Love is in the Air.

Love Is In The Air!

Jesus was hanging out in the temple one day sharing stories as he was prone to do. Pharisees, Sadducees, Priests and elders were systematically grilling him with difficult questions in an attempt to trip him up and catch him saying or teaching something wrong.  Jesus handily deflected the verbal arsenal as each inquiry was launched at him.  Finally, one particular Pharisee, who happened to be a lawyer, scrutinized him with yet one more question.

“Teacher, what is the greatest commandment in the law?” he asked.

Jesus gave the standard answer that was often repeated by the religious leaders.  Quoting Deuteronomy 6:5, He replied, “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.”  This was the answer the hearers would have accepted and expected.  But, did anyone really expect Jesus to just give a simple answer? As was typical with Jesus, He didn’t stop with just answering the question.  He added a statement that struck at the heart.  He followed up his first response by adding,

“And the second is like it:You shall love your neighbor as yourself.  On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets” (Matt 22:36-40).

  This was a difficult thing for the religious crowd of His day.  They prided themselves on the outward appearance of their great loyalty to God and adherence to His commands.  In a single sentence Jesus challenged their devotion by adding this second component.

It has always struck me as odd that Jesus was asked one question but gave two answers.  Why did He do that?  I suspect that the reason He gave two answers was because in His mind, in the mind of God, you cannot really separate the two concepts.  The result of loving God is loving people.  Also, you cannot really love people unless you first love God.  You cannot separate the two.  If that is the case then His two answers are really just two parts of a single answer.

What that means is that church attendance, Bible reading, or even singing along with your favorite worship songs are not the truest measure of showing your love for God.  In fact, you might say that the best way to show God you love Him is  … to love people.  A better translation would have been “the second commandment is JUST LIKE the first one.”  In this passage it’s almost as if God was saying,

“If you really love God, you will love people.”

Gary Smalley one time said “Life is relationships; the rest is just details.”  Many times we mistakenly lead our lives thinking life is about our jobs, our finances, our position, our achievements or our notoriety.  We strive and contend.  We chase and pursue.  We are busy.    And there isn’t necessarily anything wrong with much of that.  But, at the end of the day, everything we do revolves around the people we do it with and the relationships we build along the way.  In fact, many times when we build relationships first, the success we desire will follow naturally.

What does it mean to “love” people?  Jesus actually gave some fairly clear instructions within the context of His response.  He said we are to love our neighbor the same way we love ourselves.  In another context He said, “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them” (Mt. 7:12 ESV).  When I jump to conclusions, make mistakes, have an angry response and say things I regret, I want others to give me grace, forgiveness, and understanding.  Sometimes I want them to overlook my shortcomings and give me the benefit of the doubt.  Mostly, I want people to treat me with value and respect.  If I’m going to treat others the way I want to be treated, if I’m going to love my neighbor as myself, then I should give them the same.  Maybe that means is lending a listening ear the next time my teenager does something wrong instead of yelling.  Maybe that means giving grace when the cashier makes a mistake or the customer service employee treats me rudely.  Maybe it means not getting an attitude or shaking my fist when I’m cut off in traffic. Maybe it means seeking understanding when my boss is acting like a jerk.

With Valentine’s Day on the 14th and the National Marriage Week leading up to it, people are focused on their love relationships in the month of February, and rightly so.  Couples are intentional in February.  They make a “date” to spend time together, they give each other gifts, they treat each other kindly, and they see the best in each other.

But, everywhere around us are people who need many of the same aspects that we bring to our closest relationships:  time spent together, a listening ear, understanding, compassion and care.  Any relationship can be strengthened, enhanced, or healed when we are intentional and put into practice many of the same things that lead to a strong marriage.  Our kids need it, our parents need it, our neighbors need it, our employees need it, and our pastors need it.  The cashier needs it, the waitress needs it, and the homeless guy on the corner needs it.  And all of them are made in the image of God.  If we love God, we will love people.

It’s February so love truly is in the air. “Let me give you a new command: Love one another. In the same way I loved you, you love one another. This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples—when they see the love you have for each other” (John 13:35).

A Profound Mystery

A Profound Mystery 

Many have used Ephesians 5:23-31 to expound on the roles and guidelines of marriages, and rightly so, but the Apostle Paul was actually pointing to something much deeper.  He said, Husbands, love your wives … and the wife must respect her husband.  He then concludes the passage with a surprising statement, This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church” (Eph 5:32).

Though he was talking about marriage, he was actually illustrating Christ’s relationship with the church.  I believe that a healthy marriage can reveal the nature of Christ to the world in three distinct ways. 

