“I’d like you to meet my better half.”
This is how my husband tends to introduce me to his friends and co-workers. I have to admit, it makes me smile every time, though I feel wholly unworthy of this distinction.
See, I knew even before I officially met him that my husband was a special guy. I remember seeing him - Sunday after Sunday - seated next to his grandmother in a front pew and being amazed. I mean, how many twentysomethings do you see at church, let alone at church with their grandmothers?
I’m all the more amazed that in the 3+ years since I first laid eyes on the back of this man’s head he’s continued to exemplify biblical love (1 Corinthians 13:4-13).
Biblical love is patient. I know I must at times be difficult to be around, especially when I allow a bad mood to hijack my personality. But rather than run or hide from this abrasive version of me, my husband draws close. "What’s wrong?" "Is there anything I can do?"
Biblical love is kind. When I get home from work, I kick my shoes off at the door, scatter the (literal and figurative) baggage of the day throughout the apartment - purse on the floor, coat on the couch, lunch bag on the kitchen counter - and, though I’m certain my doing so drives him crazy, my husband asks me about my day while putting my dirty lunch dishes in the sink and quietly returning my lunch bag to its home on the top of the fridge.
Biblical love is not self-seeking. Any opportunity he has - and you’d be amazed by how many each day offers - my husband defers to me and my preferences. "What do you want to watch on TV?" "Where would you like to eat?"
It is without a doubt a great blessing to be on the receiving end of such a love, but I am doubly blessed because in receiving such a love I desire to reciprocate and extend that love to others.
Written by Whitney
Something I think is really important is loving all people. Even if they are really annoying and drive you crazy. You don't have to want to always hang out with someone to want to love them.
Though I think this is important, many other people don't feel the same way. They say we shouldn't love people who don't believe in God. We should pray for them but not love them. Well, my question is: What about the people who never learned about God or the people who have never had anyone to love them? Because if Jesus loved them, shouldn't we? Don't get me wrong, I think praying for these people is good, but I don’t think that is enough. Why shouldn't we love them?
Jesus himself taught us to “love your neighbor as yourself.” In fact, He said that “there is NO commandment greater” than this one (Mark 12:31, emphasis added). So people who aren't Christians or who sin all the time aren’t our neighbor? Because I think they are. And it is not our place to judge others for what they did wrong; we should love them instead. Jesus loved everyone. He is our main example to follow. Jesus loved the people that no one else did. He sat and ate with the prostitutes and tax collectors, who were literally the most hated people in town.
In 1 Peter, it says that our love has to be “unfailing” (1 Peter 4:8), or constant, for other people so that sin isn't an obstacle to seeing the best in them. I think if you want to see the best in people that means you must love them. Also, in 1 Corinthians chapter 13, Paul told the people that to be righteous, which means morally right, they had to have three things:
But Paul specifically states that the most important one is love. Earlier in chapter 13, he goes into major detail on what love is and how one could achieve it (1 Corinthians 13:3-8; also mentioned in Romans 12:9-13).
If loving people wasn't so important, why would it be mentioned so many times in the Bible? So if this is what love demands of us, how are you living this out?
Written by Sarah
Since I’ve been an adult, I’ve gradually realized that real love is largely comprised of grit and self-respect. A passion for someone or a field of interest may spark love, but it’s the grit and self-respect that create and cement real love.
Some may ask how self-respect can help reinforce love. It is simple. True love for something or someone is based on respect for them or it. People who do not respect themselves are generally unable to respect others. Bullies are common examples.
The “grit” part is what keeps us moving forward through the hard work.
Christ at our sides makes it much easier to remember that, if we are worthy of His love, certainly, we are worthy of our own. His presence gives us the strength to carry on in difficult situations.
In romantic love, once we create a bond of marriage with someone, it is easy for the loving feelings to disintegrate into resentment and ennui. The other person has dull interests or he/she will not help with the cooking or housework. Life can become quite tense. Soon, we care little about the feelings of the person to whom we have supposedly devoted ourselves.
