Listen: Chris Witts presents Morning Devotions.
There is an amazing scene at the end of the 1996 movie Marvin’s Room. Bessie, played by Diane Keaton, has cared for her ill father and her aunt for 20 years. After learning that she has leukaemia, she receives a visit from her estranged sister Lee, played by Meryl Streep.
Bessie tells Lee, “I’ve been lucky to have had so much love in my life.” Lee says yes, her father and her aunt really do love her. Bessie seems taken aback for a moment. Her sister doesn’t understand. Bessie doesn’t mean she’s lucky to be loved. She means she is lucky to have had so much love to give to others.
True Love Never Runs Out
Loving others has much to commend itself. Maybe when you were in primary school your teacher said: Look at the sun. It rises each day and shines above us, it gives us light, energy, it helps the plants grow and produce oxygen for us to breathe. It gives without getting anything back in return. And yet it never runs out of sunshine. As we get older, we think we must look after ‘number one’—myself at all costs. But true love is like the sunshine—it never runs out.
Lucky to love. What an amazing perspective. How is it possible to really love another person? It can be extremely difficult at times. A common phrase to refer to those people that we consistently find ourselves challenged to love is ‘extra-grace required’ people. But even people we generally like can sometimes be difficult to love—they get on our nerves and seem unpredictable.
Another reason it can be difficult for us to love others is that we sometimes misunderstand what true love is. We tend to think of love as primarily an emotional response. The problem is that we cannot always control our emotions. We can certainly control what we do because of the emotions, but too often the emotions themselves just happen. But the kind of love God calls us to have for others is the same kind that he has for us. It is agape love, the essence of which is sacrifice. God’s love for us is a sacrificial love, the kind that sent him to the cross for our sins.
Christian Sacrificial Love
Loving others is difficult because they are human and we are human. But in this difficulty we come to better appreciate the quality of God’s love for us. That’s why 1 Corinthians 13 is often read at weddings where a couple are seen to be ‘in love’:
Love is kind and patient,
never jealous, boastful,
proud or rude.
Love isn’t selfish
It doesn’t keep a record
of wrongs that others do. (1 Corinthians 13:4-5 – CEV)
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If we are full of God’s love, it will overflow to others. A Christian pastor received a note from a friend who wrote this:
Life is so good with God in the centre. Now problems turn into solutions, fear turns into hope, anger turns to love. I’m free in God and it’s the best place to be. I’ve learned to take risks and face challenges. I take no credit for any of this. To God be all the glory. He never let go. He took me from a bitter, unhappy, depressed alcoholic and gave me the wings of eagles, soaring to heights I never dreamed possible. He’s given me his words to share with other alcoholics; he’s restored my family, and has filled me with his love each day.
(To be continued in Loving Others – Part 2)