by Larry Rice
Filling Your Love Tank…
It is time to fill our love tanks. This past week God has been driving home to me
1 Corinthians 13:1-8,
“Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angles, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing. Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things endures all things. Lover never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away.”
Many today are asking why should I help the poor and homeless? Some who have tried but have not seen the desired results have even given up on even trying again. This is reflected in a letter I recently received from Jane. Here is what she had to say.
“I know that you care about the homeless, but there’s another side to them. One generous man brought an air conditioner to a single mom, and the kid called him a “honkie.”
One minister took the homeless in his church basement and the parishioners really worked to take care of them, cooking, washing bedclothes, washing their clothes. And not a one came to Jesus. They just used them. And some had the nerve to want to take the parishioner’s wives with them because they liked to be cared for.
And I thought I’d give a homeless bum a cookie I baked at White Castle. And then I had something on my hands. He was always around. He was even near my car waiting for me to come out, probably to rape me. No, I don’t care for the homeless. They’re a bunch.
My girlfriend, older than me, said “don’t encourage them, you have to take care of yourself in this world,”
Then I gave mentally ill man some baked goods that came to our church. He thought there was some romance in the air. He had a history of violence. I got away from him real quick.
You can’t be good to them.
And someone gave something to the poor from a Baptist Church she attended. And they made some comment, “you’re white and drive a Mercedes.” She didn’t drive a Mercedes and she was giving out of her low salary or none at all because she was a homemaker.
No, I’m not supporting your ministry. I’ve had enough of those kind of people”.
I responded to this letter by saying, “when Jesus commissions us to help others we do so with humble heart knowing that we are ultimately serving Him in all we do when we serve others. It is written in Mathew 26:35-40: “For I was hungry and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me. I assure you, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing to me”. If I help others from a spirit of paternalism, expecting them to always appreciate me I am setting myself up for disappointment.
We are reminded in Luke 17: 11-19 that when Jesus was walking and ten lepers approached him, they asked Jesus for help and He healed them, yet only one of them actually humbled himself before Jesus and gave thanks. Often times we find that the homeless and less-fortunate have a deeper issue that needs to be addressed. Yes, they need food, water, clothes and shelter but even more so they need the true love of Christ displayed to them in a deeper level than the material things we are providing them. Some have bitterness deep within their soul that only the grace of God and the healing, atoning blood of Jesus can heal. We may at times find ourselves caught up in the midst of their pain because we feel helpless, yet they actually feel hopeless. It is then we can pray for them and not only tell them of Jesus but show them through unconditional love. Praying for them allows the love of Christ to flow into them and for His spirit to enter into our midst. Then they will experience the presence of the Almighty God right in their midst. We can ask the Lord to help us show them the heart and love of Christ through us as we visit them. When we see the angry look or the one sitting on the side looking frustrated, we must know that they are probably experiencing hopelessness and helplessness. Often times the simple thing to do is offer them a sandwich or a fan or other assistance, when deep down they really want to see the true love of Christ working in us. The hurt and ungratefulness you see displayed is actually a deep seeded pain that can be dealt with as they come to know Jesus. Many times we see that they are told ‘of’ Jesus and yet they have not ‘experienced’ the true love of Jesus. These in need are just like you and me. Some have a larger degree of pain and life experiences that have made them respond the way they do and yet I can love them the way Christ loves us.
I have experienced years of working with the homeless and low income, hurting people. Certainly there have been times when it would have been easy to give up. Yet Jesus doesn’t give up on me, so I can’t give up on them, God’s creation. He promises he will never leave nor forsake us yet working with those who are hurting and in pain is not always an easy walk. It forces me to deal with my uncertainties, fears, disappointments and expectations as we try to help them.
In spite of the fact you may feel that your expectations for that person wasn’t met, your life has still touched them in a good way. It is written in Isaiah 55:11: “so shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; it shall not return to me void, but it shall accomplish what I please, and it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it”. Perhaps the Lord has allowed you to see the depth of their pain in order that you may continue to pray for them. Mother Teresa wrote: ‘the poor are very great people. They can teach us so many beautiful things’. She saw the true condition of those she was helping and as we help the less fortunate we are an extension of the
love of God and hands of Jesus. Though the things you did for them seemed to not be appreciated at that moment, please know that you have shown them that God is providing for them through caring people by meeting their needs in a very tangible way.”
Many people have a very difficult time receiving real love. Real love is a love that involves genuine concern, compassion, and a desire to see the best for the other person. When it does come, it’s sometimes hard to believe it’s the real thing, particularly if one has been hurt in the past. As a result, many go through life never really receiving love nor giving it. They settle for passionate affairs that leave them feeling empty and ultimately alone. Real love ultimately comes from the source of love—God. After all, love is not just one of the characteristics or attributes of God. For 1 John 4:16 says, “God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him.”
Ruth shows her love for her mother-in-law, Naomi, by declaring, “Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if anything but death separates you and me.”(Ruth 1:16-17)
True love is described in 1 Cor.13 and other places in the Bible including Song of Solomon 8:6-7 where it says, “Place me like a seal over your heart, like a seal on your arm; for love is as strong as death, its jealousy unyielding as the grave. It burns like blazing fire, like a mighty flame. Many waters cannot quench love; rivers cannot wash it away. If one were to give all the wealth of his house for love, it would be utterly scorned.” Love in community, love in marriage, is so priceless that even the richest king cannot buy it. Real love is accepted as a gift from God and shared under the direction of His word.
