Today we end the relationship series. Let’s do a quick recap of what it was all about.
Week 1, we can’t love others well if our hearts grow cold. Have you seen this in yourself? You are busy doing all the right things in life but in the area of relationships, you are becoming more selfish or judgmental or critical.
Week 2, we can’t love others well if we make assumptions. The moment we make assumptions, we create, and live in, a fake world of lollipops, unicorns and fairies. The big point is, we do tremendous damage in our fake world because God isn’t in that world, He is the God of reality.
Week 3, we can’t love others well when we have not dealt with hurt from relationships in our past. You must deal with the wounds and insecurities we have received from our families and past friendships.
Week 4, we can’t love others well if we don’t know who we are and why we do what we do. If you aren’t thinking through why you do what you do, you will continue to repeat cycles of pain in your relationships. Anger continues. Being a victim continues. Etc.
Week 5, to love others well, you must engage others. The big question that week was, ‘Who can take away suffering without entering it?’
Week 6, to love others well, we must have integrity. So how do we live in a way that when pressure hits, our values don’t change? How do we live in a way where we are the same in all the different environments of our lives? To love others well, we must have integrity.
Week 7, to love others well requires us to engage legitimate conflict. It’s called spiritual maturity.
During this entire series, we have said, the point of Christianity is love. That means we experience God’s love for us and then that love shows up in how we treat others. We said that is the hard part. Experiencing God’s love is the easier part. Leaving church and trying to love others is the hard part. It’s so hard, we have to grow up into emotionally healthy people. And that is what the last seven weeks have been about.
Today we close the relationship series. Here is the point of today. Love, real love, is hard and it can feel messy. This week you will read this quote from the Day to Day book.
“Love in practice is a harsh and dreadful thing compared with love in dreams.” Dostoevsky
Have you ever watched Cinderella? The prince discovers Cinderella, pursues her, rescues her and falls in love. How does the movie end? They live happily ever after. Have you ever watched a Hallmark romantic movie? The guy and girl meet on bad terms and really dislike each other. For the next two hours, they fall in love. How does the movie end? They live happily ever after. Have you ever watched a romantic movie? How did it end? They lived happily ever after.
Last Saturday morning, did you watch Prince Harry and Meghan Markle get married? The world tuned in and over analyzed everything. What does everyone want from Prince Harry and Meghan? To live happily ever after. All those stories of love are romantic. Its stuff dreams are made of.
The idea of love is romantic. The reality of love is hard. It can be messy.
Scripture explains love like this.
4 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, 5 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, 6 doesn’t revel when others grovel, takes pleasure in the flowering of truth, 7 puts up with anything, trusts God always, always looks for the best, never looks back, but keeps going to the end. 8 Love never dies. MSG 1 Corinthians 13:2-8
Paul tells us, love is action, it always looks for the best in others. Love is serving, it puts up with anything. Love is what you give, it cares more about others. And, love will probably cost you deeply, it never gives up.
I think this is why life can feel almost disappointing. The idea of marriage is romantic, the reality of marriage is hard, sometimes messy. The idea of having kids is romantic. Imagine the Instagram pictures of the cute moments. The realty of having children is hard, sometimes messy. When you move from one to two to three kids, it’s down right exhausting. Imagine Sam, he has four. The idea of a group of guys to hang out with, or girls, sounds awesome but the reality of friendships can be hard, sometimes messy. The idea of going to church and find new best friends is romantic, the reality of it can be hard, sometimes messy. The idea of moving to another state, starting over, getting a new job sounds romantic, but the reality of it can be hard, sometimes messy. The person who you are in this state is the same person you will be in the new state. Do you connect with what I am saying?
The idea of love is romantic. The reality of love is hard. It can be messy.
