AMY – BIBLICAL DEFINITION OF LOVE
Question: This series seems to be all about loving others: aging parents; adult children, etc. Is love a "heart" or an "act,” What is the Biblical definition of love?
The Bible talks about love in both ways – love is both a feeling as well as an action.
No matter how love is mentioned in the bible it is mentioned a lot – depending on the translation – anywhere between 300 and 900 times
Love is deeply important
And while it is a feeling – in much of scripture it is accompanied by an action
Jesus says so much about love – again much of it accompanied by action
He says in John 15:12
My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.
Jesus love was full of action – culminating with the greatest act of love on the cross. So, if his command is to love each other as He has loved us – that kind of love is full of action…
Jesus calls us to love each other thru action.
He calls Simon Peter to that love in action in John 21:15
15After breakfast Jesus asked Simon Peter,“Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?[e]”
“Yes, Lord,” Peter replied, “you know I love you.”
“Then feed my lambs,”Jesus told him.
16Jesus repeated the question:“Simon son of John, do you love me?”
“Yes, Lord,” Peter said, “you know I love you.”
“Then take care of my sheep,”Jesus said.
17A third time he asked him,“Simon son of John, do you love me?”
Peter was hurt that Jesus asked the question a third time. He said, “Lord, you know everything. You know that I love you.”
Jesus said,“Then feed my sheep.
I believe love without action is like faith without deeds –
So you see, faith by itself isn’t enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless.
Faith without deeds, love without action - it’s dead – it’s useless
The feeling of love by itself is not enough – you must show it
1 Corinthians 16:14
“Do everything in love."
"You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; Rather, serve one another humbly in love."
Love requires service - acts
Love needs to be expressed and experienced. For love to work it must be active
It’s something we actively do. It’s a series of choices we make every day. The choice to lean in,
That’s the self-sacrificing part of self-sacrificing love – it’s the action that comes along with the feeling
And if you’re struggling with the feeling – often the action will help bring the feeling about – sometimes the more you do for someone – the more you pray for them – the more you love them
And you can continue to ask the Holy spirit to work in your heart to give you the feeling
To feel love for someone but to never express that love to them thru action feels vacant.
“That’s because love is never stationary. In the end, love doesn’t just keep thinking about it or keep planning for it. Simply put: love does.”
―Bob Goff, Love Does
TIM – OVERCOMING GUILT AND DAMAGE OF PAST MISTAKES
How do I overcome the guilt and shame that I feel for the damage I caused to my now adult children?
I certainly understand this question and I know many people feel this way… I think much of the guilt and shame comes from the fact that as we grow older and have a chance to see things in different ways, we begin to wonder about some of the things we did when we were raising our children when we were younger and we come to understand how those things have affected our now-adult children. This question really touches on two separate aspects of life: one is the guilt and shame we feel inwardly about our past actions as parents and secondly, the relationship we now have with our adult children… a relationship that may very well need healing.
First, with regards to guilt, the first place I go, which may seem odd to some, but I always remind myself about what the apostle Paul said about getting over his past actions and we know that he did some terrible things in his pre-Jesus life that surely made him feel shameful and guilty. Listen to what he wrote to a young pastor named Timothy in 1st Timothy chapter 1 starting in verse 12. He said, I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength to do his work. The Lord considered me trustworthy and appointed me to serve him,even though I used to blaspheme the name of Christ. In my insolence, I persecuted his people. But God had mercy on me because I did it in ignorance and unbelief. Oh, how generous and gracious our Lord was! He filled me with the faith and love that come from Christ Jesus. This is a trustworthy saying, and everyone should accept it: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners”—and I am the worst of them all. But God had mercy on me so that Christ Jesus could use me as a prime example of his great patience with even the worst sinners. Then others will realize that they, too, can believe in him and receive eternal life. 1 Timothy 1:12-16. Paul had to come to terms with the fact that he’d blasphemed Jesus… in other words, he’d openly proclaimed that Jesus was empowered by the devil. He’d also persecuted, to be more specific, he’d sought to kill the followers of Jesus… the people who had become his brothers and sisters in Christ. I can’t imagine what it was like for Paul to live with the memories of bringing terror and violence on these innocent people. And I am certain, even though we don’t have any specific records of this happening, that there must have been a time after Paul came to faith in Jesus that he realized that he needed to publicly admit what he’d done and ask the entire Christian community for forgiveness. Can you imagine how difficult that must have been? We also know that at first no one trusted Paul’s claim of being a changed man, but eventually, after seeing the changes in his life over time, they accepted him and grew to love him. And here is the point for me: if God could bring this kind of change to Paul… if God, in his mercy, could remove the sin and the guilt of someone like Paul, then God will certainly forgive those of us who in our ignorance did things that brought heartache to our young adult children. That’s where I start: I need to start by living into God’s mercy and the FACT that he is in the transforming business… and when he transforms us, he wants us to let go of our guilt and shame. And then, beyond that, he also wants to transform the relationships that our former sins have damaged… like our relationships with our adult children. So, here is some practical advice I’ve taken straight out of what I’ve learned from looking at Paul: the first thing we have to do is to admit to our adult children that we know what we did to them and that we know that what we did was wrong and harmful. Paul certainly had to do this. I am confident that I can’t ask for forgiveness until I’m honest about what I have done. I do think it’s perfectly okay to say that you were doing the best you could back then, but now you know that what you did wasn’t best and that you are sorry. Oh, something else, offer to go to counseling together if that is something that your adult child might want. What I’ve learned is that if we offer this to them and patiently wait to see how they respond… it is always best no matter what their response to counseling might be. Now, none of this is easy, but if you are truly sorry and your heart has honestly been transformed by Jesus, then these sorts of actions will help both your relationship with your adult child and help move you past your guilt and shame. It may take a good while for your adult child to forgive and they may want to set up some new boundaries while they wait to see if you are serious about your new perspective on things… but if you give them time to see your changed heart and life and I am confident that, like Paul, you’ll be able to move past your guilt and shame and into a relationship with your adult child that will be a living example of God’s great mercy.