Paul described his love for his Jewish brothers and sisters by stating, “For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, those of my own race, the people of Israel.”(Romans 9:2) “My heart’s desire and prayer to God for the Israelites is that they may be saved.”(Romans 10:1) But Paul doesn’t stop there in Romans 12:9-10 he says, “Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves.” Sincere love means helping others become better human beings. What practical step does Romans 12:11-21 give for communicating love in word and deed? How could it be said that Romans 12:17-21 summarizes the care for Christian living?
“Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law. The commandments, ‘Do not commit adultery.’ ‘Do not murder.’ ‘Do not steal,’ ‘Do not covet,’ and whatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this one rule: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law”(Romans 13:8-10). Why do you think love for others is called a debt? Could it be that we are permanently in debt to Christ for the love He has poured out on us? The only way we can repay this debt is to love others. The fact is, Christ’s love for us is so great we will never be able to repay it. Therefore the debt we will always owe is the debt to love. Paul says it’s time to wake up, “because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put
aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light.”(Romans 13:11-12) In light of this, what does Romans 13:13—Romans 15:7 say we should do?
The story of Ruth is the story of love between a Moabite woman by the name of Ruth and her Jewish mother-in-law, Naomi. As widows, Ruth and Naomi only had difficult times to look forward too. Then when Naomi got the following news, her hope for the future changed. “Then Ruth told her mother-in-law about the one at whose place she had been working. ‘The name of the man I worked with today is Boaz, she said. ‘The Lord bless him!’ Naomi said to her daughter-in-law. ‘He has not stopped showing his kindness to the living and the dead.’ She added, ‘That man is our close relative; he is one of our kinsman-redeemers’”(Ruth 2:19-20). A kinsman-redeemer was a relative who took responsibility for the extended family when a woman’s husband died and she could not marry the brother of the dead husband. If no one came forward, she would probably live the rest of her life in poverty. Jesus is our Kinsman-redeemer who, although He was God, came to earth to save us. As a result of Jesus’ death and resurrection, He has redeemed us from sin, death and the devil and purchased us to be His own possession. Talk about love, “for you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a Lamb without blemish or defect”(1Peter 1:18-19). Please go on and read verses 20, 21 in this chapter and then describe what it means to you personally to have a Kinsman-redeemer like Jesus.
Naomi had lost her husband and two sons, yet she trusted God and received the love her daughter-in-law Ruth had for her. The kinsman-redeemer “Boaz took Ruth and she became his wife. Then he went to her, and the Lord enabled her to conceive, and she gave birth to a son. The woman said to Naomi: ‘Praise be to the Lord, who this day has not left you without a kinsman-redeemer. May he become famous throughout Israel! He will renew your life and sustain you in your old age. For your daughter-in-law, who loves you and who is better to you than seven sons, has given him birth’”(Ruth 4:13-15). Now take another look at Romans 8:31-39 and describe how the nine verses came true in Naomi’s life and how they will work in yours.
Song of Solomon takes a different approach to expressing love from that of Ruth or Romans. Today much of what is called love is in actually lust. People using people for their own gratification. Song of Solomon shows that sex within the context of marriage is a beautiful gift from God. Some think that Solomon wrote this book in his youth before being taken over by the obsessions for wealth and women. Song of Solomon is a story about a Jewish maiden (the Shulamite woman) and her lover (King Solomon). In the book we see their longing for each other and their desires to be together. In addition to being a drama or poem about two human lovers, the story is also about God’s love for His people. Remember when God would walk with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden prior to sin entering the world? Keep that thought in mind as you reflect on Song of Solomon 6:2,3. Now reading once again John 3:16, please search your insights on God’s love and desire for His people.
Sharing the love of God is one of the greatest privileges given to humanity. That’s why Isaiah declared, “The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners”(Isaiah 61:1). That
proclamation was directly fulfilled when Jesus came into this world (Matt. 11:5). Now you and I have been sent forth to share the love and hope Jesus provides through His death and resurrection (Matt.28:19,20), We have an opportunity to do this as we feed the hungry, shelter the homeless, provide clothing and visit the sick and imprisoned (Matt.25:31-46). We have been sent forth to be instruments of hope and help now but also to share the message of salvation through Jesus Christ. In order to do this we must help people to see their need for a Savior and how Scripture makes it absolutely clear that Jesus Christ is that Savior. Sharing God’s love involves reaching out to people in their time of need like Jesus did to the woman at the well in John 4. Such reaching out includes sharing the fact that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”(Roman 3:23). Unless one recognizes that they have sinned and repent of those sins and turn to Jesus who paid the price for sin through His death and resurrection, they will die in their sins and go to hell. That’s why Romans 6:23 says, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Being a witness or an evangelist is being one who the Holy Spirit is working through to share the love of God. There is no greater love then that which God has given. “You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us”(Romans 5:6-8). Now it is important that as we share this message of the love of God with others, we help them under the direction of the Holy Spirit to believe and confess that Jesus is Lord. “If you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved” (Romans 10:9, 10).
Why fill our love tank? Because Jesus loves, cares and shares with us. We love Him and others because He first loved us. Now may we allow His love and power to flow through us into the lives of others.
In His service,