Where Love Is, God Is

I came across a short story by Count Lev Nikolayevich Tolstoy. It is about Martin Avdéiteh, a cobbler.

As he aged, Martin suffered greatly in this life. All his children died in infancy except one son, his wife died young, and then his beloved only son, Kapitón, fell ill and passed away.

Martin fell into a great depression. Despair and sorrow became his daily companions.

When a person has suffered such loss, depression is a natural consequence. One wonders, “why am I still alive? Is this all there is to this life — to love and grieve? To face a life of loneliness in the declining years?”

One day, Martin encountered a holy man who offered advice to the aging cobbler. Martin took the advice and began reading the Gospels.

Like many people in despair, Martin wanted solace. As most people seek solace, they believe their god will visit them with divine relief.

So it was with Martin. He believed that Jesus would come to his basement workshop.

He eagerly waited and watched. What he saw from his basement window was an old gentleman, perhaps a veteran, named Stepániteh, sweeping the sidewalk. He looked cold and weary.

Martin invited him into his shop where he had his samovar (boiling pot) set for tea. He and Stepániteh enjoyed their tea as they talked.

There is nothing like a warm cup of tea on a winter day. When it is shared with someone, the day becomes brighter.

After Stepániteh went back to his sweeping, Martin continued working and glancing out the window for Jesus. Many people passed, dressed in fine boots and shoes, but as Martin watched, he saw a poorly dressed young woman and her baby struggling in the cold.

He invited her in to his shop. He fed her what he had prepared for himself: cabbage soup and bread. He gave her an old coat and 20 copecks (one fifth of a ruble) to retrieve her shawl, which she had pawned.

It was near nightfall and still — Jesus had not come. Martin pondered. Out of his window he saw a market woman with her apple basket and a bag of wood chips scolding a young boy.

Rushing out to the street, he intervened with the woman to forgive the boy who had snatched an apple from her basket. After a long conversation about “the scamps” of the town being “spoiled,” Martin offered to pay for the apple, which he then gave to the boy.

The woman forgave the boy. In turn, the boy offered to carry her bag of wood chips to her house.

Martin returned to his shop. As night fell, he wondered why Jesus had not come. Like a revelation, he saw Stepániteh, the young woman and her baby and, of course, the apple woman and the young scamp emerge from the shadows of his shop.

Then Martin realized that what had happened that day was written in Matthew 25.

35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me as a guest,

36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you cared for me, I was in prison and you came to me.’

37 Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink?

38 And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you as a guest or naked and clothe you?

39 And when did we see you sick or in prison and come to you?’

40 And the king will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, in as much as you did it to one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did it to me.’

Matthew 25, Lexham English Bible (LEB)

As we watch out our basement windows at the passing scene of humanity, touching another soul with generosity is the greatest gift. It is magic to bring joy to a human being who is thirsting for a word of encouragement or a promise of hope.

A cup of tea from the samovar and a warm bowl of cabbage soup can feed many. Perhaps those many may be the ones next door, down the street, or family members who need just a word of warmth as they face the coldness of life.

There are many lonely people out there. Taking a moment to observe, to listen, and to interact on behalf of another sums up Matthew 25.

G.D. Williams has worked in Adventist higher education for 30+ years and is happily counting down to retirement. His other pursuits include photography, genealogy, collecting antique books, and working on his old farmhouse. The essay above is a summary and reflection of Tolstoy’s 1885 story, “Where Love Is, God Is.”

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This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/7911
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What a wonderful story, and reminder, to look outside ourselves to others in need. We all have hurts and tragedies (some more than others), but we can reach out to whoever needs love and attention, in whatever form that may take. The soul of the giver and receiver are both fed, and filled.

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It’s a nice story. See http://www.online-literature.com/tolstoy/2892/.

Please remember when you’re quick to point out sin in another and hold them to “but the Bible says”, that perhaps they are someone like the old cobbler met who needs your friendship and encouragement more than for you to point out their sin! I see the life of the old cobbler as reflecting the model of Jesus.

