“What we think or what we believe is, in the end, of little consequence. The only thing of consequence is what we do.” -John Ruskin
Strap on your seat belts, this is the most important component of Bold Faith yet. I’ve been writing the past few days on Bold Faith, I doubt any one has read through all of them, it’s just been a mind dump of everything God has been saying to me lately. But this next one is the grand daddy of them all, and the most important outcome of Bold Faith: having a really BIG love.
One of the best books I’ve read recently is Humilitas, which explores the subject of humility and talks about how humility is really just an amplification, it makes truly great people even greater.
The definition of humility that the author gives is that humility is the “noble choice to forgo your status, deploy your resources or use your influence for the good of others before yourself.” Or, in simpler terms, a humble person is marked by “a willingness to hold power in service of others.”
That is a great definition of humility, but I think it may even be a better definition of what love means.
Now often, when we think of love, we think of two sappy teenagers making out in some tree somewhere, writing poetry or something else similarly disgusting. In other words, we think of love as a feeling. We talk about love like it’s an accident, “I fell into love”, with the same sort of words you would say if you fell into the Le Brea tar pits. It was an accident, and just as accidentally, we fall out of love, and act like that’s a good enough reason to get a divorce, no matter how many lives it would decimate in the process.
I recently heard from a pastor that does pre-marital counseling, and his first question is always, “Why are you getting married?” And when the couple answers, somewhat bewildered, “Because we’re in love!”, he always asks if they have a better reason than that.
He’s kind of brutal, but he has a point. Love that is just a feeling, just an accident, won’t hold up.
The love we should be talking about is the kind of intentional love that revolves in how you treat the people you say you love. I sincerely believe that when Jesus said, “Love your enemies”, he meant, “Treat them with love”, not “Have happy feelings for your enemies.”
It would be stupid to command somebody, “have feelings”. Feelings just happen. But it’s totally smart to say, “Do this behavior”. Now we’re talking.
So back to the definition of Humility which I like so much. Let’s define love to mean “holding power in service of others.” What does that actually look like? What does that even mean?
It means really listening. This one stings. I am a terrible listener. You would be too if you had as many voices in your head as I do in mine. I don’t talk much, so people usually think I am a good listener, but I don’t talk much because in addition to listening to you talk, I’m thinking about the 4 things I have to do at work when I get home tonight, the new tires I need for my car, how pissed off I am that my rent went up, what I’m going to have lunch three weeks from Thursday, and sometimes the meaning of lyrics to a random song that I just thought of five minutes ago. Oh and which Chipotle sauce I’m going to put on my burrito for dinner tonight. And maybe 4 other things I can’t even verbalize.
My colleagues at work and I started calling this syndrome the “mind of a goldfish.” That’s from a few of us (mainly … well, me) being unable to keep a thought in our heads for more than approximately 3.2 seconds. And it’s just because there is so much to keep up with, and to do, that one thought replaces another one right after another.
I find that this happens a lot when I’m trying to listen to someone. What I would kill to have a blank slate when listening to people talk. I really want to love on people, and one of the best ways is to have an empty mind so you can truly focus on what the other person is saying. I’m working on this one. It’s hard for someone with the mind of a goldfish.
It means being good to people. This one is also really hard. Things like not telling a joke at the expense of someone else. This one is really hard in student ministry, because sometimes I will hear a leader make a joke at one kid’s expense. Nothing mean spirited or anything, but just enough to know that probably stung, and I just want to smack them upside the head. Things like that mean a lot more to people than they let on.
To feel like you’re fitting in, you want to tell jokes. To be in the in-crowd. To be a part of the clique. But this is why that definition of love is so powerful. You’re holding your power in service of others. You could join the clique. You could become a part of the in-crowd. You could really hurt someone. But you’re holding that power you have for the benefit of and in service to someone else. Someone you love. Again, using the definition of love as being someone you act well towards, not the American love of someone you randomly have happy feelings for.
It means doing stuff you probably don’t want to do. Like a parent changing a kids’ diaper, love is usually not glamorous, and rarely full of thanks. But you do it anyway, because of love. Love in this way can show up a million different ways. From Jesus’ washing the disciples’ dirty feet, to changing diapers, to cleaning up puke. It’s not glamourous, and because of that, this is where you often find true love.
It means spending time together. I’m lucky to have a whole lot of friends. I love them all. And one of the things I love most is spending time with them. It doesn’t matter how brief or long that time is, it doesn’t matter how light hearted or deep the conversation gets. Spending time with people and getting to know them and building a relationship is so important. This Sunday, for Life Groups, one of my studnets proposed heading to Wendy’s and getting frosties. (he just wanted free food) I thought about it for approximately 5 seconds, decided the relational time was worth ditching the rest of the groups, and 5 minutes later we were at Wendy’s talking about life. It was awesome.
