Seth Godin recently wrote:
Caring is free
In the short run, of course, not caring can save you some money.
Don’t bother making the facilities quite so clean. Save time and hassle and let the display get a little messy. Don’t worry so much about one particular customer, because you’re busy and hiring more people takes time and money.
But in the long run, caring pays for itself.
Caring is expensive, but it also generates loyalty and word of mouth.
In the long run, an organization that puts in extra effort gets rewarded.
Not to mention that caring makes us all more human. Worth it.
How does this apply to love? I was having a conversation the other night, and we were talking about love. I remember a quip that the so-called language of love, French, doesn’t have a verb “to love” (go ahead and check it out on Google Translate, and this one, too. I’ll wait). So, the language of love doesn’t have a verb (i.e., an action), “to love”. This is not to disparage French. It just may be more honest then we English speakers (especially US American ones).
We love pizza. We love ice cream. We love the internet. We love zombies (okay, a lot of people to, but not me). Perhaps caring and life, ought to be our primary words, and love used sparingly, if at all.
The context of the conversation that I had, was the Christian life, and the life of love that it is supposed to be. Well, “I love you, and will pray for you,” are great words, but far too often in Christian circles they are empty. Too many say, “I’ll pray for you,” but forget to when they get home.
How many times have I said those words, and they were empty of truth and action? I couldn’t tell you. Were they full of good intentions? YES! Well, we used to say a road to a certain place of eternal torment was paved with those good intentions. I don’t want my life to be paved with good intentions, if that’s the result!
I was thinking of the phrase attributed (probably, wrongly) to St. Francis of Assisi, “Preach the Gospel at all times. Use words if necessary.” Skipping the discussion about the source of the quote…let’s change it up a little.
“Love people at all times, shining the saving Gospel of Jesus Christ into their lives. If you have to, tell them you love them, too.”
Smile. Acknowledge them. Acknowledge (especially to yourself) that they are valued by God (and you). Acknowledge that God died for them, too. I think the “especially to yourself” is important. If we do the acts (which are good), but our heart is not changed, then those are good works are worth nothing.
Yet, if we say all the words and do nothing(i.e., good intentions), then our faith is of no value, to us or anyone else.
I am no great theological mind. Not by any stretch. I know that I am not the first, nor will I be the last, to wrestle with this. In Celebrate Recovery, I see people who made decisions based upon where they were at, that had long term damaging effects upon them and others. I have seen people who do not have the tools to keep it together. That means I’m so great, right? Not even close. Many of them have hit a bottom I didn’t even know existed (and that includes suicidal thoughts and depression). Many of them live a stronger, more loving, more honest Christian life than I dare dream to (and, I’ll be honest, am sometimes scared to).
Jesus said, “…the one to whom little is forgiven, loves little.” Lord, forgive me! The life I was gifted gave me an environment where I didn’t make decisions that dramatically negatively impacted me for years. Yay! I didn’t do a lot of things! Yay, I was like Saul (who became Paul)! I could point to all the things I did do to live a good life! Like Paul, they are nothing but filthy rags.
Because of that reality, I love little. Those are hard words to type (and read). By God’s grace, there are many who would believe that I am wrong that I love little. And for that I am grateful. I also know that I am not to measure my life (or my love) by comparing myself to others, just to God. Just to God. Let’s sit with that…
Yes, we all have a long way to go to love as deeply, and as widely, as God. None of us will get there on this side of the veil of life. Through God’s grace, and us yielding our hearts to God’s movement in our lives, we are able to make that leap, where truly loving becomes the larger pattern of our life, outweighing the “acts of kindness” and the “words of emptiness”.
My challenge for you is this…when you’re about to say, “I love…,” think about the words you’re using. Do you want the recipient of your “love” statement to love you the same way? Is this a caring statement? Is it a liking statement? If you look at the love of God (i.e., God died for you, while you were far from ideal, and even were/are running away from the “ideal”), do you really mean to use love in that way?