“I love you.” It’s such an easy thing to say. We utter the words with a hug as we leave a relative or friend’s house. We whisper them when we snuggle with our children at bedtime. We often hear it said with a smile at church gatherings. We slowly mouth the tender words to soft eyes sparkling in the candlelight at a restaurant table. We say and hear them so often that they sometimes lose their significance. Unless …
Unless, they are accompanied by proof of love. Tender touches, acts of kindness, sacrifices of time, money, and energy reassure us most when they are the result of genuine love – not a sense of duty, trying to win favor, or to impress.
When good parents catch the first glimpse of their squalling, squirmy little baby, they fall head over heals in love. Their whole life becomes wrapped up in meeting that child’s needs. They don’t love that little bundle because of anything they’ve done for them. They just love them because they love them.
When sparks fly between two young hearts and they fall in love, he might wash his car, shine it up, and actually use soap and water on himself. She might buy a new outfit and make his favorite treat. All they have on their mind is making the other one happy. They couldn’t give you a reason for their love. They just love each other because they love each other.
When deep friendships form women speak more about love than men do. Yet, whether or not the word is actually spoken, it’s still love. Friends look for ways to help each other. They run errands or make food when the other one is sick. They offer encouragement when it’s needed. There’s usually coffee, sweets, or roadtrips involved. They don’t have to have a reason to love, they just do.
If we’re honest, some of us might have a hard time accepting the fact that others can love us for no good reason. On one hand, it might be easy to love others (show proof of our love through our actions) just because we love them (have an emotional attachment). But on the other hand, our insecurities can hinder us from believing others could have that same kind of love for us. When that happens we put an unnecessary burden on our friends. We force them to think of love as something that is earned rather than something that is freely given and enjoyed.
Paul said we are to be rooted and established in love. (Ephesians 3:17) John said that God is love. (1 John 4:8) Therefore, it makes sense that we are to be rooted and established in God’s love. As with any plant, we soak up what we’re planted in. If we are planted in self-centeredness, we begin to think the whole world revolves around us. We become so caught up in ourselves that we don’t even know how to begin to genuinely love others. For some, it’s easy to see love as a checklist to be used on others and for others to use on us. We look for reasons to love other people and believe others must search for reasons to love us.
But God turned this kind of reasoning on its head by loving us for no good reason. Because He loves us, He “demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8) We did nothing. Nothing good. Nothing right. Nothing holy. Nothing worthy of honor or praise. Nothing lovely or commendable. We did nothing, but God still loved us (and the whole world) enough to send Jesus to pay for all of our wrongs.
Over the last five years, my heart of stone has been slowly transformed into a heart of flesh. I finally allowed the Spirit of God to completely take over. He’s thrown out everything bad for me and replaced it with the love of God. Honestly, I’m still reveling in all the changes. Sometimes, I don’t even know how to form thoughts with this transformed mind. His love completely overwhelms me. I am learning to rest my mind, will, and emotions in God’s love.
Like David, I find myself constantly asking, “Who am I and what is my family that You have brought me this far?” (2 Samuel 7:18) Like Paul, I’ve felt like the worst of sinners, “But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life. Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen.” (1 Timothy 1:16-17)
When we stop trying to find reasons for love, we can turn our eyes outward. We can begin to love like God. We can even love the hard-to-love because we understand how much God loved us. We become more and more confident knowing that we are rooted and established in God’s love. Others don’t need a reason for loving us; we’re just glad they do. Best of all, we don’t have to have a reason to love others – we just do!