Ah . . . February--the month of love . . . and loving-kindness.
So . . . I have a question for you. How would you like to express your love to others in a way that is guaranteed to make them feel loved? Whether it's romantic love or love for friends and family, there are countless ways we can show love to each other; but the best way is to tell them in a way that means something to them, in a language they understand. The secret is to learn their "love language."
Dr. Gary Chapman says each of us responds especially to one of these five: Words of Affirmation, Acts of Service, Gifts, Quality Time, or Physical Touch. I'll tell you a secret: my language is Words of Affirmation along with a smidge of Acts of Service, and my husband's is a tie between Affirming Words and Physical Touch. Do you know what "language" you respond to? Your significant other? Your children & your friends?
You've heard the story about the little boy awakened in the night by a thunderstorm. His mother came into his room and assured him he didn't need to be afraid, Jesus was right there with him. Through crocodile tears he sniffled, "Yeah, I know, but right now I need Jesus with skin on!" She wrapped him in her arms and held him close. It was a language he understood.
God demonstrated His love for us in a language we could understand. He did what no one had ever done before. He left His glory, slipped into skin and dwelt among us. He took our place and paid for our wrongdoing. And God demonstrated His love for us by showing us how to love one another.
We do that the same way He did, by using language they can understand. Sometimes we use words, but we can also become "Jesus with skin on", and do the same kinds of things He did while He was on earth. Love should be our distinguishing mark--the obvious, unmistakable trait that makes us known.
Do you ever think about all the people who have blessed you throughout your life? The tireless teachers, generous relatives, and thoughtful neighbors? Some encouraged, some disciplined, some just listened. They took time out of their lives to love you. Sometimes it was gentle love; sometime it was tough. Sometimes, frankly, it didn't feel so good--like the coach who wouldn't settle for your performance on the field, or Mrs. Horn, who wouldn't settle for mine on the piano. Maybe we didn't welcome their "input" at the time, but with the gracious gift of hindsight, today we can see how we benefited from their love. How grateful we are that they spoke to us in a language we could understand!
Life is about love. We are here to learn to love. And we do that by practicing on each other. It is in loving that are most like Him, so love is His consistent command. "A new command I give you . . ." Jesus said. "As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you love one another." (John 13:34-35)
We're to be Jesus with skin on. That's what Love looks like.
Love looks like my friend Julaine, who brings fresh-baked goodies to the gals in her office and insisted on driving her office-mate, Claire, to all her chemo appointments. Love looks like sweet Mary, who visits my mom in the nursing home three times a week to help her eat dinner, read the mail, and send out mom's signature birthday cards, complete with red hand-drawn hearts. Love looks like our neighbor Tom, who donated a portion of his liver to save the life of a stranger, and our friend Steve, who's doing countless surgeries in Haiti, in the aftermath of that devastating earthquake on our island neighbor.
And love looks like you when you speak words of love or deny yourself something you want in order to bless, encourage, or help someone in real need. When we say "God loves you" and then roll up our sleeves, pull out our checkbook, or sacrifice our time and sweat and tears to show what love looks like, those in sorrow or deep crisis will begin to believe it.
Acts of kindness, great or small--costly sacrifices or considerate gestures, every time you do an act of loving-kindness, you're being Jesus with skin on to others. You're speaking a language they can understand. And God will magnify even the smallest of your deeds to demonstrate His great love to them.
It's your turn: Think about someone--now what ONE new thing could you do to show that person you love them, in a language they'll understand.
I'd love to hear about it . . . please post a comment!
Adapted from The Wonder of His Love © Chapter 11
by Nancy Stafford (Multnomah/Random House)