“I was hungry and you fed me, I was thirsty and you gave me a drink, I was homeless and you gave me a room, I was shivering and you gave me clothes, I was sick and you stopped to visit, I was in prison and you came to me”—Matthew 25:34-36 (MSG)
If you were asked to describe true love, how would you answer? Look up the synonyms for love in a thesaurus and you’ll find the following words close in meaning: affection, appreciation, devotion, emotion, fondness and friendship, along with several others. But these are man’s words.
I like the definition for love found in God’s Holy Word: “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails” (1 Corinthians 13:4-8a).
From a secular viewpoint, love is often associated with the physical aspects of a relationship and the expression of that love through gifts such as candy, flowers and cards as seen on Valentine’s Day. While there’s nothing wrong with these things, from a Biblical perspective, true love is found in the spiritual. True love is not just between a man and a woman but is found in all of our relationships when we seek a higher calling.
If we don’t love, how can we, as Christians, be the light He calls us to be in the world?
Although we don’t usually associate Jesus’ words to His disciples in Matthew 25:34-36 with love (see above), I think it’s an example of the calling we have on our lives if we seek to love our fellow man, even our enemies. As Christians, we are to be God’s representatives to the world. He tells us plainly in Micah 6:8: “And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”
If we don’t love, how can we, as Christians, be the light He calls us to be in the world? I like the version of this passage found in “The Message.” In Matthew 5:14-16, Jesus said, “Here’s another way to put it: You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I’m putting you on a light stand. Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven.”
When we reach out to others, even strangers, we are witnesses to His great love. When we provide for the physical needs as well as the spiritual needs of others, we become His hands and feet.
Isn’t that the definition of true love?