[This is what real love is]
We may prefer to believe that we naturally understand love, however, this just isn’t true. Above all else the heart is deceitful. (Jeremiah 17:9) It doesn’t understand faithfulness: when the going gets tough the tough jump ship. It doesn’t think about anyone else: if mama ain’t happy, nobody’s happy; and it prefers to put it’s own desires above the needs of everyone else: you’ve gotta do what makes you happy, right? That’s not love. Our world has a tendency to prefer the following instead: “Do what feels good; If the love is gone, move on; How can it be wrong when it feels so right?” However, this isn’t the face of love. The example that Jesus set for us is the true face of love.
God’s love doesn’t fail and it isn’t selfish. Jesus’ endured all things, even to death on a cross. I can guarantee you that this didn’t feel good–at least physically. However, loving as Jesus loves does have a tendency to make the heart healthy and Joyful. As followers of Christ it’s His love that we aim to imitate. I still have plenty of room to grow myself, but thankfully, with time, patience, practice and most of all God’s great help, things do grow and change.
In my teenage years I was obsessed with love. (What teenage girl isn’t, right?) I’d spend countless hours pining over the idea of finding my own prince charming and writing love songs that reflected how I felt. One of those songs went like this: “If you love me now, then you’ll love me then because it can’t be love if there’s an end.” I may not be a songwriter, but I did get something right: love never ends. How did I know this? This is Biblical love! Technically speaking, I’m still obsessed with love; It’s my understanding, actions, and who I love that has changed some.
Even though I wasn’t raised in a home that knew God, I did have a strong understanding of commitment. This is likely because both my parents and my grandparents were committed to one another. I don’t doubt that their strong example influenced my understanding. Perhaps, I was also influenced by the old familiar fairytale ending that we hear as kids: “And they lived happily ever after.” This is what we strive for isn’t it? However, striving alone isn’t enough; we do need God’s guidance and help.
Unfortunately, fairy tales and nursery rhymes don’t tell us enough about the bumps along the way. Okay, so maybe we do have that brother and sister duo (Jack and Jill) as one of our shining examples: “Jack and Jill went up a hill to fetch a pail of water. Jack fell down and broke his crown and Jill came tumbling after.” Evidently, family mishaps do happen.
This nursery rhyme becomes even more telling when Jack goes to bed with a plastered head; his sister Jill comes in with a grin and is then whipped by their mother for causing Jack’s disaster. (What kind of nursery rhyme is this!? I’m about to break into my own rendition of “Can you feel the love tonight.”) Did Jill really cause the disaster? Was discipline deserved? Did their mother over react? Is it possible that Jill just found Jack’s plastered head quite the sight and couldn’t help but grin? There isn’t enough information here, but sadly this nursery rhyme isn’t a far cry from reality; when one stumbles others can quickly come tumbling after. Whether it’s romantic love, or the love of family and friends, we have plenty to learn about love.
I wrote the following poem 6 years into my walk with God. There’s one line which stands out to me now, much like a very sore Tom Thumb. I don’t know when I spotted it, but since then, It’s drivin’ me batty. One could say, there are bats in the belfry and this poem doesn’t ring true! (Uh, not my belfry. At least, I hope not.) See if you can spot the error.
Our Grandma’s Love
Our grandma’s love it seems to me
Is often served with cookies and tea
Her smile is bright, and her laughter endearing
Her stories of youth are always worth hearing
Our grandma’s love, it seems to me
Is open and warm, and always comes free
An example to all, that love has no binds
She is always so close in our hearts and our minds.
January 20, 2001
If “An example to all, that love has no binds.” doesn’t ring true to you either, then yes, you spotted my error. What I was likely trying to express here was that her love never felt restrictive, or maybe I meant that her love knew no bounds. Either way, I know that at this particular point in time I didn’t have a full understanding of the true power of love. After all, true love does indeed have binds.
Because my grandma was faithful to God, she was also faithful to her husband and her family: she loved my grandpa until death did them part, and when she was instructed by the Jehovah’s Witnesses to cut ties with her family who’d been disfellowshipped (my parents), she refused to do so. Last, but not least, when my uncle found himself in a rough place, she took him into her home and loved him as he was. At least one family member voiced discontent at this scenario, but my grandma had a clear understanding of love. I respected her for this. I’m not saying that she was perfect, but she was stubbornly faithful to both God and family.
