How to be a better person? # 2

GIVE A BIT OF LOVE!

Love, yes, it is a wonderful word. How good are we in using it? To begin with, it does not mean the same thing for all of us. In a way, we all have our own definition that defines our character and determines our attitude. Yet, without the ingredient of love, we will not acquire an attitude that makes us a better person.

Love is not easily understood. In addition, we have been misled by our Christian concept of unconditional love. We have become receivers and not givers. We have attributed to God the kind of love we cannot possibly give. God loved us while we were sinners. Does that mean we shall remain in sin and therefore never be able to love a little? (Ro.5: 8; 6: 1-2). This prevailing thinking is hurting us in developing an attitude that can radiate a spark of love. We also have been misled to spread love regardless of the response we may receive. There is a time when we must shake the dust off our feet and go where we can shine (Mk.6: 11). There always will be people that will not accept our love or even God’s love (Rev.22: 11). We must not allow loveless individuals to trample on us and take from us that which makes us a better person (Heb.10: 26-31). We do not hate them because they reject us, but we merely do not throw the little pearl of love before those that trample on it and destroy us with it (Mt.7: 6). Our life can be wrapped in love and we must guard against loosing it.

At the outset, I am not required to give all or the ultimate love – the kind Jesus or Paul or a martyr had to give. Rather, it is the kind that I can live with while I try to get along with others. It is a matter of accepting who I am and what others are. Whether we like it or not, we impose our feelings on others. We judge ourselves by what we think others are. Basically, it is merely an assumption that they are what we are. The truth is we are all different; yet, capable, if willing, to show a little love that goes a long way. It is the kind of love we ourselves create and live by it (I Cor.14: 1). It is not divine, but human. Even the “Divine” had to be practical in communicating with man. Love took on a human form and became visible. In like manner, we too express love in concrete and practical ways. It must be genuine and not overpowering (Ro.12: 9). Smothering is not acceptable. We require space to breath and so do those to whom we express some form of love. Our intent is not to win the other person over, but merely to assist in some way without an ulterior motive. We do it because it is expected of us (Ro.13: 8).

We do prefer doing nice things for each other, particularly to friends or to persons we desire to be accepted. It is sort of a bribe. Jesus regarded such an exchange as unacceptable. “If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that?” (Mt.5: 46-47). Love does not expect anything when one does a little extra. We are not to toot a horn or let the left hand know what the right hand has done (Mt.6: 1-4). The people that Jesus praised were not aware that they had loved someone. What they did would escape us who are singled out for larger contributions (Mt.23: 23-24). We are not told what their faith was. It was not necessary because their deeds were self-evident. They fed the hungry, gave water to the thirsty, clothed the naked, visited the sick and those imprisoned for the wrong reason (Mt.25; 34-40). Being hospitable to strangers is an act of love. The Good Samaritan did not render service to someone he knew. Love for this man was a tool of necessity (Lk.10: 25-37). Love translates into deeds that supersede faith (Ja.2: 14-26). It shines when we do what is right!

The above examples represent Jesus and His disciples. They are simply beyond us and for a different time. That is simply false. Jesus was in every way like we are and so were his disciples (Heb.4: 15-16). We are so tangled up with our own kind that we fail to see where we might be needed. I learned this lesson personally when we were separated from our loved ones and neighbors that there were people with love to spare. I would not be here had it not been for a stranger and enemy that pulled me out of a water hole, when two strangers wrapped me in a blanket while I was being burned alive and when the doctor discovered that I had advanced cancer. These were people that loved without knowing it. I have a long list of people that influenced my life for the better. On our last trip to Europe, strangers saw our predicament and came to our aid. Love is not dead. It does not come in overpowering ways, but in bits that make life easier. Beware of lip service and the slobbering kind that is overwhelming. Beware of gifts that are regarded as signs of love. Love cannot be bought. It must be given freely. Love is not love until we do something with it.

Love is risky. It has cost those that loved genuinely their reputation and their lives. The reason is that those among us that need love the most appreciate it least. Two orphan sisters were separated for a lengthy period. When the much older one was able to return to her hometown where the younger one lived, the younger sister expected a loving reunion. She picked some wild flowers and waited at the railroad station to welcome her older sister. When the older one arrived, she took the flowers and stepped on and said, “This is what you bring me!” The little one’s love was crushed. It behooves us to “be wise as serpents and without guile like doves” (Mt.10: 16). Love means walking a careful path.