Over the Memorial Day weekend I had the joy of having our four grown children, their spouses, our 4 grandchildren, and my 90+ year- old parents at our home. All of us hadn’t been together since last August when we had the joy of being at our eldest son’s wedding. It was a memorable weekend full of ‘catching- up’, as well as deep conversations; competitive outdoor games like corn hole and pickle ball; intense card games; loads of laughter from all—amid much noise-making and running around from the grandkids; and my favorite—a sweet time of prayer! The only downside was that it went by far too quickly; it was very hard for me to see the weekend come to an end since we have no way of knowing when the next time will be that we'll all be able to gather together due to my parents’ ages, and the fact that we all live in different locations—including one who lives overseas. I am so grateful that we had the opportunity to come together and demonstrate our love for the Lord and for one another!
There were several moments throughout the weekend when I was consciously aware of choices that we all made to show our love for one another. It also occurred to me that the way in which we demonstrated our love for one another is how we can--and should-- demonstrate our love for our Heavenly Father.
Engage: When we love someone, we will be engaged with him or her. We will want to be ‘connected’ to them, and we will indicate to them that who they are and what they say is important to us. We will give them our undivided attention when they are speaking to us, 'actively listening' to them. Some of the ways in which we show we are engaged with others include: communicating with them—whether via audio calls, Skype or Face Time calls, emails, letters and cards; and when in their presence, we will look them in the eyes when they are talking. It will mean removing distractions that would cause you to lose your focus upon them and what they are saying. I was so blessed to see my children’s willingness to converse with my parents-- as well as with one another-- and to set aside looking at their cell phones to actively listen to what other family members were saying.
Do you set aside time each day to focus upon God and to truly listen to what He has to say to you in His Word, and through the Holy Spirit as you pray to Him? Do you meet with Him in a room where you know that you won’t be distracted and do you put away anything that might keep you from giving Him your undivided attention?
Respond: When someone speaks to us, it’s important that we respond by letting him/her know that we have heard what he/she said. Ways in which we do that is by: nodding our head; by saying ‘I understand’ or something to that effect’; by asking questions to get greater clarification; by making a statement that asserts that you agree or disagree with what has been said; or by obeying if a request or directive was given. In general, it is having a two-way conversation with the person in which you acknowledge and affirm what they are saying. For example, there were times when I spoke to my four-year old twin granddaughters and they readily acknowledged that they had heard me, however, there were other times when they were too caught up in what they were doing and they chose to ignore me. Their ignoring me communicated that it was more important for them to do what they wanted to do than it was to respond to me; in other words, their lack of response indicated to me that their love for themselves was greater than their love for me. I immediately was convicted of my own self-love and wondered, ‘How often do I demonstrate to God that I love myself more than I love Him by ignoring His Words to me?”
We are commanded to love one another ‘as Jesus has loved us’, which means making their needs a priority over our own. Jesus also tells us that if we love Him, we will obey Him (John 14:15). That statement also implies that when we ignore or disobey Him we demonstrate that we love ourselves more than we love Him.
During your quiet time with the Lord, do you take the time to reflect upon what it is that you ‘heard’ the Lord stating to you? Do you write notes in your Bible or in a journal regarding what you heard Him say, including instructions and guidance He has given to you? Do you demonstrate that you heard His Voice by obeying His commands? What about His greatest command’ to love Him with all of your heart, soul, mind and strength’? And ‘to love others as He has loved you’?
Serve and Sacrifice: A heart that truly loves someone will desire to serve that person. When you love someone, you will look for and take advantage of opportunities to meet the other person’s needs and their desires, if doing so is in the person’s best interest. I vividly remember that shortly after my husband’s and my first date, I felt compelled to go and get something special for him (OK, it was just a meal from McDonald’s, but I knew he would appreciate it!)
Jesus says that He did not come to be served but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many (Matthew 20:28). We are most like Christ when we serve others. He tells us in Matthew 25:36: ‘ I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ (ESV) He goes on to tell us that if we serve others in need, we are in effect serving Him. (Matthew 25:40) Jesus said that if we even give a cup of cold water to others out of our love for Him, we will not lose our reward (Mark 9:41), and we are told that true religion is helping widows and orphans (James 1:27). Other scriptures encourage us to do good to everyone, and especially to the household of God. (Galatians 6:10; Romans 12:13)
Serving others necessarily involves some kind of sacrifice on our part. A dear sister in Christ demonstrated her love for the Lord and for me by going out of her way to drive to my house to bring food that she had made for me to serve to my family over the weekend. All of my children and my parents came by plane or by car and gave up a long weekend for us all to gather together, and my husband and I spent many hours preparing for our reunion.
Even ‘simple’ ways in which we serve one another requires a sacrifice on our part because we choose to spend our time doing something to bless others instead of merely serving our own needs and desires. I so appreciated my children serving our family and me over the weekend by preparing meals; setting and clearing the dinner table; washing dishes; putting down their cell phones in order to converse with other family members; and playing games that weren’t their preference in order to please others. Loving others means putting their needs above your own according to 1st Corinthians 13:5, and Christ’s life certainly demonstrated sacrificial love in all that He did-- from healing the diseased, casting out demons, preaching to and feeding the multitudes, and of course by giving His life on the cross in our place (John 15:13; Ephesians 5:2; 2nd Corinthians 5:21).
The greatest way to serve someone and show your love for them is by doing what you know truly pleases them. Jesus came to earth for the purpose of saving sinners from the power and penalty of sin. He longs for others to know His great love for them and He has commanded us to ‘go and tell and make disciples of all nations’ (Matthew 28:19). We serve Him best by sharing His love with others and telling them about the Source of our love. I am convicted and humbled every time I hear my daughter’s heart of love for the Lord that has compelled her to go overseas and make His Name known where He currently has few friends. Sharing the truth of Who Jesus is and His great love for the people He created is an act of service that we all are called to do, regardless of where we live, and it is the act of service which best demonstrates whether we truly love Jesus and others.
In what ways are you demonstrating your love for Christ by serving others—those within your own family; those within the household of God; and those who are in need who are ‘outside’ of your family of origin or the family of God? Are you faithfully serving Jesus by sharing the gospel with those whom He came to save?
Lord, help me to keep my eyes and attention fully focused upon You and engaged with Your word, acknowledging my love for You by responding in obedience to all that you have called me to do. Open up my eyes to the opportunities that exist all around me to demonstrate my love for You by serving others. May I be found faithful to help to meet others’ physical needs, and may I especially be found faithful to share the ‘good news’ of Your sacrificial love with those who need to hear of your life-transforming love!
Written by Julie Van Gorp