How Can We Love Thee – Emotionally?
When I think about how we love those who we are most deeply committed to, I think about loving in four perspectives: Physically, Intellectually, Emotionally and Spiritually. With that in mind, I have embarked on a four-part series, concentrating on one perspective per blog. For each perspective I follow this process:
- I will describe the perspective as it applied in my "real world" as I raised my sons, Mitchell and Braden.
- Then, I will look at the way Jesus applied the perspective to his "real world" when he was on earth.
- Finally, I will talk about ways we can apply the principle in our "real world now."
If you missed last's week's blog, you can read it here.
The Emotional Perspective:
My Past World with my Sons: It was always about LOVE! Even before my boys were conceived, they were loved. It is really amazing…the feeling of having children, the love begins in wanting to bring them into the family. (I think God must have felt that way in wanting to create us.) The entire birth experience with our first son, Mitchell, was so miraculous; it was new and somewhat scary as we entered into a life of the unknown. During my pregnancy, I talked and sang to my baby. And when Mitchell arriving screaming, as all babies do, they placed him in my arms. I immediately began to talk to him as I touched his tiny fingers, and I was amazed when he suddenly quit crying as his eyes searched my face. It seemed he knew me and was comforted because he knew my voice.
With Braden, we had medical complications that were quite serious. With a breech birth (sideways and his bottom facing forward), along with a placenta previa (when the placenta blocks the birth canal and is beneath the baby), I was put to bed for three months before the birth. I was in a critical situation an in danger of losing my baby, or even my life. And it became even more urgent because Braden was big baby and growing fast.
After one son, I knew, within the depths of my heart, what deep-seated love was. I knew there was nothing more important than my babies. And with my all-powerful love for my unborn son, I said over and over…"If it’s the baby’s life or mine, save my baby!" With three months of bed rest, I had much time to ponder and I thought about Mary, the mother of Jesus. What must have gone through Mary’s mind as she was told he would have a baby that would be great and called the Son of the Most High, and that he would reign over the hours of Jacob forever and His kingdom would have no end. How could there be “NO-END” to a kingdom? She must have been very confused, worried, and scared. There was no way she could have fathomed that a kingdom with no end meant a crucifixion on the cross followed by His resurrection. How could she have known that the love of the Father meant that God, in Jesus, shows His love for us by dying for us, God’s children?
Braden was born three weeks early and was 7 lbs. 13 oz.…the biggest preemie baby in the hospital!
When each son was baptized, I could not hold back tears as I realized this was a major milestone in their lives, and one not to be taken lightly. We were making a commitment to God to raise our children in faith and the love of Christ. And with our commitment came the commitment of our church family to be there for them, to help raise them, teach them the stories of the Bible, celebrate with them and help them to learn by giving their time, sharing knowledge, and giving their hearts.
What greater gift could our children ever have than the gift of love from God, their parents, families, special friends, and our faith family? With that commitment, I knew they could come to know God’s impassioned love…and would learn that no matter what happened, they would never be alone. With each drop of water upon their tiny heads came the assurance that no matter the circumstances, they would continue to be loved (In the name of the Father…), that love for them would not change even as they changed, because God’s love has no conditions…the price is paid (and of the Son…), and it would always be there to help sustain them, guide them, give them hope and a sense of peace (and of the Holy Spirit).
And with our commitment to faith and love we learned through Jesus, we gave, and continue to give, to our sons what God gives us all. Our children have always known they do not have to do anything to be loved. Getting top grades, being the best, minding all the rules are not required for love. Mistakes and accidents happen, but they are still loved and always will be because our love for our children is not dependent upon anything they do; rather it is something that is given with joy and without condition, and received joyfully in return.
Jesus’ World: In two Gospel passages and in one of the Epistles, we learn that Jesus felt so deeply that he wept! In Hebrews 5:7, Jesus wept as He looked on a man’s misery. In John 11:1-45, we learned about the death of Lazarus, the brother of Mary and Martha. At the mourning, Jesus wept even though he knew Lazarus would soon be raised and ultimately would spend eternity with Jesus. He wept because of how he was moved by Mary, Martha and the mourners.
In Luke 19:41-44, Jesus is taking his last trip to Jerusalem shortly before he is to be crucified. He talks about wanting to gather her children as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but Jerusalem would not have it. As Jesus approached and thought about all the lost souls, He cried aloud in anguish over the future of the city…a future that in AD 70, less than 40 years away, would find residents dead from a gruesome siege.
In Matthew 21:13-14, we learn about a different kind of love, one when Jesus became angry over injustice, but we also learn he did not go on and on in anger about it. Jesus reacted in anger to stop injustice and cheating when he turned over the tables at the temple.
"And he said the them, it is written MY HOUSE SHALL BE CALLED A HOUSE OF PRAYER, but you are making it a ROBBER’S DEN. And the blind and the lame came to Him in the temple, and He healed them." We learn he did not carry grudges; though he was denied by Peter three times, he continued to love him deeply.
