Inspirational author Carol Round writes encouragingly …
‘I was hungry and you fed me, I was thirsty and you gave me a drink, I was homeless and you gave me a room, I was shivering and you gave me clothes, I was sick and you stopped to visit, I was in prison and you came to me’ (Matthew 25:35-36 Msge).
If you were asked to describe true love, how would you answer? Look up the synonyms for love in a thesaurus and you’ll find the following words close in meaning: affection, appreciation, devotion, emotion, fondness and friendship, along with several others.
But these are ‘our’ words, our explanations.
I like the definition for love found in God’s word: ‘Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails’ (1 Corinthians 13:4-8a).
From a secular viewpoint, love is often associated with the physical aspects of a relationship and the expression of that love through gifts such as the flowers and cards popular on Valentine’s Day, birthdays and special occasions. While there’s nothing wrong with these things, from a biblical perspective, true love is found in the spiritual.
True love is not just between a man and a woman but is found in all of our relationships when we seek a higher calling.
Although we don’t usually associate Jesus’ words to his disciples in Matthew 25:34-36 with love, I think it’s an example of the calling we have on our lives if we seek to love our fellow man, even our enemies.
As Christians, we are to be God’s representatives to the world. He tells us plainly in Micah 6:8: ‘And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.’
Light bearers in a dark world
If we don’t love, how can we, as Christians, be the light he calls us to be in the world?
I like the Message Bible version of Matthew 5:14-16: Jesus said, ‘Here’s another way to put it: You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colours in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill’ (v14).
‘If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I’m putting you on a light stand. Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand-shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven’ (v15-16).
When we reach out to others, even strangers, we are witnesses to his great love. When we provide for the physical needs as well as the spiritual needs of others, we become his hands and feet. Isn’t that the definition of true love?
Christians should extend love to all!
Proverbs 10:12 warns that ‘Hatred stirs up dissension, but love covers over all wrongs.’
In a recent morning devotional, the writer shared about the loss of his 17-year-old grandson, the fatal victim of a robbery. Commenting on his grandson, the grandfather said, ‘We had recently attended his high school graduation, and he planned to enter college in the fall. He was a handsome, loving and talented young man. Now, suddenly, he was gone.’
My heart went out to him and his family. I can’t imagine the pain they’ve experienced. The writer continued, ‘The senseless murder of our grandson was not part of God’s plan.
‘What’ I wondered, ‘led the killers to tear a hole in the glory of God’s world?’ The only answer that came to me was that evil had taken root in their lives because love was not there to crowd it out.’
As I pondered this thought, I had to agree. If someone never experiences the love of a parent, a kind neighbour, a compassionate schoolteacher, a loving church family or even the kindness of a stranger, how do they understand the love of Christ? As the writer above said in his devotional, ‘Many people who commit crimes against their neighbours have not experienced God’s love through their interactions with others. Much of the violence in life can be prevented if we Christians extend love to all people.’
All people – even the ones whom we’d rather avoid? The ones that rub us the wrong way or slyly insult us…do we have to love them too? Yes, according to Jesus, even the ones who annoy us, step on our toes, invade our personal space or whose personal habits cause us to turn up our nose in disgust.
Love, not like
In Mark 12:31, Jesus tells us to ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ He didn’t say ‘like’ them. He told us to ‘love’ them, even the least of these.
Several times a month I work at our church’s food pantry, bagging groceries for those in need. Our Good Sam Ministry now serves approximately 1,000 people a month. It has grown exponentially since I started serving in 2008. While it might be tempting to judge some of the ‘least of these,’ we don’t know their story.
As I have become less judgmental and more loving, I have learned how far a hug and a prayer go toward helping those who seek help. And you know what? I feel loved in return.
Jesus understood two important truths we must remember:
- Everyone is created in God’s image. Our heavenly Father chooses to love each of his children.
- Because we’re all sinners, we’re unlovable – yet Romans 5:8 says, ‘But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.’
Pastor and theologian Timothy Keller said, ‘If we know we are sinners saved by grace alone, we will be both open and generous to the outcasts and the unlovely.’
If God can love us, surely we can responsibly love those around us.
Carol Round follows her passion of using her writing and speaking abilities to inspire others. Recommended: Journaling with Jesus: How to draw closer to God and Nana’s 3 Jars: Giving Generously (See Resources). Links: http://www.amazon.ca/Nanas-3-Jars-Giving-Generously/dp/0692280197 / firstname.lastname@example.org / www.carolaround.com / www.assistnews.net