The glaring error in my poem makes a good point. As Jesus set an example for all, we are to be an example to those around us also. What kind of example are we setting? If my grandma hadn’t been so stubbornly loyal, perhaps I’d have had another perspective to confuse my thinking. Perhaps I wouldn’t have understood love as being fully committed as I did when I wrote my song.
“For I [Jesus] have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you.” –John 13:15 (ESV)
“Do not let anyone treat you as if you are unimportant because you are young. Instead, be an example to the believers with your words, your actions, your love, your faith, and your pure life.” –1 Timothy 4:12 (NCV)
“In the same way, teach older women to be holy in their behavior, not speaking against others or enslaved to too much wine, but teaching what is good. Then they can teach the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be wise and pure, to be good workers at home, to be kind, and to yield to their husbands. Then no one will be able to criticize the teaching God gave us.” Titus 2:3-5 (NCV)
My grandma isn’t the only one who has taken family into their own homes. As believers, this is something we’re instructed to do; we’re even told to welcome strangers into our homes (Hebrews 13:2), but Scripture makes it clear that refusing to care for our relatives, especially those in our own household means denying the faith.
“But those who won’t care for their relatives, especially those in their own household, have denied the true faith. Such people are worse than unbelievers.” –1 Timothy 5:8(NLT)
We know better and we’ve been taught better. Therefore, we can’t ignore the truth and skim over Scripture that isn’t agreeable to our foolish hearts; this is disobedience. When we abandon one another, refusing to take care of our own family and treating our relatives poorly, we don’t reflect the face of Jesus. It’s that strong faithful and merciful love that reflects Him accurately. This makes our unity and our love for both those in our household and those in the family of God, something that we can’t afford to ignore! If that tie isn’t binding, then we don’t know love, and if we don’t know love, then we don’t know God. (1 John 4:8) As believers, our hearts aren’t tethered to God alone: in Christ our hearts are tied to one another also.
Blest Be The Tie That Binds
Blest be the tie that binds
Our hearts in Christian love;
The fellowship of kindred minds
Is like to that above.
Before our Father’s throne,
We pour our ardent prayers;
Our fears, our hopes, our aims are one,
Our comforts, and our cares.
We share our mutual woes,
Our mutual burdens bear;
And often for each other flows
The sympathizing tear.
When we asunder part,
It gives us inward pain;
But we shall still be joined in heart,
And hope to meet again.
UM Hymnal, No. 557
God’s love is what draws us together; it’s also what keeps us together; pieces us back together; and restores us when we’ve gone astray. Much like the binding of a book; His love unites us as one. When that binding is ignored and worn, however, pages can begin to fall away, and one by one we become missing pages. We are commanded to, and responsible for, loving one another other. When we fail to maintain our relationships and we fail to pray and wait for God’s help we only set ourselves up to become those missing pages. Thankfully, God keeps working to reestablish us in that binding. He’ll never give up; He’ll never abandons us; and He’ll never allow us to remain who we’ve become. We must be changed.
Fortunately, we have a very patient Teacher Who prayed that we would be united. Everything that Jesus did while He walked upon the earth is an example for His followers to follow, even His prayer regarding unity. To be honest, until now, I’ve never thought to pray for unity, but clearly it’s something we should be doing.
“My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me [Jesus] through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.” –John 17:20-21(NIV)
I do believe in fairytale endings, but only because I believe in the transforming power of God’s love. We may trip, fall and take a pretty good tumble down the garden path, but even if all the King’s horses and all the King’s men can’t put Humpty Dumpty back together again, we know the One who can and will. Keep praying for those who are neither listening to His voice, nor following His example and being a living one. Be an example yourself. ❤
Lord Jesus, thank you, for showing us how to love. We have no good excuse to misunderstand and misrepresent love, since it’s been spelled out so clearly in Scripture for us. Help us to love all as you love, not forgetting those in our own family. Help us also to be an example to those around us. Lord, we pray not only for those who believe but for those who will believe in You through our message, that all of us may be one just as You are in the Father and the Father is in You. May we also be in You so that the world may believe that You have sent us out into the world.
“This is what real love is: It is not our love for God; it is God’s love for us. He sent his Son [Jesus] to die in our place to take away our sins.” –1 John 4:10 (NCV)
And because we can always use a reminder of what love looks like:
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. –1 Corinthians 13:4-7 (NIV)