Thanks to author Rachel Hauck for her post, Have I Loved Well?
With the stores already plastered in red and pink, it’s time to consider the meaning of love. I know the theological answers: God is love; God showed his love to us by sending Jesus; Jesus showed his love for us by dying on the cross. Love sacrifices.
What does this really mean? And do I know how to love well?
I know how to love happy. We all do. It’s natural to be kindhearted and giving with those who make us feel good and appreciate what we do for them. When we think of love, we think of joy. We think of the warm fuzzies we exchange with those we like to be around, you know, our friends and family.
But what does it mean to love well? To make love a pattern in our lives?
Here’s the secret (I think): love is not only in the large moments of life, it’s in the mundane. Yes, Christ’s love is seen in a large moment, but a look through the Gospels shows Jesus loving in the mundane, everyday moments. The small ways.
1. I love others by keeping my mouth shut when I’d rather sling a zinger.
2. I love others by doing the jobs they don’t want to do or can’t. (I’m thinking of diapers)
3. I love others by confessing sin to them. Ouch. Of course this requires discernment, but a timely confession to the right person can create a tight bond of love. I know this to be true.
4. I love others through honesty. Love doesn’t lie, even when it hurts.
5. I love others through sacrifice. Here’s this amorphous theological statement again, so let me explain. When I put aside my need for the sake of someone else, that’s love. Like when my four-year old wants to play chase again, and I don’t want to? Or when my six-year old needs me to help her practice the piano and I’d rather go for a walk? Or how about at work? What if your boss wants you to do something one way, and you want to do it another? Or if a friend comes into town and wants to have lunch with you–during your team’s football game?
6. I love others through telling them so or showing them. Words and hugs are the most obvious way to show love, right? But how often we hold back. For me, as an introvert, I can’t always express well how I feel about others, and I’m not openly affectionate. That said, when is God calling me to offer a word of encouragement?
7. I love others in the ways that come natural to me, through how God had made me. By this, I mean that I offer my gifts of music and writing for the blessing of others.
8. I love others by offering forgiveness, the benefit of the doubt, and grace. I’m thinking of my large church family here. When we relate to each other in the family of Christ, a large amount of grace is necessary. We love others when we let go of offenses, don’t assume the worst, and refrain from talking about others negatively. This is perhaps that hardest challenge of this list.
Have I left anything out? Certainly. The more I flesh out the ways I can love, the more I want to love in these ways. And in a generous manner. That means I need the Holy Spirit. I need to commit myself each morning to the Lord and his work in me. That means I need to dress my heart in red and pink and pretend it’s Valentine’s Day everyday. Which it is, according to God, whose expression of love is unparalleled and whose offering of that love to us never ceases.