Love One Another As I Have Loved You
34 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
It’s nearly Valentine’s Day so it seemed logical that I should talk to you today about love. To get things started, I’d like to read you a little love story that I found. I’m sure many of you can relate to it:
What is Love?
I’m sure that we all have our own ideas about what love is and what it is all about. I’m sure all of us have also sat through a sermon or two about love as well. So today, I hope I can bring something new or different to the table and I hope that it will make you think about this thing called love as we approach Valentine’s Day.
If you ask different people what they think love is, you will get a wide range of answers.
A group of professionals posed this question to a group of 4 to 8 year-olds: “What does love mean?”
The answers they got were broader and deeper than anyone could have imagined. Here are a few of the answers they received:
Rebecca – age 8 said: “When my grandmother got arthritis, she couldn’t bend over and paint her toenails anymore. So my grandfather does it for her all the time, even when his hands got arthritis too. That’s love.”
Billy – age 4 says: “When someone loves you, the way they say your name is different. You just know that your name is safe in their mouth.”
Emily – age 8 said: “Love is when you kiss all the time. Then when you get tired of kissing, you still want to be together and you talk more. My Mommy and Daddy are like that. They look gross when they kiss.”
Oh here’s a good one from 7 year old Bobby: “Love is what’s in the room with you at Christmas if you stop opening presents and listen.”
6 year old Tommy answered: “Love is like a little old woman and a little old man who are still friends even after they know each other so well.”
5 year old Elaine was a little more practical in her reply; “Love is when Mommy gives Daddy the best piece of chicken.”
Little Lauren age 4 said this: “I know my older sister loves me because she gives me all her old clothes and has to go out and buy new ones.” (Now THIS is love!)
I wonder if Lauren will have the same definition when she is 14???
I like 8 year old Jessica’s perspective: “You really shouldn’t say ‘I love you’ unless you mean it. But if you mean it, you should say it a lot. People forget.”
7 year old Karen says: “When you love somebody, your eyelashes go up and down and little stars come out of you.” I tried making my eyelashes go up and down to Trisha to test this one and she asked me if I had something in my eye.
And the final one, the one that gets me right here (point to heart), was a four year old child whose next door neighbor was an elderly gentleman who had recently lost his wife. Upon seeing the man cry, the little boy went into the old gentleman’s yard, climbed onto his lap, and just sat there. When his Mother asked what he had said to the neighbor, the little boy said, “Nothing, I just helped him cry.”
While those quotes are all very cute and do in fact, tell us something about love, there is more to it than that.
A man once spoke to a group of high-schoolers about the idea of love. “Someone define love,” He said.
No response. “Doesn’t anyone want to try?” He asked again. Still no response. “Tell you what: I’ll define it, and you raise your hands if you agree. Okay?” There were yes nods all aroung. “Okay. Love is that feeling you get when you meet the right person.”
Every hand went up. Oh boy!
This is how many people approach the idea of love. Consciously or unconsciously, they believe love is a sensation or a feeling (based on physical and emotional attraction) that magically, spontaneously generates when Mr. or Ms. Right appears. And just as easily, since many believe this is love, have found that it can spontaneously degenerate when the magic “just isn’t there” anymore. You fall in love . . . and you can fall out of love.
In his famous book entitled “The Art of Loving,” author Erich Fromm noted the sad consequence of this misconception when he says: “There is hardly any activity, any enterprise, which is started with such tremendous hopes and expectations, and yet, which fails so regularly, as love.”
So then what is love ― real, lasting love?
In an article called “What is Love”, the author, Gila Manolson says that “Love is the attachment that results from deeply appreciating another’s goodness.”
The word “goodness” may be a little surprising. After all, most love stories we’ve heard, and especially those we see in the movies, don’t feature a couple enraptured with each other’s ethics or values.
“I’m completely captivated by your values!” he told her passionately.
“And I’ve never met a man with such morals!” she cooed. Those are not likely to be lines in ANY bestseller.
However, in a study of real-life successful marriages entitled (The Good Marriage: How and Why Love Lasts), Judith Wallerstein reported that “the value that the couples placed on the partner’s moral qualities was an unexpected finding.”
What we value most in ourselves, we also value in others. God created us to see ourselves as good. This is part of the reason why we need to either rationalize or regret our wrongdoings. God wants us to see ourselves as good and so too, we look for goodness in others. Nice looks, an engaging personality, intelligence, and talent (all of which count for something) may attract you, but goodness is what moves you toward love.
If love comes from appreciating goodness, it shouldn’t just happen ― you can make it happen. Love is an action. You can create it. Just focus on the good in another person (and everyone has some). Obviously, there’s a big gap between love on the basis of goodness and the far more intense, personal love developed over the years, especially in marriage. But seeing goodness in others is the beginning.
By focusing on the good, you can love almost anyone. Now, I’m willing to admit that it is a little harder to find the good in some people than in others. So, I must at this point refer back to the scripture for today where Jesus says in John 13:34: “Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” Jesus did love us without question . . . all of us. He healed the sick, fed the hungry, spent time with both adults and children. He even cared for those who put Him to death as evidenced by His prayer found in Luke 23:34, “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.” He showed us how to love everyone by His example. Although love is a choice and we can choose to love others or not, Jesus states it as a command. That means, even when we encounter those in whom it is harder to finder goodness . . . those who are harder to love, Jesus tell us . . . love them anyway.
