Jesus [said]: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”—Matthew 22:37 NIV
There is an important and easily missed form of loving others that is shown in the smaller matters of life. In today’s fast-paced world, most of us lead very busy lives. If we find it difficult to slow down sufficiently so that we can stop and manifest God’s love for others in the seemingly big ways, how much more challenging is it to make time for the needs that seem insignificant. There are many times each day that we face small choices—simply put, choices to love others or to ignore the opportunity to love and just go on with what we are doing. Such opportunities could be something like helping a person in need, preferring them over ourselves, showing concern when someone is stressed or worried, offering a hug or a prayer, or being a listening and sympathetic ear.
In the end, the person each of us is known to be is the sum total of our choices—choices that we make on a daily basis. When we choose to take the time to stop and help someone in need, when we show love and concern for someone hurting, when we give of what we have, we steadily become more loving. We choose to leave a legacy of love behind us as we pursue our path of life.
Whereas, when we choose to put priority only on our own goals, responsibilities, and concerns, ignoring the people around us, we in turn become more self-centered and lonely, and we can end up wandering aimlessly about in our own universe.
Nowadays we think of a philanthropist as someone who donates big sums of money, yet the word is derived from two Greek words, philos (loving) and anthropos (man): loving man. All of us are capable of being philanthropists. We can give of ourselves.—Edward Lindsey
A fascinating thing about our lives on this earth is that we have limitless opportunities to make choices based on love for others, on wanting to help humankind. Daily we can do kind deeds for the benefit of others. Often that is our foremost thinking at the beginning of a career or project—we want to help others. What happens, though, is that we become enveloped in the tornado of work, stretched to the limit of available time, tossed about by shifting circumstances and competing responsibilities, and set back by the unexpected curveballs that life throws at us, until we have forgotten the primary reason we started on that path to begin with.
How sad it is that in our busyness we can even pass up those whom we love the most—our children, family, and loved ones.
Here is a letter from a father to his son, which illustrates this point well.
Listen, son, I am saying this as you lie asleep, one little paw crumpled under your cheek and the blond curls wet on your damp forehead. I have come into your room alone. Just a few minutes ago, as I sat reading my paper in the library, a stifling wave of remorse swept over me. Guiltily I came to your bedside.
Here are the things I’ve been thinking, son: I had been cross to you. I scolded you as you were dressing for school because you gave your face merely a dab with a towel. I took you to task for not cleaning your shoes. I called out angrily when you threw some of your things on the floor.
At breakfast I found fault, too. You spilled things. You gulped down your food. You put your elbows on the table. You spread your butter too thick on your bread. And as you started off to play and I left for work, you turned and waved a hand and called, “Goodbye, Daddy!” I frowned, and said in reply, “Hold your shoulders back, boy!”
Then it began all over again in the late afternoon. …
Do you remember, later, when I was reading in the library, how you came in timidly, with a sort of hurt look in your eyes? I glanced up over my newspaper, impatient at the interruption, and you hesitated at the door. “What is it you want?” I snapped.
You said nothing, but ran across in one tempestuous plunge, and threw your arms around my neck and kissed me. Your small arms tightened with an affection that God had set blooming in your heart and which even neglect could not wither. And then you were gone, pattering up the stairs.
Well, son, it was shortly afterwards that my newspaper slipped from my hands and a terrible sickening fear came over me. What was habit doing to me? The habit of finding fault, of reprimanding—this was my reward to you for being a boy. It was not that I did not love you; it was that I expected too much of youth….
And there is so much that is good and fine and true in your character. The little heart of yours is as big as the dawn itself over the wide hills. This was shown by your spontaneous impulse to rush in and kiss me good night. Nothing else matters tonight, son. I have come to you and your bedside in the darkness, and I have knelt here, ashamed!
It is a feeble atonement; I know you would not understand these things if I told them to you during your waking hours. But tomorrow I will be a real daddy! I will chum with you, suffer when you suffer, laugh when you laugh. I will bite my tongue when impatient words come. I will keep saying, as if it were a ritual: “He is a boy—he’s a little boy!”
