A couple of days ago, as oft is the custom at the Strunk house, we found ourselves watching one of the cable news channels. They took a break from the “hard news” of the day in order to have a special interest segment on marriage. The spot began with the anchor citing the woeful statistics of marital success in the United States. More than 50% of first marriages end in divorce, over 60% of second marriages have the same fate, and north of 70% of third marriages meet an untimely, and often unseemly, demise. After reporting these glowing numbers, the host introduced a counseling “expert” to offer advice to heed prior to entering wedlock. The “expert” issued forth her first recommendation (or was that “wreck”omendation) proposing that the couple sit down with a glass of wine (in fact several of her “wreck” omendations seemed to be accompanied by her interest in wine) one evening, go to the computer, and pull up one another’s credit reports. Next, she suggested that, prior to walking down the aisle, the engaged should each get their own lawyers to meet and work out a prenuptial agreement stating very specifically what belonged to who and how much money would go to where should a divorce occur. She answered the host’s objection that her advice might appear to dampen the romance of it all with the retort that if people thought it was hard business sorting these things out ahead of time, that it would be infinitely more difficult hashing out the settlement between two adversarial parties (and adversarial attorneys) when the time came, as it most likely would, for the parting of the ways. Prenuptial agreements, separate lawyers, preparing for the aftermath of marital failure before even saying “I do”; doesn’t exactly give you the warm and fuzzies right before Valentine’s Day does it? Truly, the world, apart from Christ, has a demented definition of love that leaves it totally devoid of its grandeur. So, for the next few moments, let’s recover its greatness by taking a look at what true love is as described by the real expert, God. Let’s have some Christ-centered love recommendations instead of man-centered love “wreck”omendations.
Let The Lord Be The Source For Your Love. We are privileged to host monthly neighborhood watch meetings here at the church. Part of each meeting is hearing a crime/police report from Ft. Myer’s finest and a political report from our city councilman. One of the things I learned during these meetings over the past year is that the Oasis Towers (a couple of small 20+ story apartment buildings just a little ways down Palm Beach Blvd. from the church) got their impact fees waived due to the taxes they were anticipated to bring in to the city treasury. Well, the economy hit a rough spot and things didn’t pan out exactly has planned. So the city, in addition to losing impact fees lost promised tax revenue as well. If that wasn’t bad enough, Ft. Myers also got stuck with a bill of fixing the water/sewer system in the Dean Park Community. The existing system (which wasn’t updated because no impact fees were collected) couldn’t hold up under the pressure of pumping water to the top floors of the towers. The shock was so severe that commodes all over the surrounding area literally blew their tops!…Starting from a young age (it used to be teenagers, but I think it’s even earlier now), every human yearns for a true loving relationship. But all human words, poems, songs, and sentiments fall far short of the real thing apart from God. A love based upon human capacity alone makes towering promises that blow up leaving us hopeless, helpless, betrayed, used, and empty; unable to bear up under the pressures of the difficulties of life and the challenges of abiding together forever. Scripture declares that God is love and that we can only know and express true love because He has first loved us (1 John 4:8,19). The power
of His love and the glory of knowing His love is the only source strong enough to handle all that life would throw at it and come through with flying colors in the here and now as well as the hereafter; it is the only power strong enough to enable us to love God and to love others as well.
Let Your Love Be Seen As Well As Heard And Felt. Ever had someone tell you they loved you…and you wish they’d have saved their breath? Words are easy; talk is cheap! Read through the gospels and mark how often Jesus tells someone that He loves them. You could probably count on one hand the number of times you’d have to take out your pen or highlighter. However, although Christ seldom said the words “I love you”, people knew that He did. When you’re lame and He makes you leap, when you’re blind and He gives you sight, when you’re deaf and He opens your ears, when you’re mute and He allows your voice to be raised in praise, when you’re leprous and He makes you clean, when you’re condemned and He offers forgiveness, when you’re thirsty and He gives you living water, when you’re bound and He sets you free, when you’re dead and He makes you alive; when He does all this and more, then you know He loves you without Him saying a word. His red blood on Calvary’s cross bearing sin’s penalty for all who would believe declared His love in a stronger way than a multitude of “I love you’s” etched in red words on pages of print. When you look at Jesus’ instruction on how we should love God, He says that we should love the Lord with all of our heart, mind, soul and strength (Matt 22:37; Deut. 6:5). That is, we are to love Him with all of our being, not just with words or feelings. Don’t always feel loved? Don’t always feel loving? Don’t always hear “I love you” enough? Maybe you don’t always say it enough. Don’t despair! Love is more than feeling or hearing, love is choosing and doing! Love God with all you have and all you are. Lean on His strength to help you love your spouse, your kids, and others the same way as He loves you.
Let Your Love Teach Others. I remember leading study groups in seminary before big tests in classes ranging from Old Testament to Systematic Theology. I enjoyed the experience very much for several reasons, not the least of which is because I knew that if you want to really learn something, then teach it. The preparation that you put into knowing a subject for yourself is intensified many fold when you go at it with a mindset that you will be teaching others and answering their questions. When your grade’s on the line, that’s one thing, when the grades of others hang in the balance, that requires a whole new degree of dedication…A couple Saturdays ago dad and I were setting up the sound system for Sunday worship. As I was testing out the mics for the praise team Benji, our four year old, got his play microphone and went to the front of the platform. I looked up from where I was standing to see him holding his mic in his right hand, raising his left hand, singing at the top of his lungs, and swaying/bouncing (not quite dancing) back and forth as the music played. It was one of those moments in a parent’s life that grabs your heart as well as your tear ducts! He probably didn’t realize he was learning. I certainly hadn’t realized I’d been teaching, at least not until I opened my eyes. Now, I don’t claim to be the greatest teacher on how to love God or how to love others, but I will tell you that knowing my son is learning about loving from what he sees in me makes me want to learn more about love than I ever have before. I want to know and show how to love God, how to love your wife, how to love your children, how to love the church, and how to love all, not just because my life depends on it, but because at least some part of Benji’s life does as well. Indeed, knowing that your love is teaching others, that it’s not all about you, will help you become a better lover yourself.