“Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:32)
I once knew a girl. She didn’t try to draw me to her, she just did. And, not only me, but too many other males! The first thing that caught my eye was her pretty face, but soon I discovered she had a delightful personality to go with it––vivacious, full of laughter, talented in art and music, smart. Best of all she was an exuberant lover of God. I loved that woman. But I wasn’t too good at expressing it. So she taught me. In fact, she taught me many things about love and that’s what I want to tell you about––the six things Muriel taught me about love.
My parents were of the old school that didn’t believe in expressing affection, especially publicly. I never saw my parents embrace, for example. I’m pretty sure they did, however. Well––I’m here! But when I brought Muriel home to visit, Mother ridiculed her mushy ways––forever hugging and saying she loved me. Right out in front of family, yet!
The first thing Muriel taught me about love, then, was that it needs to be expressed. Passionately, frequently- like Solomon and the sun-browned Shulamite. They were forever talking love. And the Holy Spirit thought their love talk so good he chose to make a book of Scripture composed of it. We call it the Song of Songs, that is, the best of all songs. Love talk.
But love expressed verbally or even physically may not be genuine love. It might be lust or some other desire to get what one wants. The motive for love-talk can be to get, not to give. In Scripture we find the term “love” more often a verb than a noun. A verb describing action more than a noun describing a feeling. Muriel spent thirty-five years demonstrating her love for me by her actions. In fact, she seemed to live for me. Certainly not for herself. Oblivious to her own rights or desires or even her own welfare. She taught me that love, to be genuine, must be acted out 24/7, love demonstrated. But above all she lived to bring my goals to fruition.
Paul instructed us on how to love our mates. Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the church. And how did Christ love his church––you, that is? And gave himself up for it. (Eph 5.25) To love, then is to lay down life––dreams, ambitions, rights, pleasures- if need be––for the best interests of one’s mate.
How do you measure love? What thermometer do you use to measure the heat of it, what sonar to plumb the depth of it, what scales to find the weight of it? There is a way, says Jesus: love is proved by the sacrifice it makes. Greater love, said Jesus, has no one than this, than one lay down one’s life for a friend. (Jn 15.13) You may have genuine love without making a sacrifice for the one loved, but it would be unproved. Maybe I’m acting lovingly because of all the benefits I get out of the relationship. But sacrifice––ah, there’s the proof. I’ve discovered that happy homes are those where each lives for the welfare of the other.
The next thing Muriel taught me about love is what to do when communication breaks down. Love forgives. Muriel bragged on me so outrageously I wasn’t even aware there was anything in me to forgive. She never let on there could be any improvement. Till one day. We’d been reading a how-to article on marriage–for ministry purposes, of course. The author suggested each write out a list of things in the other they would change if they could and then exchange the lists. We decided to give it a try before suggesting it to others. I listed 3 or 4 minor matters and ran out. But there she sat scribbling away. I was incredulous. She filled the page! That gave me just an inkling there might be some need for honest evaluation and change. I don’t remember the outcome. I hope there was change. But I’m not so sure.