When it comes to romantic (EROS) love, I am no Dr. Ruth. I only know from very limited experience and hearing about other romantic relationships, that if a relationship is based solely on physical attraction and sexual activity, that relationship is doomed from the start. Even Christians are not exempt from broken relationships and failed marriages when “speed dating” is the norm. Two people have a better start at growing closer to each other when they first become friends and take the time to learn each other’s likes and dislikes, thoughts on important topics, the baseball team they cheer for, etc. Time well spent helps their relationship grow into a sincere caring friendship, in which they put the other person‘s needs before his/her own and by making Christ the center of their relationship. In this kind of relationship, one serves the other without wanting anything in return (AGAPE love). This kind of Christ-centered relationship has better “roots” to grow deeper and even last “until death do us part.”
I will be so happy when Valentine’s Day is over and the stupid commercials STOP! One commercial in particular advertises a four-foot stuffed Teddy Bear as must gift for “your sweetheart.” As if a four-foot stuffed Teddy Bear isn’t kinky enough, the commercial announcer guy says that the $100.00 gift “will be well worth it.” Give me a break! The commercial is promoting this giant Teddy Bear as a sure fire way to get what every red-blooded American male wants. This is so not like what God wants a relationship to be based on. God’s way is not “pay back,” but an Agape love that is giving, self-sacrificial and deep. For instance:
“Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates His own [Agape] love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:7-8).
“Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with God’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality” (Romans 12:9-13).
“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should not only look at your own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Philippians 2:3-4).
“Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each one should use whatever gifts he has received to serve others, faithfully administrating God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen” (I Peter 4:8-11).
“A man’s wisdom gives him patience; it is to his glory to overlook an offense” (Proverbs 19:11).
It is safe to say that not many of us will be called to physically die for a friend or spouse, but Jesus does say to all His disciples (friends), “If anyone would come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me” (Luke 9:23). I believe Jesus calls us to deny ourselves by putting others first, before our own wants, desires and needs, in order to demonstrate Christ’s Agape love to the ones we love. How does this look? Let’s go to the “Love Chapter/Manual,” I Corinthians 13, and I will share the areas in my life God is working on:
“Love is patient” (v. 4a):
What does God want me to do when a friend is telling me a story for the umpteenth time? God wants me to patiently listen. This is hard for me, but God’s love is patient. I am not going anywhere and my friend seems to enjoy sharing that story. The same goes when I am given unsolicited advice. It is so hard for me to respond by saying something like, “Thanks for the tip,” but that is what God is teaching me to do. I am so thankful that God is patient with me!
“…love is kind” (v.4b):
What does God want me to do when a waiter or waitress does not want to talk to me and deal with my cerebral palsied speech? Instead, the server asks the person I’m with what I would like to eat. God wants me to handle the situation in a kind way. Perhaps, I can ask him/her, “What is your name?” Then, I can kindly say, “(Mike or Molly), this is what I want to eat” and point to the item on the menu, to help them not have to deal with my speech. I could also lighten-up the situation by jokingly say, “I‘m in charge of your tip.” To be kind when my natural reaction is to throw up the “DISRESPECTED” card is not easy for me, but God’s love is kind. I am so grateful that God is kind to me.
“…It does not envy” (v. 4c):
When a friend talks about having something I wished I would have or be able to do ( a husband or go on a vacation or to be able to ride a bike or have box seats to a RED SOX game), God wants me to be happy for my friend and share in his/her joy. But, depending on my emotional state, this is not my first response. Instead, I ask God, “Why not me too?” When the Lord helps me to finally turn my focus away from the things I don’t have and focus on how much God has blessed me, I can be happy and share in my friend‘s joy. This is not very easy, but God is teaching me that real love is not envious.
“…it does not boast” (v. 4d)
When I do something nice for someone, I should not boast about it. It should only be between God and the person and me. As Jesus said to His disciples, “But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing. So that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, Who sees what is done in secret will reward you“(Matthew 6:3-4). Doing something to help someone because God’s love put it in my heart to do, does not have to be known by others. If I talk about what I did for someone, my boasting will not be rewarded by God. Boasting has no place in God’s love.
“…it is not proud” (v. 4e)
It would be easy for me to be proud of my academic accomplishments and rest in my laurels and be satisfied with my past achievements. But God is not finished with the work He is doing in me. He wants me to grow in my love for Him and for my brothers and sisters in Christ. If I boast at all, it should be about what Jesus has done for me: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Ephesians 2:8-10). God’s love is not proud of self, but proud of what Christ has done and continues to do for me and through me. I will always be a student of His Word because I have a long way to go and need much more “refining” before God is finished with me.
“It is not rude” (v. 5a):
When people are rude to me and are condescending to me, I should not be rude to them, but instead pray for them. “Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends of you, live at peace with everyone. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:17-18, 21). Jesus teaches, “…Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you…” (Matthew 5:44). This is very hard to do in my humanness, but with God’s love and the power of the Holy Spirit, I am learning how to pray for those who are rude to me. Many do not even realize that they are being rude.
