Love changes everything!

Mass wedding
Afghan mass wedding (Photo: Comfort Aid International)

“Love Changes everything”1 is the title of a well-known song from Aspects of Love, the 1989 musical by Andrew Lloyd Webber, but it’s also a profound truth. Romantic love can make you feel alive, as though your life has a purpose; each day becomes an adventure, each night a chance to dream, but it’s the love that we show to our fellow human beings that really changes everything.

In a Valentine’s Day report from Afghanistan, NBC News correspondent Mandy Clark reported on the impact that love can make, and is making, on the war against the Taliban. Valentine’s day was banned in Afghanistan when the Taliban were in power, but now love and marriage are being seen as a way of strengthening society and a means of depriving the Taliban of new fighters.

Afghan newlyweds Suliman and Farzana believe that if everyone understood the proper meaning of Valentine’s Day, “there would be no more weapons.” This is not just wishful thinking. Afghan young men have been joining the Taliban for money because they are single and poor. Young, married men, however, have a wife and responsibilities at home.

To improve Afghan society a Muslim charity, Comfort Aid International, have been sponsoring mass weddings in the poorer parts of the country. Thirty-eight couples took part in the latest event. Eighteen year-old Sayeed Hussaini and his bride Fatima could not have got married without the charity’s help. “I’m jobless, but I will not join them,” said Sayeed, determined to avoid the Taliban for the sake of his new wife Fatima.

As Farzana aptly put it, “So when love comes even Taliban cannot stop anybody … Love can change everything!”

Or as Michael Ball sang, “Love, love changes everything: how you live and how you die … Nothing in the world will ever be the same … Love will turn your world around, and that world will last forever … Love will never, never let you be the same.”

Or as Jesus said, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34-35)

Jesus obviously knew that … love changes everything!

NOTE:

1 Composed by Andrew Lloyd Webber, with lyrics written by Charles Hart and Don Black and sung by Michael Ball.

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You’re wrong, I’m right!

CartoonAn inch – the exact length of the tip of my little finger! Or for those who are unfamiliar with Imperial measurements: 2.54 cm. That short distance is at the centre of a court case brought by two men from New Jersey, John Farley and Charles Pendrak. They are taking the sandwich shop chain Subway to court because the “Footlong” sandwiches they bought were one inch (or less) shorter than a foot. However, whether the two men lost out at all is contentious. The Life Inc. website reports that, “online commenters identifying themselves as Subway employees speculated that the consumers were receiving exactly the same dough as others who got 12-inch subs, but that the dough, which arrives frozen at franchise locations, hadn’t been properly tugged, pulled and “proofed” before it was baked.”

To be fair I must declare an interest, having bought some very tasty £3 Subway lunches on one or two business trips recently. But what’s your verdict? Should their dough just have been tugged a bit further or was Subway already aware that its ‘Footlongs’ were not a foot long? Should these men be rewarded for standing up for “the little guy”, and not allowing big business to trample all over them – remembering that Subway is run on a franchise system, so all their shops are “little guys”? Or do you think that there are more important matters in this world, personal crises in many people’s lives – even in the States – people who genuinely deserve their day in court, if only there was someone to represent them? These questions are rarely black and white.

We may not take people to court over the length of a sandwich, but we may still judge people in our hearts, often without having the full facts. God once reminded the prophet Samuel, “People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7) What about the homeless guy whom we see in the street? I heard this week of a former chauffeur to a foreign royal family, who is now living on the streets of Britain.  As the saying goes, there but for the grace of God go I.

We all make mistakes, it’s part of being human – even so, we need to accept others and allow them to be who they are. OK, if someone’s committed a crime there should be justice, but for most of us, whether it’s a fashion faux-pas, a slip of the tongue, our skin colour or even a life on the streets, what we need is encouragement not judgement.

Jesus was not one to criticise or condemn, unless you were a religious hypocrite that is; instead he showed love and compassion to the downtrodden and the marginalised, becoming known as “a friend of sinners”. The religious leaders once brought to him a woman caught with a man who wasn’t her husband. The legal sentence was death by stoning. Jesus answered, “If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” The crowd began to melt away. When the last of her accusers had gone, Jesus’ response was one of understanding and forgiveness. “Where are they? Is there no one left to condemn you?”  he asked.

“No one, sir,” she answered.

“Well, then,” Jesus said, “I do not condemn you either. Go, but do not sin again.” (John 8:2-11)