Monday, February 6, 2017

Intentional Love

We love him because he first loved us (1 John 4:19)

February may as well be called the Love month. Valentine’s Day demands that we declare our love to our intended. Then there’s President’s Day—which is, apparently, the best time to buy a mattress—and who doesn’t love a sale? If you live in a colder climate, the opportunity for snow days abounds. Kids love those. Moms, maybe not so much.

I love so many things. Should I celebrate them all this month? I love my husband, but I also love ice cream. I love my children, but I have a few favorite television shows that I also love. Are they two different kinds of love?

Merriam-Webster defines love as an unselfish, loyal, and benevolent concern for the good of another. I can apply this to my husband, but maybe not the ice cream. The first is a person. The other is a thing.

And then there’s that word—unselfish. 

Loyalty , benevolence, and concern are easy. Unselfishness? Not so much. My love too often comes with conditions.

Jesus said, My command is this: love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one's life for one's friends (John 15:12-13).

Ah, now we’re getting to the meat of love. I’d lay my life down for my children, but not for a television show. That’s real love. It’s easy when the spouse, child, parent, or friend is lovable.

But what about the hard-to-love? The belligerent child? The angry spouse? The needy friend? The aging parent with dementia? The negative co-worker or demanding supervisor?

That’s when we need to love with intention. 

We need to love them like Jesus loves us. After all, He made the ultimate sacrifice. He intentionally laid his life down for you and me—and for each one of those difficult to love people—when we didn’t deserve it. 

And He commands us to do the same both for those who are easy to love, and those we feel don’t deserve our love.

We may not have to literally lay our life down, but we are often asked to sacrifice something just as important—time. And that’s where selfishness rears its ugly head.

Some folks are a challenge to love, and I’d rather not. 

Like the elderly curmudgeon who comes to my office each month to pay his bill—and complains about it every time. 

But when I took the time to listen, I discovered that when he was young, he wanted to serve his country and wasn’t accepted in the service because of a medical condition. And that his wife had recently suffered a stroke, and he didn’t feel she had gotten the care she needed because she was old.

“No one cares about old people,” he told me. “They’d just as soon let them die.”

By tossing him aside because he was a grumpy old man, wasn’t I doing the same?

Among all the fruits of the Spirit listed in Galatians 5, love is the first (v22). Maybe it’s because it’s the most important. Perhaps it should be the easiest. Or at least, the most obvious. Or, maybe it’s because God is love (1 John 4:8).

If God is love and God is in us, then love is in us. So, we ought to love others. 

It should be easy. Natural. Intentional. 

But our selfish desires get in the way. We don’t want to invest the time. Or give up the things we love. We’d rather watch our favorite television show than meet our lonely friend for coffee. We’d rather hit that mattress sale than prepare a meal for the neighbor who just had surgery. We’d rather tell the curmudgeon to mail his payment than listen to his griping.

But we are told in the preceding verses that if we live by the Spirit we will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature (Gal 5:16), and guess what one of the fruits of the sinful nature is? Selfish ambition (v 20).

Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit (Gal 5:25).

Let us crucify that  sinful nature and love intentionally. Let us take the time to listen, to care, to love.

You’ll sleep better at night. 

Of course, it could be that new mattress.

Blessings Along the Path,

This article first appeared in Ruby for Women (February edition)

sharing this post with some of these lovelies


  1. Hi Mary! First of all, let me say that I just got a new mattress last year, and I LOVE IT!!! Well, I wouldn't lay my life down for it, but I'd be sad to see it go...
    I think many times we throw that word 'love' around to mean many different things. Many different degrees. But that self-sacrificing love is a great way to figure out what really matters to us in this world and in heaven. Jesus gave himself for us. That's the ultimate test of love, and the best measure as you say here.
    Enjoy that mattress!

    1. I experienced a "sleep number" mattress while on vacation, and really liked it! Thanks for you humorous and serious thoughts, Ceil.

  2. Beautiful. I always believed that love should be intentional or it wouldn't be love.

  3. Our love for people is definitely different than our love for things. Maybe because the feelings can be reciprocated?

    1. I don't know, Stephanie, but that's a great thought! Thank you for stopping by.