How Can We Love Thee, Let Me Count the Ways!
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 am embarking on a four-part series, concentrating on one perspective per blog. For each perspective I will 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."
The Physical Perspective:
My Past World with my Sons: Every day I hugged my sons; they were physically touched by me every day. I cared for them, took care of their basic needs like food, safety, their health, praying with them, getting them to school and activities, reading to them, playing games, and spending joyful times together having fun! You get the picture.
Jesus’ World: I think about the way Jesus began his ministry with his baptism. We then learn in the Wilderness story that "man does not live by bread alone." We learn that our physical needs should not be so great as to test our Lord. We learn we should not be greedy even if we are nearly starved and so very tired. We learn that where our heart is, that is where our treasure lies.
After 40 days of fervently praying in the Wilderness, Jesus sets out to Galilee where he teaches the disciples be "fishermen of men." Along the way, he provides fish and bread to thousands. He provides the best wine at a wedding. He goes against custom and sometimes the law to recognize the rights of women, children, and those from other countries and cultures. Over and over he heals the sick, the lame, the blind… even healing on the Sabbath, and touching the untouchables like the lepers.
Physically, he demonstrates that with the help of God, we can make it through the most horrible of situations. Jesus was rejected from his home town, accused of atrocities by faith leaders, betrayed, denied, and tortured; he showed us that no matter what happens, even if we might feel forsaken, God is with us. No one can judge us, only God. In God’s eyes we are made equal, and no one can be above us.
Our World Now: Recently, I took two Manna Bags (prepared by the church youth and filled with food for those in need) home with me. As it turns out, this past Sunday, I went to the grocery store, and it was raining hard as I ran back to my car. A man came up to me and held an umbrella over my head as I was trying to unlock the car and get my groceries inside. I said "thank you" and he said he "was just trying to make a couple of bucks for food."
I asked, "would you like a couple of lunches from our youth, that we call Manna Bags?" He was very polite and said enthusiastically, "yes, please." I gave him the bags and he said, "thank you" and then quickly left with his broken umbrella before I could even offer him money. I watched and saw him head to the apartments next door with the food. He was cold, wet, and hungry.
In my life now, I visit the sick, the dying, and the elderly. I take meals when families are in need. I attend funerals. Along the way, I’ve noticed that many times, people in nursing homes may seem unkempt, and even unclean. They may have an odor, or foul breath, but I still, touch, hug, and kiss them.
I hold their hands. I’ve washed their hands and faces with wet cloths, and it soothes them. I rub lotion into their hands and even feet... kind of gross, I know! And while I am visiting with those I know, I also reach out to others along the way, taking their hands, looking into their eyes, making a connection with words as best as I can. Those are just a few examples of how we can care for each other physically.
We should not depend on just happening to see needs, we should look for them. From picking up something that was dropped, greeting people, holding doors open, and just being friendly, we can make someone’s day. We know from studies that when babies are born and cared for, but not touched, they do not thrive and in fact many die. That’s human nature – we need to be touched and nurtured.
Even if physically we don’t die, we may die inside, living on an island where we feel so very alone. Like Jesus, no matter the situation, where we can, we should help people to not feel forsaken because God is with them, and so are we! And in doing this, we must keep in mind that we are instructed to love our neighbor as ourselves, so we’d better take care of ourselves, too, so that we can care for others.
How Can We Love Thee – Physically?
Read what Jesus says. He does not condemn. He does not worry about what people might think of him. For Jesus, there are no strangers because Jesus’ message is a message of love…in thought, word and deed.
But, it’s also important to remember that he took care of his physical needs, leaving the crowds and stress to rejuvenate and rest. He let his feet be washed and anointed with oil. He went to dinners prepared for him. Love is a two way street…we need to think about how we show our love and how we let others show their love to us.
In Matthew 25 beginning with verse 35 Jesus said: “I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me… Truly I tell you, when you do it unto the least of these, you do it unto me.”
Stay tuned for Part 2: The Intellectual Perspective