I want to take a time out here quickly to share something. Do you feel like you have struggled to love your spouse and failed at it? Maybe you have regrets on what you could have done better. Do you feel like you have struggled to love your family and failed at it? Maybe you feel guilt over things you could have done better. Do you feel like you have struggled to love others and failed at it? You look back and wish you could re-due the last fifteen years. I want to give you a new perspective. Maybe you didn’t fail. Maybe you have discovered how hard and messy it is to love others. Maybe you have never been a failure as a Christian, maybe you have experienced how hard real love is. Maybe you need to dump the never ending self-criticism, guilt and feelings of not being good enough.
18 My dear children, let’s not just talk about love; let’s practice real love. 19 This is the only way we’ll know we’re living truly, living in God’s reality. 20 It’s also the way to shut down debilitating self-criticism, even when there is something to it. For God is greater than our worried hearts and knows more about us than we do ourselves. MSG 1 John 3:18-20
John tells us, keep practicing love and dump the self-criticism. I say this because I want you to walk in freedom. If you did something wrong, own it, ask for forgiveness, now move on.
Listen. The idea of love is romantic. The reality of love is hard. It can be messy.
As disciples of Christ, he will lead us into reality. The reality of loving those in our lives today, right now. What does that mean? To love others simply means, we do what is best for others with no expectations. We have the courage to serve others and be transparent. We are excited to affirm them and avoid being judgmentally critical. We can listen to them long enough to understand how they are wounded or broken. And, we don’t treat them in a way to get something from them. Simply put, we love. When they walk away from us, they feel awesome.
This includes our spouse. Our family. Our friends at work and church. Our volunteer roles. Our everyday work roles. I have to take a time out here and share another important point. If you want to change the world, it starts with you at home with your spouse and with your kids.
What I am about to say will come across as strong but please hear me. The person who tends to be prideful and success oriented can be very insecure and covers their insecurities by chasing bigger jobs, more money and importance. None of those things are wrong! If you have the ability and right heart to be effective, do it. So how do you know when success driven person is covering insecurities or doing it for the right reasons? Simple. What do they prioritize and what do they push to the side?
If they push God and family to the side for success, there may be a problem. If they prioritize God and family and they can manage success, they may have the right heart.
One of my goals has been for my family to feel closer to me than anyone else. At my funeral, I want my kids to say, the closer you were to my father the better he was. I would be horrified if people who didn’t know me loved me more than my girls.
Remember, the idea of love is romantic. The reality of love is hard. It can be messy. It can feel so hard, you won’t be able to do it. It will demand that you be in solitude and silence to experience God’s love for you. You can’t be disconnected from God and love others well.
I want to read for you what Jesus did for you.
26 While they were eating, Jesus took some bread and thanked God for it and broke it. Then he gave it to his followers and said, “Take this bread and eat it; this is my body.” 27 Then Jesus took a cup and thanked God for it and gave it to the followers. He said, “Every one of you drink this. 28 This is my blood which is the new agreement that God makes with his people. This blood is poured out for many to forgive their sins. 29 I tell you this: I will not drink of this fruit of the vine again until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.”
30 After singing a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives. NCV Matthew 26:26-30
We take communion because it reminds us of what did Jesus did for us. He loves you. He took His body and allowed it to be broken for you. He took his body and allowed his blood to pour out for you. His love for you, cost him deeply. That’s love. That’s reality.
So, if the idea of love is romantic and the reality of love is hard, maybe life will feel more like a struggle than we want to admit. Chances are, you don’t want to hear that. I want you to consider, Jesus loving you wasn’t romantic, it cost Him deeply.
If your marriage is about real love, maybe it will cost you as you put up with anything, trusts God always, always looks for the best. Obviously, I’m not talking about abuse of any kind.
If your family is about real love, maybe it will cost you as you put up with anything, trusts God always, always looks for the best.
If your church family is about real love, maybe it will cost you as you put up with anything, trusts God always, always looks for the best.
If your life is about real love, maybe the thing God is asking most of you is love and you are avoiding it because it seems hard.
Remember, the idea of love is romantic, the reality of love can be hard and feel messy.