“My little children, let us not love with word or with tongue (only), but in deed and in truth.” (I John 3:18)
When our younger son was eleven, he was going through a difficult time for some reason. One day he sat in his room, alone, quiet, deep in thought. Suddenly, he got up and came into the kitchen where his mother was preparing dinner.
“Mom,” he said, “I’ll bet you can’t tell me ten things you like about me.”
Margaret thought, “Ten! Most people would have said one!” As she began reciting the qualities she treasured most about this beloved child–a sharp mind, his sweet personality, etc.–she kept sending up a panicky prayer, “O Lord, please help me to think of ten!”
She did, he gave her a big hug, and then went on with his day.
We all need a little reinforcing now and then. Most do not verbalize the need though, but squelch the sensation and suffer through the moment. I wonder if we don’t all lose something as a result: the child in us missing out on the loving affirmation and those around us bypassing the opportunity to make a lasting difference.
Remedy: Make a constant practice of telling those big in your life how special they are.
Christian author Tony Campolo says husbands can put new life into their marriages by following two simple rules:
1) Make a list of 10 qualities you admire about your wife. Then tell her.
2) Each night for a month, list 10 things you can do the next day to show your love for her. Then do them.
I said they were simple, not that they are easy. (I’m betting most husbands are like me and could do the first in two minutes, but would have a hard time with the second for even a few days. But an entire month!?)
What’s this all about?
It’s about love–the greatest force in the universe, the most widespread and deepest need of humanity, the most controversial and abused thing in all of life.
1) We all crave love and a sense of significance. This drive is not sinful either, so let’s not dismiss it too readily. The God who is love itself (I John 4:8) has built us so that we want to give love, need to be loved, and respond when we are loved.
2) When we are unloved, something within us shrivels up, wilts, and dies, never to be completely revived when (and if!) someone turns upon us the sunshine of their love. Unloved children tend to grow into incomplete and maladjusted adults.
3) The unmet and unquenched craving for love drives people to do extreme things, most of them bad. They have affairs, visit strip clubs, attach themselves to manipulative people, lose themselves in trashy novels, and allow themselves to be used, misused, and abused. They engage in endless affairs or serial marriages. They comb bars and clubs as well as websites and blogs and Facebook pages in search of love. It’s the saddest thing.
4) The craving for love provides a clear field for evil people to ply their trade. They become fluent in the language of love and master the tricks which needy people will respond to, then go forth into the world to work their magic. Behind them, they leave a trail of broken lives.
5) When a Christlike one enters to love without being recompensed, to give for no other reason than because it is His nature to give and serve and help and bless, the world is so screwed up and corrupted that it looks askance at Him. He must have an ulterior motive, must be up to something sinister.
You will recall the world crucified the Original Lover. Ever since, His followers who go forth to love and give and serve are often suspect until they prove themselves to be pure and selfless like Him. Even then, many never trust them. It’s a twisted world.
6) From time to time, charlatans infiltrate His followers in order to manipulate and abuse the unsuspecting. The family of Christ–the church, both local and throughout the world–often trusts too easily, chooses leaders unthinkingly, and aids and abets the perpetrators of misery. In some branches of the Lord’s earthly kingdom, priests have taken advantage of children, ruining their lives in the name of love. In other areas, preachers have preyed upon troubled women, destroying their marriages and blackening the Name of Jesus.
7) The enemy sends forth agents to call attention to the criminals among us who hurt and destroy in the Name of Jesus in order to smear His reputation and dissuade the needy from ever looking toward Him for anything. They can be eloquent and persuasive. Souls go on their downward way to hell because some who claimed to be following Jesus abused their fellow pilgrims.
8) The process goes on and on, unabated. Each new generation comes of age looking for love, needing love, and unless tampered with, interested in giving love. In many cases, empty people find one another and clutch to each other in the vain hope that the other will meet their needs and fill their voids. Often, they devour each other without satisfaction and–zombies come to mind here–turn to others in their desperate hunger to fill the emptiness. It’s all downhill from there.
9) Still, the hope of mankind is the Original Lover and His people who go forth to love–to give love, to do loving deeds, to bless and pray and serve and give, all in His name, and all without asking for anything in return. Over and over in the Holy Scriptures, the Lord Jesus told His followers things like…
“But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be (called) sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men.” (Luke 6:35)
“But when you give a party, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed since they do not have the means to repay you; for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.” (Luke 14:13-14)
10) Loving others is risky business. Telling them what you like about them makes them wonder what you are up to and what you want from them. They are so attuned to the manipulators of our society, our churches must learn to give without expecting anything in return–not even their attendance, and not appreciation or conversions. Only when we give as God gives will we be loving as He has loved us. “God demonstrated His own love toward us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).
In the first text above–I John 3:18–I did something you might have noticed. By inserting (only) into the verse, it reads “let us not love with word or with tongue (only) but in deed and in truth.” We did that because that is the point the Apostle John–and the Holy Spirit through him–is making. There is nothing wrong and everything right with telling people you love them, even ten things you like about them.
Just don’t stop there.
After all, it is in the showing of your love that you truly demonstrate Christ. It is in seeing true Christlike love that their hearts are melted, the barriers are taken down, and their lives are transformed.
“We love because He first loved us.
If someone says, ‘I love God,’ but hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen.
And this commandment we have from Him, that the one who loves God should love his brother also.” (I John 4:19-21)