Today, I’m grabbing lunch with one of my good friends for 6 years now. We have made it such a priority that every month for the past two years, we are super intentional about grabbing some time together. Sometimes that’s easier for us than others, but we always come away with it renewed, and I love those times together more than most. We’ve done it consistently for two years now, and I hope it’s something we will always do!
I could have pulled out the, “Well, we should do what the other groups are doing”, or the “I’m just really busy, I don’t have time for lunch”, cards at any time. But I love these guys, and I, selfishly, want as much to be a witness to what God will do with them as I can, so I’m making time. This is a priority. My highest priority. I’m going to work on listening, and be the best listener I can be, and screw my task list, if we want to grab lunch today, we’re grabbing lunch! This is a priority, YOU are a priority, and I’m putting you first. That shows love.
It means that I will always be the most awkward person in the room. I’m an introvert and used to it anyway. But seriously, what this means to me is that if there’s someone at a party or event or whatever that doesn’t seem to be having a good time because he doesn’t know anybody, that I’ll be his new best friend. Awkward for me at times because that is definitely never my first reaction, but if I really love other people, then I’ll hold my power in service of him. I could leave him alone, I could let him have a miserable time, but instead I’ll swallow my pride, become the most awkward person in the room, just so he won’t be.
It means that when I have to choose between them and me, I choose them. Love is holding your power for the service of others. If you are using your power for yourself, you may be justified, you may be entitled, you may be right to do it, but you are not love. This tension happens all the time. It’ll happen when someone calls you up desperate, “I need to talk to you as soon as possible”, and you can say, “Nope, sorry, I’m too busy.” I want to live my life showing true love. Love so much that I would drop everything to do what I can to help you out. Love so much that if our needs are in competition, I pick yours, every time.
It means that I communicate with people in a way that makes sense, *for them.* This one really disgusts me. There is a whole world that is drowning in their sin, and I have met some truly disgusting Christians that think that yelling at the lost world, dragging the lost through the mud, humiliating them, speaking with hostility towards them is a “loving thing”. Yes, it’s true.
I’ve actually been told directly by some people that do this that this is the most Agapé-loving thing they could do because they are telling them truth.
If you truly loved them, you would find a grace-filled way to tell them a truth that is relevant to their life, a message that they would receive with open arms and act on. As Paul commands, let your conversation always be FULL of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you can answer everyone. (Colossians 4:6)
What would you do if God chose you to present the Gospel message to Hitler? Maybe you would tell the truth, but you would tell it in such a hostile way no one would listen. Jesus didn’t give you the option. You can’t skate out of it. The most loving thing to do is to tell the Gospel as clearly and compellingly as you can with the Holy Spirit’s help. Jesus commanded, “LOVE your enemies.” Not that you need to feel happy feelings towards them, but that you need to do Loving doings toward them. Sometimes the latter actually may be the harder.
It means imagining the best, most loving, and kindest thing you could do for someone. And doing that for someone you hate. Yup, confession time again. This is another one I struggle with. I don’t know why, but there have been a few people in this world that I just can’t stand.
Yes, it’s true, there are people I actually do hate. No one famous, just people I know in day to day life that I just can’t stand. I don’t know why. In no circumstance can I think of anything that happened. In most cases, I barely even know the person. I just have a deep visceral reaction to even hearing their name that at times I’ve felt like I was going to be sick. And I don’t know why!
Well, as you can imagine, my first instinct is certainly not to be nice to them. If I see them on the street, and I start feeling sick, my first instinct would probably be to puke all over them. (note: I have never done this! I’m not quite that awful of a human being
And you know what? Being loving and kind to the people I naturally like most is easy, it’s natural. But if I have Bold Faith, then I need to bring BIG Love for the people I naturally hate most. Again, this is not about feelings. It’s about doings. What I do for them, how I interact with them.
And one of the most amazing things about the world is that behavior rarely follows belief, but belief frequently follows behavior. It’s virtually impossible for me to think “happy thoughts” towards someone I dislike and end up liking them, or doing something loving towards them. But if I just start acting as I would if I really loved them, then before too long, I will end up really loving them.
My heart follows what my hands are doing. This is a powerful and amazing principle, and that’s really all that loving people is all about.
It means doing the things that Jesus did. Seriously. Jesus was the most loving person of all, and he had the most faith. There is a great connection between Faith and Love. That connection is this: God created all people, and He loves them. If I claim to follow God (faith), I should love people too. Not have “happy feelings” for them, it would be stupid for God to command us to have a particular feeling at all. But love, in the sense of, “I’ll do the things for you the same as for people I really and truly love”.
Jesus embodied all of this. He embodied the idea of holding his power in service to others. Jesus’ leadership was all about service. Jesus frequently liked to talk about God’s “upside down” kingdom. That those who wanted to become most should become least.
And Jesus put it into practice, dying on a cross to wash away the sins of the world.
Jesus didn’t just talk about love, about service. He lived the finest example ever shown of what true love really means.
I want to be more like Jesus.