Your Actions Affect Feelings
Hopefully by now you’re feeling most affectionate toward the entire human race. If so, that is a great first step. But if we choose to go on, and I hope that you will, how can you deepen your love for someone? The way God created us, actions affect our feelings most. For example, if you want to become more compassionate, thinking compassionate thoughts may be a start, but giving to others will get you there. Likewise, the best way to feel loving is to be loving ― and that too involves giving.
While most people believe love leads to giving, the fact is that exactly the opposite is true: Giving leads to love.
What is giving? I love music and musical instruments. If I arrive home after work one day and say to my wife, “Honey, wait till you see what I got you for your birthday ― a new keyboard!” that’s not giving. Neither is a father’s forcing his son to play baseball because he himself always dreamed of being a great baseball player.
True giving, as Erich Fromm points out in his aforementioned book, is oriented toward others and not toward us. True giving requires four elements: care, responsibility, respect, and knowledge. Care means demonstrating active concern for another’s life and a desire for their growth. The next one, responsibility, means responding to another’s expressed and unexpressed needs (particularly, in an adult relationship, emotional needs). This one often gets me into trouble. Trisha has often told me that I should KNOW what she wants. Guys out there, anybody else out there have a problem with this one? Well let me tell you, I have gotten quite good a guessing lots of things in those moments, but unfortunately, I don’t often guess it correctly. I do think I’ve gotten better over the years though. (I’m not sure if I should look her direction right now or not.)
The third of Fromm’s elements of giving is respect, “the ability to see a person as he or she is, to be aware of his or her unique individuality,” and, consequently, wanting that person to “grow and unfold as he or she is.” These three components all depend upon the fourth, knowledge. You can care for, respond to, and respect another only as deeply as you know him or her. As I’ve gotten to know my wife better, I can now guess a little better about what she needs (COUNT ON FINGERS – a medium small, crème de menthe and chocolate latte, decaf, with whipped cream in a waffle cone right honey?)
Does this idea of giving fit in with other Biblical teachings? Yes, it certainly does. First of all, the word love is used (depending on who counts and which translation you read) well over 500 time. Secondly, it it frequently stated that God IS LOVE. God created us and loves and wants us to be like HIM and follow His ways right? What is probably the most well-known, most frequently quoted scripture of all time? John 3:16 right. And what does it say: “For God so loved the world that He” what? “He GAVE His only begotten son.” So if God IS love and in HIS example HE gave, then when we love we should also expect that we will need to give something of ourselves and NOT just say the words, I love you.
Be Open to Others
The effect of genuine giving to others is truly amazing. It allows you to enter into another person’s world and it opens you up to really perceiving his or her goodness. At the same time, it means investing part of yourself in the other and this enables you to love this person as you love yourself.
It sounds a little strange, but the more you give, the more you love. Think of the one person you believe that you love the most. Did you ever give anything to that person? I’m thinking, you probably have given them quite a lot (your thoughts, your time, your energy, your resources). You gave and now you love.
The more you give, the more you love. This is why your parents (who’ve given you more than you’ll ever know) undoubtedly love you more than you love them, and you, in turn, will love your own children more than they’ll love you.
Because the deepest kind of love comes from 1. knowledge of that person and 2. from giving to them, it does not happen overnight but over time. I think this is why people often say, “I love you more today than I did yesterday”. When we first meet someone new we may feel lots of emotions, coupled with things we have in common, physical chemistry, and anticipation about the future. These feelings may be the seeds of love, but they have yet to sprout. If we are open to getting to know that person, and we give to that person (not just gifts but our time and energy too, then love will sprout from those seeds and will continue to grow as long as we continue to get the know that person and continue to give.
On the opposite side of things, if someone mistreats you while professing to love you, remember: “Love is a behavior that involves action. A relationship thrives when we are committed to behaving lovingly through ongoing, unconditional giving ― not only saying, “I love you,” but showing it through what we do and how we treat the other person. This is true not only for our romantic or marriage partners, but also for our relationships with our parents, our children, our friends, and even those we go to church with. This can be a very difficult thing if you continually give but get little or nothing in return. If you find yourself in that position, my advice is to prayer about it a lot and ask God what you should do. I’d also suggest that you talk to someone (your Pastor or maybe a counselor) before you make any big changes.
Now here, as we conclude, is the thing. It is a good thing to go to church and hear about God’s word. But if we only hear and do not take anything to heart, or do not use it to make a change if a change is needed, then it wasn’t much more than a way to spend some of your time. James 1:22-25 says: “22 Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. 23 Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror 24 and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. 25 But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.
I hope that as you think about your life today, I want you to think seriously think about whether you are both giving and then loving your families and your friends. But, I want you to also think about how you are doing within your church. We have a pretty big church family now, with lots of new people coming on a regular basis. Are you making the effort to do more than just shake hands and say “hi” on Sunday morning? Are you making an effort to try to get to know others around you, to invite them to dinner, or to just spend a little more time talking to them? I hope that you are. And for those of you, who are the newer members, you are only the newbie until the next family comes in. The next new member thinks of you as someone who is a part of the church already. Are you doing your part? If someone invites you to go to a church dinner or to participate in a new class or small group study, are you accepting the invitation? Are you welcoming to the “newest” person or family who came? Are you giving of yourself to others? Are you loving them as God has asked us to? Don’t just hear today. Do something. Make a love action today or this week where it is needed, where God may be asking you right now to act.
I would like to conclude, just as I began, with the words of our Lord Jesus from John 13:34: 34 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.