Listen: Chris Witts presents Morning Devotions.
We all know that love often means saying No as often as it means saying Yes, that love sometimes means speaking a stern word before we offer the reconciling hug. Love sometimes means putting your foot down, sometimes means demanding a change in behaviour, love sometimes means standing up and speaking the truth, even when the truth is painful to the other person.
If you love them you will say your piece—hopefully with a loving and kind heart. But what’s amazing is that despite not liking someone, loving them is still an option. How? By taking on board what the Bible says about love. In 1 John 4 (NRSV) in the New Testament it says, “God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God,” and “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear;” and “Those who say, ‘I love God,’ and hate their brothers or sisters are liars; for those who do not love a brother or sister whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen.”
Praying for them is really still an option. Trying to see the world from their point of view is really still an option. But it can only be done effectively when you allow Jesus Christ to be your Saviour. He will help you love that person who drives you mad.
Love is messy and confusing. It’s part of the human experience—we are wired to desire and value love. What is genuine love supposed to look like? Love is heavily rooted in the character of God. We can love others, and show it through our actions, because God loved us first. God loves you more than you can imagine. And he loves you unconditionally, regardless of your behaviour or what you’ve done. It simple means that because God loves you, you need to love others.
There’s power in love
American Bishop Michael Curry startled the world with his words at the royal wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle:
“Oh there’s power – power in love. Not just in its romantic forms, but any form, any shape of love. There’s a certain sense in which when you are loved, and you know it, when someone cares for you, and you know it, when you love and you show it – it actually feels right. There’s something right about it.”
What is the most important thing in your life? But Michael Curry has answered my question: love. There’s a saying: The most important things in life are not things. That is so true! I am sure that many of us would name our closest loving relationships as the ‘things’ which are most important to us. Did you ever wonder where love comes from? We do admire the love a mother has for her child, or a man for his wife. Most of us agree love is the most beautiful thing in the world. It comes from God because God is love, and his love has been shed in the world through his Son Jesus Christ.
The word ‘love’ is one of the most powerful words in any language. When we think about music, there’s a whole category of songs that we call ‘love songs’. You could probably tell me one that is your favourite—there are so many. But in Part 1, I was talking about Tina Turner’s 1984 hit, “What’s Love Got to Do with It?” I quite like it. The words ask:
What’s love got to do, got to do with it
What’s love but a second hand emotion
What’s love got to do, got to do with it
Who needs a heart when a heart can be broken.
Songs about love are really not about love at all, but rather about affection, longing, goose-bumpy types of emotional thrills at the thought of someone who means a lot to us. This love runs hot, it runs cold, it runs lukewarm. It brings tears of joy, tears of depression, screams of excitement and hollers of disappointment.
There was a very powerful photo printed in a newspaper in November 2013. It showed a man—no-one knew his name—horribly disfigured and suffering from the rare genetic disorder of neurofibromatosis, waiting in line to see Pope Francis. When it was his turn, he came and knelt in front of Francis and buried his head in the Pope’s robes while the Pope gently laid his hand upon the man’s head. The image instantly went viral over social media and news websites. Later, the Pope commented on Twitter: “True charity requires courage. Let us overcome the fear of getting our hands dirty so as to help those in need.” That is true love—getting your hands dirty and serving others.
Why did Christianity grow so quickly in the early centuries? Was it because faith in Christ resulted in great riches? Hardly—while there were believers who had wealth, most were simple labourers who lived from hand-to-mouth. Was it because faith in Christ guaranteed security and protection in a hostile world? No—there were times even when Christians were considered enemies of the state and were thrown to the lions.
So why did Christianity spread like wildfire? It was love! One example was that it became a tradition for Christians to abstain from their meals together. Then, they would put together the money saved to give food to the poor, widows and orphans. They would care for the disabled and for lepers, for prostitutes and slaves. Love in action. That’s what loves got to do with it—love has everything to do with it.
Love is not just an emotional feeling—it’s often about hard work. We possess a superficial view of love that does not reveal its true depth. What gets defined as ‘love’ today ends up having more to do with What can I get out of it? and What will you give me? When people often enter into relationships, there is a self-centredness that pervades.
But the Bible message is different—John 3:16 (NIV) says, “God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son”. This gift wasn’t free—not for God. For the recipient, us, yes, it’s free. But when you give someone a gift, you either have to make it or buy it. You have to work for it. The gift of God’s love came with a lot of hard work.
The Good Samaritan didn’t just spend time with the beaten up man—he spent effort. It took work to apply those bandages and that oil. He had to get some blood on his hands and his clothes. He had to lift that man and walk alongside of him while he took him to the inn. Hard work—love has to be tough sometimes.