In this passage John 21:15-18, “After breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me more than these?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord, You know I love You.” Jesus said “Tend My Lambs.” Jesus said to Simon Peter again a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?” Peter said to him again a second time, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.” Jesus said to him, “Shepherd My sheep.” Jesus said to Peter a third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?” Peter was grieved because Jesus asked a third time and Peter responded “Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You.” Jesus said to him, “Tend my sheep.”
It is clear in this passage that no matter what we might do we are never separated from God or God’s love. No matter what we do, or what our station in life is, God is there. Jesus uses the image of the shepherd and the sheep often. In John 10 beginning with verse 1, Jesus tells the Pharisees that “anyone who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in another way is a thief and a robber. The one who enters the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and he leads them out…they follow him because they know his voice….I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep…I know my sheep and my sheep know me – just as the Father knows me and I know the Father.
Beginning in verse 22 at the Festival of Dedication at Jerusalem, Jesus is asked by Jews surrounding him if he is the Messiah and he says, "The works I do in my Father’s name testify about me, but you do not believe because you are not my sheep. My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. I and the Father are one."
Whether we are poor, or mourning, whether we are meek, hungry, thirsty, persecuted, fearful, angry, lost, or even deny our Lord, distancing ourselves from Him, God is still with us, merciful, abounding in steadfast love and grace…not because of anything we do or some condition of love; God is there because we are God’s. God calls us by our names. We follow because we know His voice.
In Revelation 7:16-17, we hear from John a final time. "They will hunger no longer, nor thirst anymore; nor will the sun beat down on them, nor any heat; for the Lamb in the center of the throne will be their shepherd, and will guide them to springs of the water of life; and God will wipe every tear from their eyes."
Our World Now: Our world is hurting. Children and adults are hungry, homeless, and many are sick and lack education. Wars all over the world wage in religious, political, and cultural differences all in the effort to secure power. Or own political parties in the United States continue to wage war with each other pointing fingers, while trying to cover up mistakes. Where is accountability? Where is truth? Where is understanding? Where is forgiveness? Where is living in the light? Even within denominations, we make judgments.
The fact is that it often seems like the world has lost the way. As Christians, we know we are saved by grace and can depend on God’s abiding love. We know we are called to be good shepherds…caring for each other, demonstrating our faith, doing good works because we are led by our love for the God who loves us. We know we are called to let our light shine in the world, but sometimes it just feels overwhelming. We may wonder what difference we can make.
How Can We Love Thee – Emotionally?
"Tend My Lambs" – We are called to be shepherds, which means we are called to be present in God’s creations, embracing rather than distancing ourselves. As church members, we are called to be shepherds from the moment a baby enters into our care. It is always so precious to see an infant baptism, but there is so much more to it than seeing the baby’s reaction to the water. During baptisms, our pastors ask the parents the name of the child even they already know it. With each new baptism, the child is introduced to our family of faith, and it is the declaration that God knows our name and is intimately acquainted with us. During the baptism, we the church family, make a commitment to the child being baptized and their family…to give our time, to teach, support, lead, comfort, laugh, play, sing, pray ,and love. As shepherds we know our sheep and can call them by name.
"Shepherd My sheep" – As shepherds, we are called to take care of each other, especially those in need. To be like Jesus means we care for the sick and weak, and we comfort those with broken hearts or those who mourn. How can we help? Some ideas are to pray, visit, send cards, call, send emails, "adopt those with special needs," prepare food, watch out for each other, do errands, and attend memorial services even if we don’t personally know the one who died…but attending for the purpose of showing support for those left behind.
"Tend my sheep" – What stood out for me in the Life of Jesus was His strength, conviction, and consistency. His faith and focus was on God, and he followed the path of destiny and purpose. We learned from Him that loving humbly does not mean we have to be a doormat, ignoring wrongs or not standing up for what is right. It doesn’t mean we won’t feel anger, pain and sorrow. In fact, with a deep love…a deep commitment, we may feel those even more.
Jesus did not let fear enable Him; He stood up for the truth even under threat of death. He did not hold grudges, relive over and over all condemnation, fear to trust even after being abandoned by his disciples, or fail to forgive. Jesus was not a victim. He had choices all along, and chose to use every part of his heart, mind, body and soul to show that love is stronger than death.
Jesus could have taken a "poor me" attitude and blamed others for what was happening, but that was not his way. He did not worry about being politically correct; rather He continued to demonstrate love to the sick, the dying, the unlovable, the unclean, the old, the young, women, gentiles, heathens and even criminals. He was not discriminating about who he helped…He was the Good Shepherd to all!
Stay tuned for Part 4: The Spiritual Perspective
May God’s grace, peace and joy be yours all the days of your life!