I see you now, son, weary in your bed, I see that you are still a child. Yesterday you were in your mother’s arms, your head on her shoulder. I have expected too much, too much.—W. Livingston Larned
Putting ourselves in others’ shoes and taking time to think about why people do what they do is a lot more fulfilling than criticism; and it breeds sympathy, tolerance, and kindness.
As a wise man once said: “God himself does not propose to judge man until the end of his days. So why should you and I?”
How do we get out of touch with the needs of others? It comes back to our daily choices—we need to first spend time in communion with Jesus to be refreshed by His Spirit, and then take the time to slow down enough to show His love, care, and consideration to others.
Jesus’ love is strong enough and pure enough to withstand our human faults, which are many. We all need to ask the Lord to give us some of that kind of love—love that loves whether or not we’re naturally clicking with the person, whether or not we feel we have the time to spare, whether or not we feel the person is worthy or deserving of our love, whether or not we feel their need is great. Love that loves even if someone is disturbing our personal space or changing our perfect plans. Love that appreciates each person for who they are—someone who Jesus loves and who He has put beside us, and wants to love through us. Love that loves even if the person is late, selfish, rude, unkempt, disorganized, or just plain in the wrong.
Love should be our driving motivation. Love should be what compels us. And love is what will keep things in balance. Love is what will guide us to stop what we’re doing and help someone else because they have a need. Love will help us see our fellow man through the Lord’s eyes and be willing to show them His love.—Maria Fontaine
There are many ways of showing love, and it will be up to each of us to take the time to reflect on how we personally can show more love. How can we reach out more to others? How can we add more meaning to our lives? This is a personal matter for self-evaluation. We can get quiet with a notebook or journal, and take some time to go over how we spend our time, and think about what we do for God and others and how we can love others more.
We could write down how we want to improve. We can set some reachable goals. That is a simple step, and it won’t take much time, but it could change the lives of the people we reach out to. And while we’re at it, it may even change our own lives.
Here are some points to reflect on:
- Take a few minutes to evaluate how much love and self-sacrifice you show on a daily basis. Do you truly stop and show love to those who need it?
- If God asked you to make a sacrifice, big or small, out of pure love and unselfishness, knowing that there would be little or no return for you, would you do it?
- When you don’t feel like stepping out to love someone, when you feel that person should be the one reaching out to you, are you willing to take the first step to share love regardless of circumstances?
- Are you willing to stop and listen and show concern for others?
Will you commit right now to make a sincere and wholehearted effort to love others as Jesus has loved you, to love them because “the love of Christ constrains you,”1 to let Jesus shine through you to show your loved ones His compassion and His concern and His understanding that they so desperately need?
Will you make it your prayer daily to say, “Jesus, please help me to have love today for those I work with, for those I teach, for those I talk to. If I don’t accomplish another thing today, help me to have shown love to each person I encounter—a hug and touch for those who need affection; compassion for those who need to know I understand; patience for those who are confused and doubting; wisdom for those who need to share their heart but don’t know how; tolerance for those who seem not to be trying hard enough; prayer for those who are burdened; loving care and understanding for those who are sick; a helping hand to those who are struggling with some task.”
And one more thing: If you can’t figure out what someone’s problem is and you are tempted to criticize or harshly judge them for their physical, emotional, or mental problems—or whatever kind of problems they may have—don’t lean to your own understanding. Please try to have the Lord’s merciful point of view and understanding of the problem.
Love one another as Jesus has loved you.2 By this shall all men know that you are His disciples, if you have love one to another3—love not for an hour nor just for a day, but always. Love that never stops, love that never lets go, love that holds on. Love that pulls others through, carries over, looks beyond. Love that bears, that carries, that heals. Love that never runs out, that knows no boundaries.
Will you commit yourself to praying daily for Jesus to fill you with His love today so that you can pour His healing balm upon all you meet and do unto others as you would want them to do unto you?—Maria Fontaine
For more articles from Roadmaps, visit Anchor's website.