Just do this one thing.
In a few days, I get to see my aunt and uncle in Oakley, California, who are 94 and 96 years of age. Aunt Ruth and Uncle Stoney have a rich legacy of farming, family, friends and faith in Almighty God. They have been married for 77 years, have 28 great grandchildren - can you imagine? They are a paragon of love. On one of my last visits, we were playing Dominoes (yes, they are still that sharp!), and I took advantage of our alone time and asked them some questions which launched discussion I will never, ever forget. 'What do you think matters most in life?' Now understand that even the local high school gymnasium bears their last name; they are highly-respected, much-loved people. Uncle Stoney quietly pondered, then rubbed his chin. "Love." 'Ah, Chris, you know we've made our mistakes - even with our kids... (five) but nothing matters more than love." There it was. Love shared across the very competitive Domino table, love in and out of the almond orchards and sheds, love in spite of family trials and of course, in the sharing of many joys.
I am so moved by the most masculine of men in the New Testament, Paul, talking about sharing in the love of fellow Christians. And of course, the only thing Paul knew about true love came from Jesus.
In just two sentences, following emotionally charged debates, Jesus sums up the priority of the Christian religion. Here it is: "Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: "Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?"
Jesus replied: "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments." Matthew 22.34-40
Interpretation, please. The apostle John wrote, "Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God."1
After all, love is why God created us in the first place. God did not create us out of need. He created us out of his love. God, who needs nothing, loves into existence wholly superfluous creatures in order that he may love and perfect them.2 Hey Creature! That's you, that's me.
'What does love look like? It has the hands to help others. It has the feet to hasten to the poor and needy. It has eyes to see misery and want. It has the ears to hear the sighs and sorrows of men. That is what love looks like.'3
And again, dear Paul, "Now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love.4
We think that if we just had more faith, we would be great Christians, and perhaps we would. And for sure, our Christian lives without hope would render us impotent, but love ... without it, we are useless.
Note that all the Christian graces will endure, even though 'faith will become sight and hope will be fulfilled.' But the greatest of these graces is love; because when you love someone, you will trust him and will always be anticipating new joys. Faith, hope, and love go together, but it is love that energizes faith and hope.5 And interestingly enough, this is why feeding our understanding of God's love for us is so critical-'you will trust him to the degree that you know you are loved by him.'6 Oh yes, so true. You will trust the Lover of your soul to the degree that you know that you are loved by him, and that - well, that love changes everything.
Christian, you and I are meant for love and to love.
Find yourself love challenged, do you? Because I gotta' be honest - I know some of you do.
Find it difficult to love those who are so different than you?
Find it difficult to feel compassion for those who are 'un-lovely'?
Ask God to increase your love, and make you a person who daily prioritizes loving God first, and then loving others. Go ahead . . . ask him. Because love is what it's all about.
Let's you and I get up each day and endeavor to love God and love others.
1 - 1 John 4.7
2 - John Ortberg - Love Beyond Reason; C.S. Lewis - The Four Loves
3 - St. Augustine
4 - 1 Corinthians 13.13
5 - Warren Wiersbe, NT Commentary
6 - Brennan Manning, Ruthless Trust