You and I have only known each other for four years now. You were just in the ninth grade when our families merged. Having gone through so much emotional upheaval after the loss of your mother, you were struggling with school and friendships. I remember how worried I was when you came to live with me and started a new school after your dad and I got married.
But I’ve watched you blossom into a young man. It’s taken a lot of letting go, a lot of searching. But you have made a reputation for yourself in the community as a gentleman and a kind spirit. I’m proud of who you’ve become, and I can’t wait to see what God does through you as you go through this next phase of life.
Recently you attended a ceremony honoring graduating high school seniors. The speaker gave wonderful advice, the same advice that Jesus gave His followers, saying, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself” (Luke 10:27).
There just isn’t better graduation advice than that. The person who follows these guidelines will be able to tackle the greatest decisions and conflicts in life with confidence and peace.
Unfortunately, the speaker’s time was limited, and he couldn’t explain in depth what those guidelines mean for you in practical terms. Not everyone knows how to love God with all his heart, soul, mind, and strength. Not everyone understands how to love his neighbor as himself. I’m convinced that this is one of the greatest stumbling blocks of the modern church.
So this will be my graduation challenge for you: to love God and love others, but to do it in the biblical way.
How would you define love? A feeling of romanticism? A friendly connection?
It’s neither of those things.
The Hollywood image of love, even familial love, is always depicted as self-centered and exciting. But real love is characterized by selflessness and commitment. Let me explain.
First, love is a verb. It requires action. It’s not something you feel; it’s something you do. Love is not lazy. If you are in a relationship in which you are always on the receiving end of attention, sacrifice, and gifts, then you do not love that person. That person loves you.
Second, love is a choice. No one can make you love, and no one can make you not love. Jesus tells us even to love our enemies. If anyone could stop you from love, surely it would be an enemy. But because love is a choice, another person’s actions cannot deter the choice you make. You choose to forgive. You choose to overlook offenses. You choose to return kindness for evil. Feelings of hurt, anger, or regret may come, but we have full control over the way we respond.
Love is external. If you never act out your love, how can you say you have love? That’s true not just for physical relationships. It’s true of our relationship with God, too.
The first and most important of the two commands in Luke 10:27 is to love God. You would think this is something every Christian knows. But unless actions match words, there isn’t any real love.
A friend once said, “It bothers me when people say, ‘God is my priority.’ He shouldn’t be a priority. He should be the thread that weaves itself through every aspect of your life.”
Think about what Jesus said—love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. He is saying that all our thoughts, energy, feelings, and purposes in life should glorify God.
That means thinking about God all the time.
“Surely you don’t mean all the time. What about football games?”
“What about class?”
“What about on a date?”
Especially on a date!
At football games, ask yourself, what behavior is pleasing to God? Cheer your team on and be a good sport. Don’t get drunk and make a scene. Be the example you want non-Christians to see.
In class, look for opportunities to share truth with you professors and classmates. Look for the worldview in what they teach. Consider if those philosophies line up with Scripture. Scrutinize it all.
Consider how your major will prepare you not just for life, but also for the church. What can you do with your degree that would make you of use to the kingdom?
On dates, treat a girl the way God wants you to treat a sister in Christ. You honor God by honoring her. And if she isn’t your sister in Christ, don’t date her! Marriage is the holiest institution you will ever enter, and the purpose of dating is to find the right girl to marry. If she isn’t a Christian, don’t consider her an option.
Today a big trend is shopping at places that pledge to feed the hungry or bring water to a village. Eating at Tacos for Life and wearing Toms are nice gestures, but aren’t those things helping someone else love others? What are you doing for the people around you in your life right now? The people you can reach out and touch?
Here are some opportunities that you have.
Love your family. Honor your parents. This one was so important that God made it one of the Ten Commandments. Forgive, show grace, don’t take advantage. Don’t leave your family out of your life, but give us a piece of yourself. Your little brother and sister are watching you. What do you want them to learn?
Love your friends. When someone is sick, bring him soup and medicine. When someone is struggling in class, help him study. When someone is heartbroken, let him cry on your shoulder. Weep with those who weep and rejoice with those who rejoice (Romans 12:15).
Love the unlovable. These are the people no one else likes to be around. Invite them to join group adventures. Sit by them at church and the cafeteria. Never let anyone treat them with unkindness, especially bullies who want someone to pick on.
Love the lost. There is nothing more loving than to give someone the gospel. Invite new friends to church. Read your Bible to learn the answers to their questions. And don’t be afraid to share your testimony of how you came to know Christ. They will hear how you were once broken, hurting, and empty, and how Christ filled your life with purpose and praise. Your testimony is the most powerful tool you have.
What love is not
There is a view in our culture that says love means accepting everything you see and hear. It’s a belief that there are no rights and wrongs, only what’s right for each person. But love gives people what they need, not what makes them feel good. A doctor sometimes has to perform a painful procedure that hurts someone, but it makes him better. And a Christian sometimes has to hurt someone spiritually to bring peace, love, and joy.
When you speak truth, people in the world will claim that your disagreement makes you a hatemonger. “That’s not very Jesus-y,” they will say. But remember, Jesus was the one who turned over the tables at the temple. Sometimes love means standing up for what is right, even when it’s not the popular view. Consider yourself in the company of John Wycliffe, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and carry on.
Seth, there are not many Christian men in our world who are resolved to live out their faith, and the nation is suffering for it. You don’t have to be the guy holding a sign and preaching on the street to be a godly man. It should come through in everything you do and say, personally and publicly.
You’re on your own now. There will be no one looking over your shoulder. But the Holy Spirit will be there to guide you in love. He’s tugging your heart, telling you what’s right and wrong. Don’t dismiss Him. Listen to the voice of the Lord and benefit from His wisdom, and you will never be disappointed.
Copyright © 2017 by Sabrina McDonald. All rights reserved.