Anyone who loves

Drew, Matt's best friend, has always loved him with words AND deeds. Vacaville, California, 2002

Drew, Matt’s best friend, has always loved him with words AND deeds.
I took this photo without them knowing I was taking it.  Vacaville, California, 2002

“We love because he first loved us. Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.”
1 John 4:19-21

This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person?  Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.”1 John 3:16-18

Wow, those are some pretty strong words.  They make liars of almost all of us who say we love God.  After all, who among us has not felt hatred and anger in our hearts at some time?  Maybe even often? How many grudges do we hold; how many people do we secretly despise as weak, wrong, obnoxious or simply less worthy of our time and attention?

And then there’s the matter of how we show our love, even to those lucky few we claim to love.  I don’t think John was saying here that words are not important.  We’ve talked numerous times on this blog about the importance of kind words and expressions of encouragement.  I have survived, in part, on the kind expressions of caring from people in this online community whom I’ve never met, but who nonetheless have come to be friends dear to my heart.  Your expressions of caring and solace have been a fortress of emotional support for me, and I have sorely needed such support for a very long time.

But there are some needs that can only be met in person, face to face.  There are some situations where genuine love will push us out of our comfortable routines and into worlds where we are unsure of ourselves, even anxious or fearful.  At some point we will be forced to decide whether our own need for security and convenience is greater than our love for someone else.  At such times, it will be tempting to say “I just can’t do this” or “I know there are others who can do this more easily than I can.” Lay down our lives?  You must be kidding me. That’s bound to be hyperbole.

But John didn’t say “Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister, if they deserve it.”  He also didn’t say “let us not love with words or speech but in actions and truth, as long as we can work it into our schedule without too much inconvenience.”  He didn’t say “Love — insofar as you reasonably can.”

For the record, I plead guilty to all of the rationalizations I’ve mentioned here.  But the past 28 years have been the ultimate “teachable moment” for me; they’ve made me keenly aware of how often we fall short when it comes to loving those we come in direct contact with, not in words only, but “in actions and truth.”  Perhaps I have now “quit preaching and gone to meddling” as the saying goes.  If so, I begin by meddling in my own life.  These words make me uneasy, and perhaps they should.

Almost all of us have been blessed to be recipients of acts of grace from others.  The friend who looks closely enough to fill needs that others disregard; the neighbor who shows up without being asked, to keep the kids when we are sick; the sister who uses her limited vacation days to come help out during hospitalizations.  At such times, we experience the true meaning of love in action.

Today, I hope you can think of times when other people have given you their time and effort in ways that made a real difference in your life.  Let their shining examples be an inspiration to us when we feel too tired, overwhelmed or busy to care.

One year ago today:

Here to change the world

20 Comments

  1. Susan

    Guilty as charged, especially on the schedule/convenience part. You got me – I’ll call my sister today.
    Julia, that’s a beautifully touching picture.

    • Susan, I imagine we are all “guilty” to some degree, but I hope you will get some joy from calling your sister and not be too hard on yourself. I guess it’s a fine line between being overly involved (to the point of exhaustion), and showing love through our actions to the point that is appropriate. Still, I tend to think we are sometimes misled into seeking from entertainment (such as movies, games, and other fun pastimes) that rewarding depth of connection that only comes from relationships and caring. It also seems as if there’s a sort of 80/20 rule; the people who will take such messages to heart most, probably are the ones who are already doing more than their share to show concern for others. So, rest assured – you are probably in the 20% already. Thanks for showing your caring here, by leaving your comment and your kind words about the photograph!

  2. Love requires sacrificce. Without it there is no love. It is denying oneself for the sake of another. Which may be manifested in giving one’s time, to as much as, giving one’s life. Which means doing what we ought, rather than what we want. The love we show to others is the same that we show to God. It is an act of our will embodying His.

    • Thank you Alan. I dream of reaching a point where the “sacrifice” part of love is something I don’t even think about any more. Some things that may appear to others to be “sacrificial” are actually not a burden at all, while others that are most difficult, often seem to go unnoticed. But you are right; any sort of relationship will ultimately demand a degree of sacrifice, usually on both sides. Fortunately, the rewards are sometimes above and beyond what we give. Not always, but often enough to keep us refreshed.

  3. What a touching picture….so very sweet.

    • Thank you Denise! I’m happy one doesn’t have to be “the Mama” of the two guys to think “aawwww” when looking at that photo. Naturally, it’s a favorite of mine. 😀

  4. MaryAnn

    “Oh, how I love Jesus”! The encouragement you state here brings solace for when I know I am lacking. I lean upon the love Jesus has for me at those times.
    This photo epitomizes the beauty of the love your boys share!