However, in many cases, with self-respect and a willingness to work at something we said we wanted, the love in the relationship can mature and grow.
Our careers or our hobbies are much the same. I think everyone has entered enthusiastically into at least one job or cause, only to find quickly that said responsibility is a bit more grinding than we anticipated. We often must dig deeply into our self-respect and our grit to accomplish what we say we support.
Sometimes, love for family gets us into these situations. If you’ve cared for ill or elderly or young people past the point of exhaustion, you know exactly what I mean. Even though we may love a family member, sometimes loving them can be very difficult. Grit and self-respect are required.
My favorite love story exemplifying this kind of situation came from a man who gave me an estimate on a car I wanted to sell. Somehow, we started talking about families, and he told me of his recently deceased father.
He talked about his father’s dementia. He mentioned the many trips he made to the home where his father lived. He even retired early to help his father. The most memorable anecdote was about his father’s love for strawberry malts. He said his dad loved them so much that he would ask his son if he had brought him one at nearly every visit. So the man did…even at 2:00 a.m. The man did everything imaginable to improve his confused father’s last days.
At the end of his story, he turned to me and said something like, “I consider it my life’s greatest honor to do that for my dad.”
I was stunned. I don’t know what I had expected the man to say, but I knew God was showing me the requirements of real love.
Written by Becky
There are two things I don’t like very much: a numb head and numb legs.
We’ve all sat in a meeting/class/small group that felt like you needed to just get up and do something rather than talk anymore. You’ve talked and talked and talked and by the end of it...your head is numb.
Often those meetings have another side effect: numb legs. If I sit for too long, my legs go to sleep and my lower back feels numb. The worst part is when you attempt to stand up and walk it out. You try to get up and walk only to have that horrible tingly feeling all over as you wobble around until your legs are normal again.
This is true in other areas of life as well. I can sit all day reading on social media or news websites about what is going on in the world: the hurts, struggles, and disasters. As I read, it may stir something in me, but the longer I sit there and mine down into the internet abyss, the more it becomes just another story about something happening somewhere that is kinda sad. I've become numb.
If there’s one emotion that is the opposite of numb, it’s love. When you’re “in love,” you are overwhelmed with emotion. When you’re compelled by love, you live passionately. When you see a loving act, it moves your soul. Love is the antithesis of apathy. In fact, some acts of love can radically change your world in a moment.
In my third year of seminary, this happened to me. In 2014 our nation experienced tensions, fears, and anger around race relations that rose to a boiling point not seen in decades. As a white male, I watched from a distance unsure of what to do and how to respond. That is, until it came right up to my face. Moved by much of the injustice they saw, a group of students and faculty decided they would show their solidarity with a “die-in” on our campus. It was publicized and all were invited to join.
Hundreds of students and teachers from many faiths, races, and varying backgrounds joined together.They laid on the ground showing with their bodies and voices that they laid down their lives to lift up the lives of those who were experiencing injustice. Jesus’ words in John 15:13 rattled in my head...
I watched and was moved to tears.
I wanted to participate. I wanted to lay on the ground with them, but something in me hesitated. I didn’t feel like I had earned the right to stand with them. Why? Because for so long I was simply apathetic.
I can’t tell you all the emotions I felt at that moment, but as I watched, my heart broke. It broke for my fellow brothers and sisters who have been told their lives are not quite as equal as other lives. It broke because I realized my apathy for so long was part of the injustice.
My mind had been numbed for so long, but now as I watched and eventually joined in raising my voice with them, I was being awakened by loved. Like when your legs wake up, it was awkward and it tingled, but as I began to let my heart be changed by their love, the numbness fell away and I was able to begin to move and act in love with them.
My hope for you reading this is that you would get up, work out those awkward first steps, and go where love compels you to go. If you can get up and engage into the world, it will change things. It can be awkward and hard as your legs tingle and you wobble around until feeling is restored, but it will wear off and you’ll be able to move forward once again.
Written by Mark
The 12:12 Project is sponsored by Katy First United Methodist Church.