Remember a birthday like this? It’s present opening time and under the ripped paper anticipation turns to dismay. Before you is a gift you will never ever use. Showtime! Smile big, gush with thank yous, throw in a bear hug and on to the next gift. They’ll never know their gift was a dud. The sad thing is, more times than not, these gifts are given with the very best of intentions. They just missed the mark.
We give a lot of “dud gifts” in our relationships, and most of them don’t have wrapping paper. We sincerely want to love someone, but the ways that we choose to love them don’t seem to work. We just miss the mark. It gets worse when two or more people are missing the mark with each other. It can cause serious conflict, even with the best of intentions. I’m convinced that we need to rediscover what it means to love each other.
To learn how to love, we need to know what it is! There are a plethora of definitions out there for love, but I choose to focus on the Greek word, “agape.” Agape love is an unconditional commitment to someone. This is the kind of love where you sacrifice for someone else for their benefit. It’s the kind of love Jesus has for us and it’s the kind of love God designed us all to have for each other… all the time.
So, how do we love others like this? Well, it starts by learning about the other person’s needs, wants and aspirations. Get to know them by asking good questions and listening. It means spending time with them even when we would rather be doing something else. It means allowing our hearts to be touched by putting ourselves in their place, walking a day in their shoes, and seeking any way to make that world a little better place to be.
Once we have a deeper picture of the person we want to love, we can look into our own lives for what God has given to us that matches their need. If we are serious about agape love, those may be things we really would rather keep for ourselves! Perhaps someone needs a listening ear, or just someone to hang out. That takes time and attention! Perhaps someone needs the dishes done, the floor swept, or the toilets cleaned. Maybe someone needs a place to stay and you have an extra room, or a couch, or a floor mattress. Maybe it’s a meal, or babysitting, or rent money, a kind comment, a door opened, a smiling face or just a clean dry shirt. When we match up the needs of others with our God-given ability to help, it hits the mark, it touches lives and others see the love of Jesus through us.
“Don’t act out of selfish ambition or be conceited. Instead, humbly think of others as being better than yourselves. Don’t be concerned only about your own interests, but also be concerned about the interests of others.” Philippians 2:3-4 (GW)
(Photo credit: danobrienmuzyka Unwrapping Christmas Gifts (2008))