How to judge when love is authentic

Published 4:46 pm Monday, January 22, 2018

In our time, the word, “love” and it’s meaning have come in for a number of cheap shots. There is a kind of lip service to the whole idea of love, but everybody knows you can’t take it seriously.

How desperately in our world today, we need to be reminded again that for Jesus, love is not simply one virtue among many others. For him, love  is actually the foundation, the basic yardstick for all norms in how we are to behave and act toward one another.

Authentic love, then, is not some kind of comfortable relationship between God and me. Nor is authentic love merely a feeling or a sentiment. Rather, authentic love is something you are that manifests itself in “doing good for others.”

  Initially, authentic love is not concerned about running out of power. It knows its source and is related to it. A minister shared an experience out of his own life. He said that his father worked for 47 years for the local bank in the town where he grew up. Everyone in that town knew Art Beringer, because everyone in that town had banked with him. The minister recalled that when he was in high school, he was given the job of selling advertisements for the school yearbook. Overnight he said, he became a phenomenal success. He secured more ads from the local business people than had ever been sold before. As he said, “All I had to do was to introduce myself as ‘Art Berlinger’s’ son.” The minister noted, “I was a success because I was related to someone special in that community.”

Jurgen Moltmann, noted German Reformed theologian, stated, “Our capacity to love is always born out of the experience of being loved.” Authentic love has its source in its relationship to someone special in the community of faith.

Paul declares in his letter to the Thessalonians, “May the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all”(l Thessalonians 3:12). May the Lord enable you to love is the notation.

Next, authentic love is not concerned about who receives it. For this kind of love knows no limits and is for everyone.

John Ruskin, leading Victorian art critic, stated that when he was a teenager he almost gave up faith because of a sermon he heard. “A little squeaking idiot,” he said, “was preaching to 17 elderly women and three louts [bumpkins], that they were the elect of God, God’s chosen people, the only true children of God in the country, and that all people outside that chapel and beyond the boundaries of this valley would be damned.”

How easily we tend to limit God’s love. We tend to limit God’s love when we try to monopolize it or narrow it down to our own group or section or province or nation or race or class or sex or denomination or even our own particular brand of faith. God’s love includes everybody. Again, Paul said, “For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth takes its name” (Ephesians 3:12). John added: “For God so loved the world.” (John 3:16). The whole world.

Though I am not a fisherman, we can always learn something about the inclusiveness of God’s love from fishing. When one goes fishing, one must deal with whatever shows up on the end of the line or in the fish net. One may have a preference but still must deal with whatever shoes up.

In thinking about the kingdom of God, we must not forget the simple rules of etiquette espoused by Ann Landers and “Dear Abby,” “The making of the guest list is the prerogative not of the guests but of the host.” God’s love knows no limits and is for everyone.

Finally, authentic love is not concerned with how much it costs. There’s a well-known story about Sam Rayburn, who was the Speaker of the House of Representatives for an historic 17 years. One day he heard that a teenage daughter of a Capitol Hill reporter had died. The next morning very early there was a knock at the door of that reporter’s home. He opened the door, and to his surprise, there was Sam Rayburn, standing there. He said, “I just came by to see how you are doing.” They invited him in. He sat with them in the kitchen and volunteered to make coffee for them. While Sam Rayburn was making the coffee, the reporter remembered something. He said, “Aren’t you supposed to be at the White House for a breakfast with the President?” “I was,” Rayburn said, “but I called the President and told him that I had to sit with a friend.”

Authentic love takes precedence over the agenda. It breaks the rules and knows no boundaries. It seeks to alleviate the pain of others. Authentic love acts!

Jesus loved sacrificially, and he challenges us to do the same. Just before concluding, let me get practical.

We love people tangibly.

We love people in ways that are meaningful to them.

We love people by forgiving them.

We love people by walking in their shoes.

We love people by doing justice.

We love people by encouraging them.

We love people-if you will, you finish it.

  At any rate, that’s authentic love.

Hal Brady operates Hal Brady Ministries in Decatur with the stated goal of presenting the good news of Jesus and offering encouragement in positive ways.