My wife, Michelle, and I recently watched season 4 of The Crown on Netflix, a show about the current monarchy in England. The more I watch that show, the more I think it should be called “The Marriage.” Most of the central story lines are deeply affected by the various marriages of the characters. Not just the Queen’s marriage, but Charles and Diana’s marriage and other marriages too. What we learn is that even for royalty, marriage requires what we learned in the previous post, that true love is costly. How, though, do we practice love, whether in marriage or in other relationships, like those in a church family, so that love endures?
Have you ever heard of the 5 love languages? I urge you to pause reading this post and check out the 5 Love Languages website. Some people receive love through the giving of gifts. But other people receive love through quality time, or quantity of time, or other ways. People are complicated…relationships are complicated. How can you be Jesus to someone? Loving God means we want to love people.
We can really easily fall into the fallacy of believing that other people are too difficult to love, while we ourselves are quite easy to love. “Why can’t everyone just think like me? Why can’t everyone just act like me?” we think, “Life would be great.” We can especially get caught in the trap of thinking like that with our spouses.
Or maybe it wouldn’t be so great. One of the enduring lessons of The Crown is the need to learn to love and respect one another’s differences, with the clear self-knowledge that we ourselves are not perfect. We sacrifice ourselves, in love, for our spouse, for this person who can upset us, disappoint us, frustrate us, because through it all, we learn that a husband and a wife are two people who, in their brokenness, are loved by God and can love one another.
As we love our spouses sacrificially, also think about what God did for us. He sacrificially gave Jesus for us, and we were far from perfect, right? So we, too, can give our lives in sacrificial love for the people around us. We can serve them, love them, and treat them with respect and kindness.
That doesn’t mean we allow them to use or abuse us. It also doesn’t mean that we need to be close friends with everyone, such as everyone in a church family. That’s simply not possible in most churches, even those of smallish size (note that the average size church in the USA is 75), so we need to have graciousness and be okay with the fact that some people are closer with others.
I’ve heard it said that there are cliques churches, but the reality is that it is natural for people to group off into smaller bands of friends, whether a small group or a Sunday school class. This is normal, as long as we love one another in the process, and as long as we keep an eye out for those who are on the outskirts and welcome them in love.
What will it look like for you to demonstrate sacrificial love this Christmas? Do you need to have a heart check to see if you need to be more loving? One of the greatest gifts you can give Jesus this Christmas is to receive his love, become his child, and then once you are his child, whether you just became his child today or you have been in his family for years, is to love him and love one another, and then to love those in need. Our love for other people should be impossible to miss because it is so active.