The Way of Love
13 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.
4 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it his not arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
8 Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. 11 When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. 12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.
So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love. (1 Corinthians 13)
Love: Everybody wants it, everybody needs it, but far too few know how to do it. Do it…what do you mean “Do it“? Did you think that love was simply a warm, fuzzy emotion? Yes, love can be a warm, fuzzy emotion, but it is a whole lot more. The second great commandment is “Love your neighbor as yourself“. If you say that you love your neighbor, but never do anything to show it, your “love” is pretty hollow. “Love” is a call to action, a call to show by your actions that you love your neighbor.
“Love” requires boots on the ground. “Love” requires that you get your hands dirty. “Love” often requires sacrifice, and the ultimate example of “love” in action is the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave the ultimate sacrifice for our sins.
We will start with our Lord’s example, and then I will give you some “boots on the ground” and “dirty-hands” examples from my own journey and others I am acquainted with.
For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life. (John 3:16)
The Incarnation, God becoming a human, a man, was no “accident” or “Plan B“. It was perfectly-planned and perfectly-executed, and the Plan was “on the books” before God even began creation, let alone before Adam and Eve’s first sin. When Jesus Christ was born, a cross-shaped shadow loomed large over His manger. From the moment He took His first steps, He walked in the shadow of the cross. Jesus was born to die, and He knew it. As much as He agonized about His pending crucufixion, He wouldn’t have had it any other way. He would have nailed Himself to that cross if it was necessary.
That, my friends, is “LOVE” in action.
The Parable of the Good Samaritan
25 On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
26 “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”
27 He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”
28 “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”
29 But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
30 In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. 31 A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. 32 So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. 34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’
36 “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”
37 The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”
Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.” (Luke 10:25-37)
It is three AM. You are sound asleep after already being up too late, and the phone rings. It is a neighbor, gasping for air, gasping out “HELP!”. She is having an asthma attack. She lives alone, and you are the only person with a key to her door, who also knows how to set up her nebulizer. Will you get up and help her?
Three friends are taking a red-eye international flight to another country. Two are staying there, and one is coming back home. They could leave the car at the airport, but… Are you up to being up most of the night to make sure that they get to the airport safely and on-time, so that you can bring their car back home, rather than leaving it at the airport?
She is in excruciating pain, and badly needs to go to the Emergency Room, but it is almost midnight. ER’s are NOT your favorite places to “hang out“, but she needs you. Are you willing to forego maybe the whole night’s sleep to make sure that she is taken care of properly?
She needs a series of three back surgeries, but all of her “friends” are “too busy“. These surgeries will require that you drive her to a hospital which is an hour away, and wait all day until she is released from the hospital. Oh, she also has to be there at six AM. She is also going to need extensive after-care, because these are out-patient surgeries. Part of that after-care is being available at all hours of the day and night to help her out of bed, into the bathroom, and back into bed. She also needs something to drink, medications and food. What if she pukes up everything she eats and drinks? Are you up to it?
They don’t have anywhere to go for Christmas, and you have already invited a house-full of family for Christmas dinner. If you open your home to them, it is going to mean more mouths to feed, and more, more, more of everything else. Are you up to it?
The stress had been piling up, and you need a break, a “mental-health” day. Half-way to your favorite resort, the phone rings. A friend is calling to tell you that a mutual friend had just been taken into emergency surgery, and she doesn’t really want to sit in that hospital waiting-room alone. Other plans that you had made for that weekend didn’t pan out either. Will you turn around and go back home so you can go to the hospital with her and help keep vigil and provide moral support?
You are ready for bed, and the phone rings. A friend went to a party, drank some liquor, and then took a pain pill, so she is wasted, her head is spinning, and she doesn’t even know where she is at. She is trying to drive home, but has gotten turned around and nothing looks familiar. She is lost, and you are her only life-line, because all of her other friends have gone their own separate ways. Will you help her get home, and go find her if necessary?
It is almost midnight and time for bed, but the phone rings, again. She has gone to a party, and even though she hasn’t drunk too much, someone else has, and needs a ride home. That person lives on the opposite side of town and in a bad neighborhood to boot. She has already dropped her passenger off, but now she has to get home, and she is scared out of her wits. Will you stay on the line with her, helping to calm her down, until you see her car pull into her driveway?
Do you know someone who has had to reschedule an important surgical-procedure because everyone they know is “unavailable“? That person is going to have to be at the hospital before six AM, they live forty-five minutes from you, and the hospital is an additional hour away. It is going to be a very long day. Will you be their designated-driver?
Do you see a common thread throughout all of these stories? They all are related to a need, a need for care, concern and compassion, a need for “boots on the ground” LOVE. This is more than just warm fuzzies. It is action, and some of these actions require some self-sacrifice. I have been on one side or the other of every one of these stories, and when I have been the “giver“, it hasn’t always been easy, and when I have been the “receiver“, it brings moments of profound gratitude. It doesn’t matter which is which, because God is the score-keeper, not I, and He always keeps perfect score.
Jesus said, “Love your neighbor as yourself“, and our responsibility is to follow His example. When we asked God how much He loves us, Jesus spread His arms out and was nailed to a Roman cross on our behalf.
When we “sign–up” to be part of God’s “love task-force“, He doesn’t promise that all of our tasks will be easy. He also never promised that they would be at convenient times, or would have definite start and end dates, because need doesn’t keep a schedule. The work may be tiring and difficult, but the “retirement–package” is out of this world. Have you “signed-up” to be part of God’s “love task-force“?
Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”