During the 2003 and 2004 holiday season I received a call from an uncle to let me know that his wife, my mother’s sister, was not doing well. She was 82 years of age and was the last living member of her birth family. She and her husband had been married for almost 60 years, and now after several years of declining health she was on her death bed. Several years before her death my aunt had suffered a stroke which restricted her mobility, but my uncle never ceased to care for her. He cooked for her and fed her when she could not do it herself. As she improved he took her to church, to visit her relatives, to eat out in restaurants, and to take trips in their camper. Eventually her health deteriorated to the point that she was no longer able to go out, and he cared for her at home. I went to visit my aunt after I received his telephone call. She lay in a hospital bed in their living room where my uncle continued to care for her until she drew her last breath. As I left their home I thought about their long term relationship and realized that my uncle was personifying love.
My uncle’s love for his wife reminded me of Christ’s love for humankind. As Christ was anticipating his own death he said to his disciples, “This is my command: Love one another the way I loved you. This is the very best way to love. Put your life on the line for your friends.” (The Message by Eugene Peterson: John 15:12-13). Figuratively my uncle did “put his life on the line” for his wife. Love is an act of the will, and those who love communicate their love by their action. I Corinthians 13:4-7 speaks of actions of love. The Message says,
Love never gives up.
Love cares more for others than for self.
Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.
Love doesn’t strut,
Doesn’t have a swelled head,
Doesn’t force itself on others,
Isn’t always “me first,”
Doesn’t fly off the handle,
Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others,
Doesn’t revel when others grovel,
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
Puts up with anything,
Trusts God always,
Always looks for the best,
Never looks back,
But keeps going to the end.
What a challenge! A Christian who wills to love points others to Christ, and encourages them to will to love as Christ loved. The kind of love Christ calls us to, is much deeper than the shallow, selfish love that our society often depicts.