Summary: Four practical words built around the idea that true love manifests itself in action.
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Unless otherwise noted all scripture is quoted from the New Living Translation of the Bible.
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Bud was a factory worker with more than a slight resemblance to Archie Bunker. Every single day he’d come home sweaty and dirty. He’d go in the back door, grab a beer from the frig, and plop himself down in front of the TV until his wife brought him supper.
One day as he was driving to work he happened across a Christian psychologist on the radio -- kinda’ of a local version of James Dobson. And something the commentator said stuck in his mind -- that being that love and marriage are about sacrifice.
And it hit him – no, convicted him – that he’d been expecting his wife to sacrifice for him but he’d never really sacrificed for her. It was as though a relational light bulb came on and he knew that he had to do something about it.
So he decided that he was going to surprise her the next day. Before coming home he showered and shaved. He went to the florist and bought flowers and instead of going in through the back door he went to the front
and rang the bell.
When she answered the door he held out the flowers and said -- "Honey, they’re for you! I love you."
She looked at him, her mouth dropped open. Tears filled her eyes.
And she said, "I’ve had a terrible day. Billy broke his leg and I had to take him to the hospital. No sooner had I got home than the phone rang. It was your mother and she’s coming to visit for two weeks. I tried to do the wash but the machine broke and there’s water all over the basement floor. And now, you come home drunk!
Poor Bud. It’s hard to win at love. But he’d finally got the right idea! He was on the right path, at least as mapped out by John in our text this morning. True love manifests itself in sacrificial action.
We tend to think of love in terms of intense feelings. We tend to think of love in terms of emotion and what’s in the heart. Every now and then I get called to the hospital when the regular chaplain is unavailable. Usually it’s when someone has died and the family is looking for someone to pray with them or to talk with them.
Occasionally, the nurses will call when it’s a really tense situation and they want to have a neutral kind of person there to help calm a distraught family. And a few of those calls have been really interesting –
like walking into the midst of a group of worked up, family members, all with smokers voices – and obviously not much going for them otherwise – weak vocabulary – mostly four letter words to make any point.
And some 50-year-old man has died – alcohol related illness – wasted life – couldn’t ever do any work on a regular basis to support his 6 kids and 2 ex-wives.
And I try to get people talking about the person who has died – but in a case like that all I’ll hear the family members say is – “You know, his heart was in the right place.”
And that’s what really counts to them – his heart was in the right place. My take on the situation is that the guy never loved anyone but himself. (Of course, I wouldn’t say that – especially in that situation).
Here is a guy who was was a total jerk – irresponsible toward others and himself. But he really wanted things
to be different, I suppose. At least that’s what the family is saying. And he felt for other people who had problems. So in their minds his heart was in the right place.
And I don’t want to be the judge of where any person’s heart is. That’s not my role. But frankly, there’s more to it than that. Just because someone has loving feelings or emotions – that doesn’t mean that true love exists.
It would be so much easier if we could talk in simplistic terms and just say -- "Well, my hearts in the right place."
"I really want to help and I really feel for you but..."
The but stands in the way of love.
You see, true love manifests itself in sacrificial action.
Isn’t that John’s point in 1 John 3.16? “We know what real love is because Christ gave up his life for us. And so we also ought to give up our lives for our Christian brothers and sisters.”
This is one of those nutshell verses. You know, verses that tend to pack a whole lot of gospel into a small amount of space.