Do you ever read something and the words keep coming back to you like a boomerang? That happened to me yesterday. I was aimlessly browsing an article and read part of a conversation where one person said it was enough to express love verbally and the other person said that’s just rhetoric. You can express love, but it’s weak without action to back it up. Recently I was reviewing some comforting passages in the book of John. There’s a model for us in John 15:9 “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love.” Jesus said that and set the stage for how real love came to be.
In the past 6 weeks I’ve been the benefactor of awesome love, amazing love. Nobody craves spending time with someone who has no energy and requires special care like a piece of fragile glass. That’s not how my friends and family made me feel though. They demonstrated what it means to ‘remain in the love’ taught by Jesus way back in the New Testament. I am blessed.
Have you ever considered how the quality of our lives would improve if we put love into action beyond the rhetoric of simple words? We’ve all witnessed random acts of kindness and heard about the joy expressed by a surprised recipient of a pay-it-forward gift at Starbucks or the drive-thru. We smile when we hear stories of compassion that renews our faith in humanity.
Here’s an idea. We could practice what we’re taught in 3 John 1:11 “Dear friend, do not imitate what is evil but what is good. Anyone who does what is good is from God. Anyone who does what is evil has not seen God.” How do we imitate? We watch, we learn, we practice what we see until we learn it; until it becomes familiar. We do what comes naturally and we are comfortable with the act.
There are opportunities every day, sometimes every hour to express sentiments, feelings, frustrations, joy, irritation, enthusiasm, thankfulness, anger, excitement, annoyance … see what I mean? Crazy mixed up emotions! It’s like Russian Roulette – then the trigger snaps! Do we act in love even when we’re angry? What about when we’re worn out and annoyed? It’s possible to act out of love even when inwardly we’re drowning in irritation. Are you ready for a challenge? Here’s the first recommendation from Colossians 4:6 “Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” It’s perfectly safe to try this at home. Remember this: Act as if.
Have the conversation you need to have with a child, a spouse, a neighbor, a friend. Stand in front of a mirror, full length if possible. Practice your conversation exactly as you would have it; Act as if your irritating spouse was right there; or your annoying child was getting under your skin. Yell, be crabby, speak irrationally, use your body language – but don’t take your eyes off your image in the mirror. Rant; grouch; rage; let it out. Now – How do you feel? If someone had that conversation with you, how would it make you feel? Stop and consider the heart of that person? Consider your own. When we say ‘I love you’ is it rhetoric? Or is it authentic, active love? Isn’t there a way to express your disappointment, correct a mistake, or punish and act of defiance while still reassuring your love?
Here’s your chance. Decide now to calm your voice, modify your body language, rehearse again but this time with love, the way you would want to hear it. Add a hug and smile. Practice speaking the truth in love. Model Proverbs 1:8-9 “Listen, my son, to your father’s instruction and do not forsake your mother’s teaching. They are a garland to grace your head and a chain to adorn your neck.”
These verses in Romans 15:4-6 teach an important lesson “Everything that was written in the Scriptures was written to teach us encouragement and provide hope. May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had, so that you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Encourage…provide hope…glorify.
When we speak out, no matter what we feel inside, do we encourage? Do we practice patience and endurance so we are counseling instead of condemning? Do we build character in others or tear them down? We’re given guidance, even invited to ask God for help, in the book of Philippians 4:5-7 “Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” When I read Galatians 6:9, it even looks like we’re promised success. What do you think after reading this? “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.
You know, Vince Lombardi, the famous football coach had the right idea. He said “Practice doesn’t make perfect; perfect practice makes perfect.” Perfect is rare; maybe impossible. But treating others the way we want to be treated is entirely possible. We need a lot of practice, perfect practice. The mirror doesn’t lie; the image is an exact replica. When someone talks to you, when conversation takes place, what do you want as a result? Here’s one more thought from Luke 6:31 “Do to others as you would have them do to you.” We will never regret being kind. Ready to practice? Meet you at the mirror.
Mandisa/Sparrow Records: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BcLYkUb5Keo