I’m saddened how often this forum includes a lot of discussion of how wrong someone is, for instance the lesbian woman recently baptized at the Chico, CA church or the gay couple wanting to continue attending church with their child. What about a young woman with a child who, after your investigation you learn has never been married? Or someone who chooses to drink wine in the privacy of their home? Or someone who doesn’t eat the way you think they should?

What would the cobbler have done? What would Jesus do?

What does the world and the church need most? Shining a spotlight to determine how wrong someone else is, or a demonstration of generous compassion, leaving the criticism and judging to the Lord who commanded us to leave the judging to Him.

Perhaps clues are found in the story of the Shepherd seeking the one lost sheep or the father who threw a feast when his prodigal son returned home (remember the story doesn’t say the father determined how well the son conformed before embracing him).

Yes, Matthew 25 explains it well! Sadly it seems to be often ignored. Will Jesus judge us most for ignoring a sin in someone else, or showing them unqualified love and compassion?

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Tolstoy, one of literature’s supreme story tellers, tells a touching and tender tale, where MISERY prevails: not just in the cobbler’s grief sticken heart, but in the three destitutes who inhabit his sidewalk.

Tolstoy knew whereof he wrote, since misery, destitution and privation were ubiquitous in czarist Russia. Fifty years later, in Stalinist Russia, the misery multiplied in the the mass murders, the starvation, the Gulags.

Then came the Second World War with the most lethal siege in human history, as the Nazis blockaded Leningrad for 892 days, resulting in mass starvation for multitudes.

Many froze to death in their unheated houses! Helen Dunsmore’s monumental masterpiece, THE SIEGE, is an epic, elegant, stark and horrifying account of this atrocity. ( $9.95 from AMAZON).

Now, many decades after Tolstoy penned his sad, sorrowful story,
Christ has still not come, and misery abounds in the Syrian refugee camps, the famine in Somalia, the Zika babies, the Ebola plagues. the ISIS beheadings, the sordid slums of the third world, ad infinitum.

Where Love is God is, rings HOLLOW, for a truly loving God would surely expedite His Second Coming to overcome the overwhelming, omnipresent, ominous overlay of MISERY that girdles our planet

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Oh, That He would come before His time, and we be not ready. The delay is for us. Thank God, that He delayed His coming. I still have friends and love ones that must come to know Jesus as Lord. But this story is best lived out in the life of a group of young people . Please look up , Raising Men Lawn Care Service . In this charity run by young people the love of Jesus is revealed .This is a must see. Please tell your friends. Show it to your children. Young people must answer the call to Community Service. Love thy neighbor.

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Most of us have a difficult time on Sabbath understanding what it means to worship and praise. We think it means how we do a ritual service or how we sing.
Similarly, we often think love means sympathy. We cluck and say we feel so bad for someone else but we still ignore those who suffer. The lonely, the poor, the insane, the angry-they’re too much for most of us and we miss Jesus and His ministry and our chance to really be devout.
In the final days, humans will be lovers of self and lovers of money but will not have love for one another.

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The prodigal has much different and deeper meanings than the lost coin or the lost sheep. The coin is simply lost via carelessness. The sheep is lost because it is dumb. The prodigal has defiance, rebellion and a willful separation from his father’s rules. The father does not prevent the severing of the relationship. The father does not travel into the city; he waits at his home, under his rules, on his terms.
Repentance, remorse, restitution are completely the responsibility of the rebel, not the father. He keeps his feelings in check, he will not compromise his principles, his godly legacy, his God-honoring heritage. He will not risk becomming a moving part in the games that his son is engaging in. It must be tearing his heart to pieces, but he has not come this far by compromising. [quote=“plobdell3, post:4, topic:13072”]
when his prodigal son returned home
[/quote]
That is right. After the rebellion had run its full course all the way to a contrite spirit. And after he had “come to his senses” and after working out a sincere apology to his loving, honorable father. The story definitely lets the reader know that the son had conformed before the embrace. What a father! He must have watched for his boy every day. What forgiveness and restoration and shameless affection (I love the image I have of a noble, dignified old man running to his shabby son). Unbridled joy, because his son was spiritually dead for the duration of his deep rebellion. And it must have entered the old man’s mind if he would even ever see him again, and low and behold! There he is at the end of the driveway!!! And shame on the older son for harboring resentment and for not being mindful of the precarious spiritual condition of his little brother.

