― C.S. Lewis
The modern definition of love is most often used in the context of feelings that you feel for someone. If someone makes you feel good and is attractive you have all the ingredients for "love". And if you realllllly have these strong feelings for someone, and happen to also want to have sex with them....well...it's love....let never the two be split asunder!
Shockingly, today, we have an ever increasing number of divorces, children born out of wedlock, affairs, etc. When "feelings" become the arbiter we have established an amorphous and unstable standard on which to base relationships and our conceptions of love.
There is a reason that marriages often dissolve between years 5 and 10. For most people the butterflies of fresh love have been replaced by the mundane nature of daily living coupled with the stresses of children, bills, careers, and new "attractive" people. When we place romance as the pinnacle of the value of a relationship we will soon find ourselves without good reasons to continue.
This perspective also influences the approach we take to all relationships. It is easy to speak with eloquence about how much you love others and what a good person you are for caring about their experiences. But when push comes to shove we would much rather talk about our ambiguously defined feelings than make practical commitments to showing love to someone else when it doesn't translate to achieving something for ourselves.
Instead, I challenge us to approach love as a deliberate act of the will that puts others first regardless of how we may "feel" about it. As CS Lewis said in the opening quote choosing to act love outwardly will shape us inwardly. I have been recently studying the book of Ruth and I think there are three lessons that we can draw out about the practical expressions of giving love to others.
-----if you haven't read, or, recently read, the Book of Ruth, read the first two chapters to get the context for what I am saying here-----
Ruth is a pagan foreigner(boo), recently widowed(boo), living with her widowed mother-in-law who, with her husband, ran from the promised land some years earlier(more boos). For all practical purposes Ruth is person non-grata in Israel when she shows up at the field of Boaz to hopefully pick up some scraps so she doesn't starve to death. There was nothing about her that eligible bachelor's in ancient Israel would find "attractive". Yet, Boaz displays great love towards her.
1- He speaks kindly with her(Ruth 2:11-12). Boaz was a busy, respected and successful man. He could simply have ignored her and no one would have noticed or cared. He was under no obligation to be kind to this strange pagan foreigner. But he goes out of his way to seek her out and speak affirming and encouraging words to her.
You and I are surrounded by people who no one would even notice if we didn't take the time to notice them. Being a loving person is about showing love to those who you have no "reason" to love. You can say you love your neighbor, but when is the last time you sought them out to share an encouraging word, to ask how they are doing, to pray for them? We are not loving people if we only give kind words to those who are easy and convenient for us to be kind to.
And to be even more personal, when is the last time you also deliberately spoke with kindness and encouragement to the people in your life? Like your spouse? If you only say, "I love you" when you want something....how loving is that?
2- He shares his life(and a meal) with her(Ruth 2:14). Boaz doesn't just say something nice and then goes about ignoring her. He invites her to sit with him, to eat with him, to show real care for her.
Speaking kind words is important, but, they are also easy. Who do you need to go out of your way to show practically in a real and tangible way that you love them? Don't say, "I love you....but please don't spend any time with me"
3- Boaz goes above and beyond and makes a personal sacrifice to help her(Ruth 2:15-16). Instead of just the bare minimum of letting Ruth have whatever scraps are left, Boaz provides for her from his own personal harvest!
Love, real love, leads to sacrifice. If you want to practically put love into practice, are you willing to cost yourself something in the process?
Do you want to truly love people? Stop feeling stuff about them and start giving of yourself for them regardless of how you feel. Because just doing stuff for people you "like" is easy and not really very loving at all.
Still a better love story than Twilight