“…it is not self-seeking” (v. 5b):
God’s love does not ask, “What’s in it for me?” but, “How can I help you?”. God’s love is not self-seeking.
My desire is to be a person who can help, a person who can listen, and a person who is known for her godly love. I do not want to be known as someone who uses people for her own benefit.
“…it is not easily angered” (v.5c):
When someone does something “stupid” or treats me as though I am a two-year-old, and especially when I know I am way more intelligent than he/she is, my natural reaction is anger and outrage. This does not help the situation nor does it bring glory to God. Instead, God’s love tells me to “overlook an offense” (Proverbs 19:11) and maybe talk to the person at another time when I am not angry. Ephesians 4:25-26 teaches, “Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body. ‘In your anger do not sin” [Psalm 4:4]: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.” I remember a time when I was eating lunch at a friend’s house and one of her friends stopped by. She and I had never met before. Yet, she looked at me and said, “Eating again!?” Obviously, she was teasing and thought I was intellectually limited. I answered calmly, “It’s lunch time,” but I was seething inside. I only mention this because this person and I became very good friends. She is one of my “Scrabble buddies.” When she realized her “mistake” later on, she apologized to me without me having to talk to her about it. If people would just take a little time to listen and talk with physically disabled people, they would quickly realize that our intellect cannot be measured by whether or not we walk or how we walk or by the difficulty of our speech or by our facial grimaces or by our herky-jerky movements or by any other physical characteristic, but by who we are on the inside. If they did take a little time and effort to get to know us, they will discover that we do have a good head on our shoulders. But, even when they don’t, God’s love tells me to not be easily angered. If I had let my anger get the best of me and really blasted my now friend for her preconceived ideas about who I was, I wonder if we would have become friends.
“…it keeps no record of wrongs” (v. 5d):
God’s love tells me to forgive and forget – to wipe the slate clean when a person wrongs me, just as Christ has wiped my slate clean of my many sins. This means that I never bringing IT up again. “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 whatever grievance you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. It is very difficult to forgive some offenses, but God’s forgiveness freely given to me and His love for me make it possible for me to forgive and love others.
“Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth” (v. 6.):
God’s love tells me not to delight in another’s misfortune, even though I think he/she deserves what he/she gets because of the wrongs committed against me. Instead, God’s love tells me to rejoice when he/she repents and turns to God. This is what God wants me to pray for. God’s love helps me to rejoice when people who have wronged me accept God’s Truth. They are no longer my enemy, but my brother/sister in Christ.
“…It always protects” (v. 7a):
God’s love teaches me to protect others; to protect their reputations and to keep what happens between us just between them and me. And, if someone says something about someone that is not true, I need to set the record straight. And even if something is true, I need to ask, “Would he/she want you to tell this to others?” Ephesians 4:29-31 instructs us, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with Whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” God’s love tells me not to talk about someone behind his/her back. Instead, “…whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is praiseworthy – think about such things” (Philippians 4:8).
“… always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres” (v. 7b):
God’s love teaches me to never give up on those I love. God’s love teaches me to trust Him with the people I love. I cannot change them, but He can. With God there is always hope. “And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out His love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, Whom He has given us” (Romans 5:2b-5). God promises to reward our perseverance: “This calls for patient endurance on the part of the saints who obey God’s commandments and remain faithful to Jesus. Then I heard a Voice from heaven say, ‘Write: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.’ ‘Yes,’ says the Spirit, ‘they will rest from their labor, for their deeds will follow them’” (Revelation 14:12-13). Sometimes, we will see the fruit of our perseverance and prayers for those we love. But, it will be when we finally go to our heavenly rest, when we will fully see the extent of what our prayers have accomplished in those we love. So, let us never give up on our loved ones, but persevere in our love and prayers for them.
“…LOVE NEVER FAILS” (v. 8a)
Can you imagine what the world would be like if those who call themselves “Christians” would not be known for what they hate, but be known for how they love – The I Corinthians 13:4-8a kind of love?! It is never too late to start.
HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY. May God’s Love be with us today and forever. Amen
(I was not able to send out a post yesterday because I took time to watch the beautiful snow falling outside my living room picture window. There was also an Olympic hockey game going on, with the U.S.A. winning 7 to 1. I ENJOY (not love) watching the snow, and I also ENJOY (not love) watching Olympic hockey. I also ENJOY listening to Mike Emrick, the voice of hockey, calling the game. Hockey in the morning, a delicious mug of hot coffee, with snow falling outside – All was good in Lydia’s world. I will be taking in the rest of the Olympics, without any blogging interruptions, so ENJOY Valentine’s Day and the time off from reading long posts. I did do a few short ones, so I am improving.
My idea of a perfect Valentine’s gift is already shaped in a heart (kind of).