This parable provides a beautiful paradigm of our Heavenly Father. So loving, so full of wisdom, so patient, so admirable, so tender. He is resolute when it comes to foundational truth, and He leaves repentance where it belongs; on the rebel’s shoulders.

Since you have applied this parable to the churches’ response towards gay couples, you need to preserve its integrity or it becomes a misapplication.

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Where to begin? The Prodigal travels to a “distant country,” not the “city” with the implication that the Father could easily locate him but refuses to do so. (Note the man whose pigs he ends up feeding is a “citizen” of that far country.) On the contrary, in each of these three parables something or someone is lost, and the protagonists’ longing and seeking for them represents God’s heart for us.

While the Prodigal is “still a long way off” (not the end of the driveway) the Father runs to meet, embrace and kiss him—before any confession. He isn’t even allowed to to finish his planned apology, as the Father orders he be regaled with the symbols of belonging and celebration: fine clothing, a ring, and feast.

An interpretation focusing on:
“his rules, his terms” and that "repentance, remorse, restitution are completely the responsibility of the rebel, not the father. He keeps his feelings in check, he will not compromise his principles, his godly legacy, his God-honoring heritage"
misrepresents the text. It takes the side of The Older Son, who thought in terms of rules, merit, and reward, rather than the unmerited love and forgiveness emphasized in this superlative lesson on divine grace.

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On judgment day, according to Matthew 25, God overlooks ignorance or disregard of the first 4 Ten Commandments—in favor of human kindness. He gives eternal reward not based on the adherence to church creeds such as the Trinity, baptism, Sabbath vs Sunday or Hebrew Scriptures vs the Koran—but in favor of compassion for others. The Sheep and Goats are not separated by religious faith or doctrine—but by caring for “the least of these.”

This parable should tell us something about the heart and soul of true religion. It tends not to be organized or found in lofty office buildings—but in quiet unpaid helpfulness. Perhaps true religion has always been underground.

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The story is As much about the elder brother, than the wayward younger brother. The Adventist Church, under the present administration is acting more like the Elder Brother. The final Word Is found in Scripture not the red books or the revised 28. How can a Judgment hour message Create such egotism.?

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Probably nearly 100% of the time in our lives we do not attempt to apply Christ words
to our lives. To the POWER that can be in our lives as we live them with our Neighbor,
in our Neighborhoods, in our Community [where ever they may be as we go about
our activities during the day – home, commuting to/from work, at work, shopping,
places of entertainment/relaxation].
Jesus said, The Kingdom Of God, of Heaven is NEAR [on Earth]. The Kingdom of
God, of Heaven, IS HERE!! [On Earth, NOT Heaven].
Our Daily Mantra IS to BE – "Thy Kingdom Come, Thy Will be DONE on Earth.
We are called by Christ, in his own words, to BRING the Kingdom by doing the DEEDS
of Heaven here on Earth.
And to promote and encourage others to take up the same Mantra in their lives and actions.
To Spread the Word – The Kingdom Of God is HERE!! And DO the WORKS of God.

The Looking for the 2nd Coming without doing the Work of Bringing the Kingdom of God on
Earth, is FALSE THEOLOGY.

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“This parable should tell us something about the heart and soul of true religion. It tends not to be organized or found in lofty office buildings—but in quiet unpaid helpfulness. Perhaps true religion has always been underground.”

Amen, amen…and amen. This is one of the most profound statements that you or anyone else on this site has ever said in the years I have been reading/participating. Thank-you.

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