One of the highlights of my recent holiday was a walk I took in Sherwood Forest. I was a very small child the last time I went. I can remember being taken to see the Major Oak and hearing the stories of Robin Hood!
I was troubled by no outlaws on my perambulation through the forest, it was such a peaceful place. I marvelled at the ages of some of the trees and wondered, if they could talk, what stories they would tell. There was one I saw which fascinated me so, I had to take a quick photo of it.
The tree is, quite literally, split down the middle. If you look carefully, you can see that it is held together by two thick, hefty metal bands. I had never seen anything quite like it before. It certainly got me thinking. I found myself reflecting on some verses from the Bible which say;
Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.
(Colossians 3 vs. 12 – 14)
I looked at the tree which seemed, to me, a picture of the Church. There are many things that drive us apart from one another. The recent pandemic is an example of this; circumstances meant that it was unwise to be together and so, we were forced apart.
There are other things too. Opinions, preferences, theological interpretation, ideology all play their part in separating us. As someone once observed “put two Baptists in a room together, you can get six opinions!”
I think we need to take Paul’s words, written to the Colossians all those years ago, on board. We need to accept that, not everybody sees things the same way we do. Sometimes, we need to be gracious and bear with those who do not see what we see.
The final part of these verses, speak about “putting on love.” As I looked at the tree in Sherwood Forest, I saw those metal bands as an illustration of the love that the Apostle Paul writes of.
If you use the word “love” some will see it as a weak, wishy washy, emotional response.
It is not!
Those metal rings holding the tree together are serious lumps of galvanised steel. They were so solid, that the tree was not going to split any further. I believe that is the kind of love Paul is writing about.
As I walked further on into the forest, I found myself thinking, if we do not “put on love” then, all we are doing, is helping the tree to split further.