I have been thinking about Love a lot lately.
With Valentine’s Day quickly approaching, it seems thoughts of love are on the minds of many people. I have seen magazine articles and blog posts about romantic love, read facebook updates from single friends about love lost or love’s disappointments. Warm, thoughtful posts by newlyweds and flirty posts by folks who are looking in all the wrong places cover the walls of some of my facebook friends. This is the month that most Americans celebrate romantic love, whatever that might mean to them. Every human being needs love and companionship and I understand the need to express that but there is a love much greater and far deeper than anything that could be expressed with a candy heart or a box of chocolate.
Over the years I have had to make a few adjustments in how I view true love. It’s wonderful to see a married couple who love each other and stand by that union, the love we express for our family members, children, pets and friends is wonderful and is a blessed gift that we often take for granted. As a Christian it’s taken me a long walk down the road of maturity in Christ to learn exactly what Christian love is, or should be all about. For many years growing up I was well aware that my home life was not the source of much love on my behalf. This lack of love led me down all sorts of wrong paths, wrought with false hopes and many tears. I learned that Mom’s don’t always love their Daughters. Brother’s and Sisters are often not close. Men leave, friends can be fickle and that ultimately no one really owes you anything, let alone kindness or love. I learned that love comes in many forms, but the only love that is lasting is God’s love. For many years of my young adult hood I helped take care of my Father who had a Major stroke and suffered eventually from Dementia. It was a long tough road and romantic love, though it showed up in my life a few times, never quite had the strength to weather my choice in loving my Dad through his illness.
I learned that loving people is much harder than receiving it. Not until I was saved did I totally understand God’s sacrifice of His one and only begotten Son, and I am still coming to terms with how monumental that sacrifice was, and how as a Christian I am called to love people with that same Agape love that God showed a sinner like me. Love that has no strings, no rewards or even personal satisfaction. This is not a love that tolerates sin or heresy, but a love that in Christ calls me to love even my enemies. That’s a pretty tall order, and one that I am just beginning to understand. I may never have warm fuzzy feelings about someone who hurts or is mean to me, but I have to give them the same patience and mercy that God has given me and that’s tough.
While I studied scripture and pondered these things I found two really great sermons from my Church and I have included the links below for you to listen if you choose. I also included an amazing story of courage and sacrifice about a Christian Brother named Dirk Willems. I cannot imagine the sacrifice he was called to make, but his life was a stunning example of true love. The drawing at the top of the page is about him and his story.
Late in the winter of 1569, Dirk Willems of Holland was discovered as an Anabaptist, and a thief catcher came to arrest him at the village of Asperen.
Running for his life, Dirk came to a body of water still coated with ice. After making his way across in great peril, he realised his pursuer had fallen through into the freezing water.1
Turning back, Dirk ran to the struggling man and dragged him safely to shore. The thief catcher wanted to release Dirk, but a burgomaster – having appeared on the scene – reminded the man he was under oath to deliver criminals to justice. Dirk was bound off to prison, interrogated, and tortured in an unsuccessful effort to make him renounce his faith. He was tried and found guilty of having been rebaptised, of holding secret meetings in his home, and of allowing baptism there – all of which he freely confessed.
“Persisting obstinately in his opinion”, Dirk was sentenced to execution by fire. On the day of execution, a strong east wind blew the flames away from his upper body so that death was long delayed. The same wind carried his voice to the next town, where people heard him cry more than seventy times, “O my Lord; my God”. The judge present was “finally filled with sorrow and regret”. Wheeling his horse around so he saw no more, he ordered the executioner, “Dispatch the man with a quick death.”
“If I could speak in any language in heaven or on earth but didn’t love others, I would only be making meaningless noise like a loud gong or a clanging cymbal. If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I knew all the mysteries of the future and knew everything about everything, but didn’t love others, what good would I be? And if I had the gift of faith so that I could speak to a mountain and make it move, without love I would be no good to anybody. If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would be of no value whatsoever. Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. Love does not demand its own way. Love is not irritable, and it keeps no record of when it has been wronged. It is never glad about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance. Love will last forever. There are three things that will endure—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love.” 1 Corinthians 13