Here’s the truth …
When I was in Kindergarten, I received my first gift from a boy. One day, during recess, little Johnny Hays marched right up to me proudly bearing his precious gift. As I opened up the box, I saw that inside was a ring with a tiny heart on it, and painted on the heart was a tiny pink rose. “Do you like it?” he asked. “Yes!” I said. As I placed it on my finger, he proceeded to sing to me the old country song, Hey, Did You Happen to See the Most Beautiful Girl in the World? As we stood there by the water cooler, I thought Johnny was the most wonderful boy in the whole wide world. Ahhh, kindergarten love.
Looking back, I wonder where Johnny learned to be such a debonair little dude. Who had helped him with his gift for me? Who had taught him the importance of showing love? I'm sure he learned much of this from his mom and dad. So that got me thinking: what kind of love are we teaching our children? We are leading by example, and no matter their age, they are watching us. Are we teaching them to love others, not just in buying presents, but in our words, actions, and motives? You see, what I remember most about that day was not just the present; it was the fact that Johnny sang his little heart out, ignoring the other kids who were watching, all because he wanted to show me his love. I have no idea where Johnny is today, but I would imagine that his wife is one lucky woman!
There are all kinds of ways that we can show the love of Christ to those around us. Maybe it’s giving your Aldi cart to someone without getting your quarter back! Maybe it’s sending a note to an elderly shut in. Maybe it’s as simple as just listening to someone talk. My daughters and I love to go to coffee shops, get our favorite lattes, and sit and talk. We talk about everything and anything. The important thing is that my daughters know that mom always has time for them, and we are making precious memories together. “Coffee” is one of our love languages (wink!).
The Bible gives us a very clear definition of what love is and what love is not. The King James Version uses the word charity for the word love, as we see here: “Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. Charity never faileth ...” (1 Corinthians 13:4-8a KJV).
That is quite a list. We usually hear these verses read at a wedding, but shouldn’t we be practicing these commands every day in our homes and in our communities? Shouldn’t this be a part of our everyday speech? As for the “do not’s,” we need to work on making sure that those things are not a part of our lives as well. For example, am I envying what another person has? Am I behaving in a way that is self-centered and arrogant? Do I always look for the bad in someone or in a situation? None of these are things that God wants to be a part of my life. God wants to me to love Him supremely and then others, always reflecting the love He has given me. Jesus said, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself” (Matthew 22:37-38 KJV).
Loving God and loving each other is pretty simple, yet there are times when we all struggle with this. Why? Because loving God and loving others takes sacrifice. When I love God with all my heart, soul, and mind, it requires me to say “no” to myself. It goes against everything we hear and see in our world today. But we don't have a choice. This is a commandment! I have to say no to sin, no to pride, no to anything that makes me love it more than God. God must have first place in my life. When I follow God in obedience, I am then free to love others the way that He loves.
Now, it’s quite easy to love ourselves. Everywhere we look we are being told to think of ourselves first! Think about the jingles you know from television over the years: “Have it Your Way!” (Burger King), “Double Your Pleasure, Double Your Fun!” (Wrigley's Doublemint Gum), “Be All That You Can Be” (The U.S. Army), “You Deserve a Break Today” (McDonalds), and the list goes on and on. This is contrary to what we read in Scripture. We not only hear jingles just like these on television and the radio, but we see them on billboards, advertisements, the internet, etc. Let me ask you a question, though: can people see the love of God in the way we speak, act, work, etc., or do they see us serving and promoting ourselves like the jingles suggest? It is so easy to fall into the trap of self-centeredness.
Let's make this practical. What are tangible, physical ways that I can tell or show the love of God to someone? I have one friend who would send a “love note” in her husband’s lunchbox every day. Sometimes she would write on his banana or orange simply, “I love you!” How sweet is that? Maybe it is taking a friend out for coffee and listening to her, praying with her. It could be dropping someone a sweet little note in the mail that says, “I was thinking about you and wanted you to know that I value our friendship and I am praying for you.” And maybe it's like little Johnny Hays who gave a small gift and sang a sweet song. How many opportunities do we miss to tell or show someone, “I love you!” How many times do we say those words to God?