Pastoral Care, Chapter 3: You are Loved, Be Loving – Part 2

Contrary to much popular thought and understanding, love is not just a feeling that comes and goes on a human level. It is not something you have to see in the hope of making it happen. Loving is not the task of making yourself lovable to get someone to love you. It is an innate part of your creation. Both accepting it and sharing it is an expression of faith. When I say you are loved, it is an expression of my faith; but it can be effective for you only when you dare to believe it and claim it for yourself. When you are willing and able to do that, you are ready to hear that God’s love is both a gift and a claim. So I say, “You are loved. Be loving.”

Jesus said, “As the Father has loved me I have loved you; love one another.” It is easier to love someone who loves you but the idea of loving as Jesus did to express the image of God within us and the extent of God’s love is not always so easy. In fact, it can be very challenging and demanding. It is risky. Jesus learned that on the cross. If you want to know what it can sometimes require of you, look at the father in the Parable of The Prodigal Son. Love restored a lost son. In marriage it can mean going on loving through the tough times. In friendships, remember how it was His closest friends who betrayed Jesus. Yet He said, “Father, forgive them….”

I read a story of a nurse who was treating a person who had been terribly mutilated in an accident. A reporter saw her compassion as well as her skilled caring and said “I wouldn’t do that for a million dollars.” To which the dedicated nurse said, “Neither would I.”

Many in our time have sold out love for lust. They seek immediate gratification in what they call “loving” or “making love” rather than personal fulfillment and wonder why they are never fully satisfied. So, they move from one relationship to another because real love and intimacy takes more. It takes vulnerability. It means caring for another as much as for self.

Why? Because love is a gift, and like any other gift, unless you work at it, to cultivate it, it will always be undeveloped and immature. The reward, on the other hand, of learning to love as Jesus did, at the deeper level of expressing God’s image and love within you, is a deep and enduring contentment that your life and your love have mattered.

In conclusion, let me suggest some ways we can work at this. First, we can be better listeners. There is a reason why God gave us two ears and one mouth. I don’t know of anything which suggests more to another that they matter as a person more than for you to give them the time, to genuinely look at them and to listen attentively to what they are saying.

Second is talking. It is saying, “I love you” while you have the opportunity. I knew a man who would say, “I love you” to no one, not even family. He said he would show it and he did; but it also feels good to hear it.

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