One of the amazing things about a healthy marriage is that someone can know and love the REAL you.  Not the “all-together” you that you want everyone else to see.  I’m talking about the real you, that is sometimes selfish, maybe a little pig-headed, or rude, and whose breath sometimes stinks.  Yes, they know your strengths and successes, but they also know your challenges, your weaknesses, your shortcomings, your mistakes, your issues, your fears, and even your failures.  Yet through it all, they inexplicably love you anyways.  In fact, some of those very things actually cause them to love you even more.  They love the REAL you. The best marriages are built on UNCONDITIONAL LOVE! 

This is the beauty of the love of God.  Somehow, Christ knows everything about us, including our innermost thoughts, and LOVES us regardless.  We can’t hide anything from Him. He knows everything about us – yet loves us unconditionally!

 Also, anyone married for any length of time knows that marriage has a way providing a lot of opportunities to practice UNRESTRICTED FORGIVENESS.  A wise person once said, “Marriage is the union of two good forgivers.”  Couples in strong marriages will find themselves forgiving over and over and over again. In fact, it’s required.  Otherwise, those same couples would end up critical, bitter, and unhappy.  Forgiveness is the very essence of Christ’s message.  And because of His amazing grace He forgives us over, and over, and over again. He grants us UNRESTRICTED FORGIVENESS. 

Finally, healthy marriages are built on the foundation of UNWAVERING COMMITMENT.  My wife knows that regardless what happens, I am not leaving. I’m not walking out.  It doesn’t matter what she says.  It doesn’t matter what she does.  I am completely committed to her!  Unwavering commitment provides security and confidence.  Couples will feel comfortable to be themselves.  This is why marriage is intended to be “until death do us part,” because it represents God’s unwavering commitment to us as eternal.  Jesus said, “I will never leave you, nor forsake you” (Heb. 13:5). 

Understanding and practicing these three principles will lead to the happiest, healthiest and strongest marriages.  More importantly, it reveals the nature of Christ to our friends, our families, and the world. People will ask you, “How can you love him when he acts like that? How can you keep forgiving? Why do you stay with her?”  The answer:  “Because Christ loves me when I act like that. He forgives me when I mess up and He never leaves me no matter what I’ve done. I still see the value, the good, and the reflection of God in that person, just like Christ does with me.”  

Healthy marriages reveal Christ to the world by displaying unconditional love, unrestricted forgiveness, and unwavering commitment.  It is a profound mystery.

Do’s & Don’ts When Life Hits You Hard.

Here is a quick list of some Do’s and Don’ts for you when multiple things hit you all at once like they just did a for “a friend”:

(1) Don’t fuss and complain. It helps nothing. In fact, it usually just raises your level of anxiety, frustration, pain, or whatever (BTW – sharing with a trusted friend or loved one who can encourage, guide, pray, etc. is different to me than fussing and complaining).

(2) Don’t play the victim. Everybody has junk that happens. Look around. Sure there are folks a lot better off but, there are tons of folks worse off. Both issues are irrelevant. They’re not running your race. You are. And, you’re not running their race.  Let it go.

(3) Don’t compare and especially don’t use Facebook as the measure of people’s lives or happiness.  Neither should you use their social media produced life to measure your own happiness. It should more appropriately be called “faux-book” because it’s not real life. You only see what others want you to see. Some folks only put positive out there. Some folks do nothing but point fingers, gripe and complain. IN either case – it’s fake, folks. It’s only one small part of the story. Doesn’t matter – what they have and do has nothing to do with you. [#2 & #3 really go together].

(4) Don’t overreact.

(5) Don’t get overwhelmed. Slow down – look at your situation. Break it down into bite sized pieces if needed. Handle what you can. Look and ask for help if needed.

(6) Do pick yourself up, brush yourself off and face reality. Yes,I know it can be overwhelming at times, especially when it all comes at once but, all you can do is … deal with it.

(Click for some Good News When You Fall)

(7) Do – learn from your mistakes. You have to evaluate. How did I get here? What part did I play that brought me to this current situation – or all of these situations? Sometimes you did nothing. But, you can still learn from your current situation by asking questions like: how do I avoid landing here again?

(8) Do make the necessary adjustments to handle your junk – maybe focus on one issue and challenge at a time.

(9) Move on with life. Your life wasn’t all sunshine and roses before, and it probably wasn’t all misery either (hopefully). Nor will it be either of those things going forward. Some things will get better and you’ll have reasons to rejoice. Other junk will happen and you’ll have reasons to be frustrated, discouraged, whatever. welcome to ….life. Deal with it. Embrace it. Live it. Love it.

(10) Embrace the positive! It is there. You might have to look for it but, it’s worth it. This is what brings life, hope, and joy.

I just starting writing and it came out as 10 nicely packaged points off the top of my head.  So, there it is. This is how my “friend” deals with it when multiple “life” things hit all at once.

Finally, you all should know that for me, trusting, believing and praying to God is my greatest asset, source of strength, and peace.

Hope this helps.

(Check out why Falling might be Good News)