Whenever I prepare a couple for their marriage, I stress several critical things that will help them build a happily-ever-after-marriage. The first thing I stress is that our preparation is going to focus on their life together—their marriage—rather than focusing on their wedding. The second thing I stress is that for them to have a happily-ever-after-marriage they need to learn how tolove. Interestingly, what many couples come to realise is that these principles don’t just help improve their relationship—it also helps to improve their other relationships as well.
¶ Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. Colossians 3:12-14
LEARNING TO LOVE
When Paul wrote these words to the Colossians, it was at a time when there wasn’t much of what he was talking about: compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, patience, forbearance, forgiveness, and harmonious love. His entire epistle to the Colossians is grounded in who Christ is. As he brings his epistle to its application section, he gives the Colossians these radical instructions. Upon reflection, we can see that each of these injunctions was emulated by Christ. We might summarise what Paul had told the Colossians as, draw near to Christ, worship Him, and you’ll begin to treat others the way He treated others.
¶ Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving. Colossians 2:6-7
Paul seems to sum up these loving virtues (compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, patience, forbearance, forgiveness, and harmonious love) as being achieved when we are committed to love like Jesus. Each of these virtues can be learned and developed.One of the best ways to do this is to practice good listening. I usually tell a couple in their pre-marriage preparation that there are threetypes of listening they must develop to become good listeners.
I recently heard an example of one of these types of listening as I was listening to Dr. J.P. Moreland give a lecture on Apologetics in Canada. At the end of his lecture he took questions. A young lady asked a tricky question about God’s goodness and human suffering. Instead jumping in and giving a sound theological answer, the veteran apologist paused, then asked the young lady, “Is there something behind this question?” She paused and then shared how her mother had been recently diagnosed with terminal cancer and was experiencing a lot of associated pain. Dr. Moreland spoke tenderly to her and expressed his sympathies for what her mother was enduring. (Some deep questions don’t really need an answer as much as they need a hug!) When we learn to listen to others we hear their heart, their story, and perhaps their hurt. (How we respond to what we hear is another category of listening which I might write about another day if anyone is interested.)
Following on from this list love-virtues, the apostle then discusses how this applies within our homes – marriages, parenting, childrening, and then within our workplaces. Christian love is not just intended for those we should love.
BECAUSE WE CARE
Several years ago I began to pray and ask God to help me to see and hear better, but to especially feel better. I particularly wanted to see what He saw, and to be sensitive enough to hear what He needed me to hear. But I felt that I really needed to feel as He felt. I found myself watching movies and more often than not being brought to tears. I found that when I would be driving into town that there were other people also driving into town as well who may not know Christ. I would feel compelled to pray for them to see their need for a Saviour and to come to see that Jesus the Christ was that Saviour. The same thing happened when I entered into a shop. I saw people. I prayed for people. The same thing happens on a Sunday. I see people. I pray for people. I wrote in this weekly pastor’s desk some time ago that this developed into something quite mysterious where I began to manifest the very conditions that blighted those I was praying for. This dramatically happened again two weeks (this is what I alluded to in last week’s eNews when Iasked for prayer for my health).
We all have people in our world for whom we care. We care about them and their now, but we especially care them and their eternities. As we pray for each other to be more effective in reaching out to these precious folk, we might never know the effect our prayers are privately having on them. Some of us want to do more than just pray for them. We want to share the love of Christ with them in the hope that they too will come to experience His saving grace and forgiveness. Sometimes this requires intentionally starting a conversation with them about spiritual things. These conversations might commence with –
“Have I ever told you why I became a Christian?”
“Have you ever wondered why I go to church each Sunday?”
“Getting married was the second most important thing I’ve ever done with my life.” (Then wait for their question about what the most important thing was, then share your testimony—this only works if you’re actually married by the way.)
“What do you think happens to a person after they die?” … “How do you know?”
“How do you think life began?”
You may have found your own conversation starters that have worked for you. For some of us, starting such conversations seems too awkward. When we consider how the early Christians shared Jesus with others we see that often it was a “Come and see” approach.
Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” John 1:46
“Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did. Can this be the Christ?” John 4:29
“Come and see” was what many of the original disciples asked their families, friends and neighbours. And they did come, and they did see, and they too were convinced that this Jesus was no ordinary man. Come and see still works today. It’s because we care that we invite others to church so that they can come and see. Perhaps this Sunday there will be more coming to see. I pray that we all see them! I hope you’ll join me in prayer and pray that as we work together on Sunday to worship Jesus that they will indeed see Him who loves them and want to forgive them and become their heavenly father. I pray that we can love like Jesus. As we consider the fifteen greatest description of love ever given, I pray that it will challenge each of us to ask God for the help we need to love Him and to love others.
¶ Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. First Corinthians 13:4-7