?

Probably for most of us it is more than one thing. It's a pound/kilo of what we've accomplished mixed with an equal amount of what we are good at added to the relationships we have with family, friends, and especially romantic attachments.

But this verse from John 13 defines exactly what our essential ingredient should be. The characteristic that defines us as Christians should simply be "love."

If we do not love, and love well, we are like my sweetbread without sugar -- a big, hard lump of flour that only makes the world twist up their faces in disgust. Without love, we are like candy without sugar -- just hollow packaging with no purpose.

Jesus asked Peter in John 21, "Do you love me?" It is a question worth posing to ourselves, bearing in mind that loving Christ with agape love goes much further than how we respond to Him.

"Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen." --1 John 4:20

Maybe today is a good day to take inventory. By what characteristic is your life defined? What is your essential ingredient?

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