Loving Someone Who Doesn't Know How To Love

A sermon


Pastor Clarence William Page

August 7, 2011

Coleridge's epic, "Rime of the Ancient Mariner", is clearly fiction (though it may be based in part on the account of a real ship whose crew member[s] shot and killed a bird [possibly an albatross] and suffered near destruction afterwards). In the work, Coleridge does a masterful job of contrasting love with uncertainty, supposition, doubt, indifference and finally outright fatal aggression.

The 21st Century Christian may experience similar treatment as the same sentiments cascade throughout a God-fleeing Planet Earth. Like the albatross, we mean our fellow travelers no harm. In fact, we are agents of Salvation (or, better said, "Agents of the Saviour"). We come and commune with them. We often appear in their distress and follow (or lead) them to fair weather.

The ship of the Mariners found itself in what I would describe (if I understand Colerigde correctly) as an "iceberg mountain range". The odds of sailing safely throught the mountains are very very slim. Then the albatross appears. They escape the "iceberg mountains" (Coleridge calls it "land of mist and snow") and the mariners find themselves in safer waters. The albatross follows and communes with them.

After reaching safer waters they ascribe to the albatross credit for having escaped the "iceberg mountain range". They and the albatross become "friends". The albatross lands on the ship regularly and all seems to be well.

As Christians, we often help people who express their gratitude and who "befriend" us. We have already poured into their lives the love that our Saviour put into our hearts. Now, we are able to love them closely and commune with them more frequently. It appears that we have expanded our circle of friendship.

The "Rime of the Ancient Mariner" though fiction, raises the issue of "friendship" verses love. Though both concepts seem to exist in the same neighborhood, their differences can be as vast as that of life and death.

Loving someone who doesn't know how to love can be fatal. The albatross loved the mariner but the mariner did not love the albatross. So will it be in the lives and experiences of many 21st Century Christians. We will continue to love the people of the world (lost sinners) but they will not love us. Why? Because they do not know our Saviour and thus they do not have in their hearts the love that He has put into our hearts.

Coleridge casts the albatross as a creature that did the ship no harm. Initially, the mariners ascribe to it (the albatross) salvation. Christians who are obedient to our Master (Jesus Christ) do our fellow earthly travelers no harm. Some of them (not as many now as in times past) view us as positive influences on Planet Earth. But people who do not know how to love will not be stedfast in their dedication to peace, goodness, justice and righteousness. They will fluctuate. They will doubt our goodness. They will doubt our value. They will hate us without a cause.

The crew of the ship in the "Rime of the Ancient Mariner" had no reason to hate the albatross. Yet, as time went on and other events occurred, they began to doubt the albatross' value and even blame on the albatross some negative occurrences.

Finally, the mariner shoots the albatross.

Historically, Christians have suffered similar experiences. Thus the Apostle Paul says:

36 As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. (Romans 8:36 [The Holy Bible {KJV}]).

Christians must remember that we are in a world that does not know how to love (and without the Love of Jesus Christ, will never know how to love).

Jesus said they hated him without a cause (John 15:25).

Love is unconditional. Let us love. Let us teach others to love (Titus 2:4).

Let us remember that God loves us. Coleridge, even in his fiction, embraces the concept of a spirit loving the lover that was killed in spite of its love. He says it this way:

"The spirit who bideth by himself
In the land of mist and snow
He loved the bird that loved the man
Who shot him with his bow."

Though Coleridge's theology may be somewhat defective, his writing instrument reaches out and grips my heart with the words, "He loved the bird that loved the man Who shot him with his bow".

Christians are lovers sent by God.

Coleridge fully escapes the realm of fiction when he observes:

"He prayeth best, who lovest best
All things both great and small;
For the dear God who loveth us,
He made and loveth all"

As Christians, we live our "love reality" every second, every minute, every hour, every day. That's the way it is, that's the way it must be. We must love all, even those who don't know how to love. Without that reality we are nothing.

Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.
2 And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.
3 And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.
4 Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up.
5 Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil;
6 Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth;
7 Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.
8 Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away.
9 For we know in part, and we prophesy in part.
10 But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.
11 When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.
12 For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.
13 And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity. (1 Corinthians 13:1-13 [The Holy Bible {KJV}])