    • Thank you Mary Ann, you are among those who have shown great love to Matt — in word AND deed — from the moment you met him! I will always be grateful. ❤

  5. I would guess that since no one is perfect, there’s a few of us who fall short of this message at some time or another. I do agree, actions are stronger reminder of love for another, than mere words. Then again, it’s really nice when someone is comfortable enough to hug you and say ‘I love you’ just out of the blue too. As an only daughter with brothers, it usually falls to me to remind the boys that ‘I love them’ either when we hug goodbye or have talked on the phone. With that, I always get a generous hug and parting ‘you too’ or ‘love you too’. So I don’t mind being the open book to their weak facade. Mere mortal men struggle with these things at times. It’s wonderful that your boys are this close. Their caring way with each other and kind hearts speak volumes about their upbringing. That’s got to be a nice glow for you and Jeff to bask in at this time in their lives. Bravo Denton’s!

    • Thanks K., for your kind words. I wish I could take credit for the sweet spirits of our sons, but they both seem to be just naturally very loving guys, from infancy on. I do think it helps that their father and both their grandfathers have (or had) no problem with hugging and saying “I love you” to their son(s) not just their daughters. I know your brothers appreciate your showing affection even if they don’t initiate it themselves. I think it would be hard to be a man and expect myself to be “tough guy” all the time. The nice thing is that most men find other ways to say “I love you” and often their loving actions are essential to the welfare of the whole family. But you are right, we could ALL do better at this from time to time, and hopefully we will.

  6. Larry

    It made Grandmother very happy to see her two boys in that picture. There is a brother’s love there as only a few show in deed more than words. Through their eyes only are they ever so close at heart as well. We all can take a lesson from what they share. Though distance may have placed them apart now, it is still seen often as the miles don’t hinder that brother’s commitment and love for one another.

    • Yes Larry, we feel very happy that Drew and Matt have each other!

  7. Sheila

    Julia, your photograph captured love in a magnificent yet unassuming moment.They really are sweet spirits, naturally loving guys. Recently when I read that Drew was there at the hospital with Matt, I was so thankful. Showing affection and love isn’t always easy but I really think it can be acquired. This probably comes as no surprise that I’m a hugger! 🙂

    • Sheila, I’m a hugger too so I get along well with other huggers. But I wasn’t always quite as much that way as I’ve gotten over time. Years ago a friend of mine who was dying of cancer (though I had not yet accepted that she was not going to get well) called me over to her bed at her hospital room and motioned me to come close. I put my ear to her face thinking she wanted to tell me a secret. Instead she said she wanted to give me a hug. After we hugged (probably to reassure me) she said “I think hugging has great health benefits.” That was the last time I ever saw her. A few days later when Jeff went by to see her on his way home from work, I asked him how she was doing and he said “Julia, she’s dying.” I realized then that I was the last one to understand what everyone else had known all along. WOW, I digress big time here but I often think of Fran when someone talks about hugging. I will always be grateful that she gave me that last hug, clueless as I was about it being our last time to see each other. You are right, it doesn’t always come easily but it can be acquired, and sometimes memorable moments can help us acquire it.

  8. A very loving picture of your sons. I can see why its’ a favorite of yours. It would be mine.
    A picture of love…

    • Thank you, Merry!

  9. Psalms 133:1 – Behold, how good and how pleasant it is For brothers to dwell together in unity! (googled that out) That’s what came to my mind looking at the picture. God bless them!
    For me this is a timely post. I have been disturbed by the feud going on between two brothers, my cousins. Their mother is seriously sick but her condition had been stable until recently she had to witness some unpleasant scenes at home.
    It is sad that we find it hard to get along well with our dear ones – the contempt bred by familiarity, may be. Unfortunately those who mean a lot to us have to bear the brunt of our hatred.
    And often we are too late to realize the value of relationships.

    • Bindu, that is so true! It’s depressingly common for family members to be in conflict with each other, but that doesn’t lessen the pain any. And as you say, it takes such a toll on those who love both people. I have heard some argue that “the opposite of love is not hate, but apathy.” While that may be true, apathy is less overtly or violently destructive than anger and rage. I think familiarity can breed contempt, and also, we tend to think of our family members as being “stuck with us” and therefore more willing to tolerate our uglier behaviors. How sad, though! Long ago I heard someone say “Treat family as guests, and guests as family.” What a simple ideal to strive for. Simple, but not easy. Thanks for quoting that beautiful verse.

  10. Carlyle

    As you may recall, one of my recurring “sermonettes” is; love is not an emotion, it is a command! As such , it can be obeyed or disobeyed. Therefore, love requires voluntary action. Unfortunately, not all acts of love are recognized as such.

    • Thanks Daddy, I do recall your frequently describing love as an act of will and NOT a capricious emotion that changes with the winds. I totally agree with you that not all acts of love are recognized as such. In fact, they are often resented, possibly because they evoke a feeling of obligation, guilt or shame in the recipient, who often feels undeserving of really being loved. That to me is one of the saddest things, when a person is unable to receive love because of feeling unworthy. At such times it’s more important than ever to remember that love is not something that depends on being accepted at all, let alone reciprocated. Often the people most in need of love seem (on the surface) to be least deserving of it.

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