AMY – PUTTING OTHERS FIRST
Question: There were a couple of questions related to the idea of putting others first in your life. How does that affect your relationship with God? What if the people that you are supposed to put ahead of yourself are being manipulative of abusive?
First of all, your relationship with God is always first – it should be the top priority.
Jesus said in Matthew 22 starting in verse 37
“You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul and all your mind. This the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.”
The greatest commandment is to love the Lord – first and foremost – then you love others…
Relationships can be hard – all of them – aging parents, adult children, marriage
So many decisions to be made, conversations to be had, conflict to navigate…
You cannot do any of that well if you are not spending time in the most important relationship in your life
You need time with God in order to have the discernment and wisdom to make the right choices, set the right boundaries, have the difficult conversations.
Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares for you.
1 Peter 5:7
Give your burdens to the Lord, and he will take care of you.
You need rest sometimes – you need a break – you need help – you need Jesus.
That relationship comes first. And when you seek Him and abide in Him – he will give you guidance as you navigate all relationships in your lives.
And God has given us his Spirit as proof that we live in Him and he in us.
1 John 4:13
He gives us his spirit to help us figure life out – figure relationships out.
I said in my message that your aging parents come first – under the concept of self-giving love – everyone comes before you but that does not mean that you allow yourself to be manipulated or abused or completely overwhelmed by relationship
Pray – abide - and trust that the spirit will give you the wisdom and discernment to know how to engage best in all your relationships.
Sometimes the best way to honor your parents or raise your adult children or engage with your spouse is to set a boundary or step away for awhile or cut off ties if that’s what’s necessary.
But put your relationship with God first – abide in Him – engage with Him – listen to the Holy Spirit – and that will absolutely guide you and carry you in all aspects of your life.
BARRY – LOVING ADULT CHILDREN THROUGH IDEOLOGICAL DIFFERENCES
We received lots of really great questions, but there was one which seemed to pop up again and again. At least five of you asked this in one form or another.
The question is basically, “How do I influence my adult child when they see the world so differently?”
· One parent asked that because their child has walked away from faith in Jesus.
· Another asked because it seems every time he posts something on Facebook, his son always responding with something hostile and negative.
· Another was just frustrated because it seems to them that social media is just way more influential in their children’s lives than they are.
What do you do when you want to pass on your faith in Jesus to your kids, but it sometimes seems like they live on another planet?
Well, even though “parenting adult children” was Tim’s topic, I thought I might take a stab at responding to this one. I’m an elder millennial, which means I kind of have my foot in both worlds.
So here’s how I see it.
How do you get your adult son or daughter to realize your view of the world – your understanding of Jesus – is right? The answer? You don’t.
You don’t. No amount of arguing or persuading or posting on Facebook is going to convince your child to change their minds.
Why? Because they are coming from an entirely different cultural framework than you are. They’re from a different culture!
It seems crazy to say that, since they’re only one generation removed from you. But with the pace of change in our world, your child has grown up culturally foreign to your upbringing.
Arguing with them about your values is literally like me trying to convince someone in Sub-Saharan Africa to adopt my hectic view of time. Or someone from South Asia trying to get me to be less individualistic. I’ve lived in other cultures… it doesn’t work like that.
Your child has grown up being shaped by influences that are foreign to you. Foreign concepts of personhood. A foreign understanding of truth. Their foundation for reality is different than yours.
Don’t try to “fix” them. It’s only going to backfire. You can’t just change someone’s culture.
So what do you do? Do you give up? Do you let your child drift off into the abyss of secularism?
No. You don’t give up. You get to work. But not on them. No. You get to work on yourself.
Here’s what I mean.
Jesus didn’t have to convince people to follow him. They wanted to be near him. They wanted to be like him. Why? Because his character was magnetic.
Jesus had the Holy Spirit breathing through every inch of him and it showed. He was incredibly loving. Amazingly kind. Absolutely gentle.
And when he commissioned his disciples to take his message to the world, he didn’t tell them to go off and argue people into belief. He told them to live and love and act like him… to have the same fruit of the Spirit as Jesus.
The fruit of the Spirit. That’s what the Apostle Paul calls the end results of a life that looks like Christ.
The Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
When that fruit is abundant in our lives, the message of Jesus preaches itself. People are drawn to that kind of living. Including your sons and daughters.
And so when I say you need to work on yourself, parents, here’s what I mean.
Nurture the soil of your life – prune the vines of your heart – tend to your spiritual life so that the fruit you bear looks like Jesus. Loving. Joyful. Peaceful. Patient. Kind. Good. Faithful. Gentle. Self-controlled.
When those words describe you, your son or daughter will be drawn in no matter what their cultural paradigm looks like. The fruit of the Spirit transcends culture.
Work on yourself. And let God work on your child.
A few verses after listing the fruits of the Spirit, Paul says this:
Let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up.
Don’t give up, parents. I know it won’t happen on your timeline, but your child needs Jesus, right? Why don’t they meet him in you?
Oh, and one more thing. Adult children? Are you appalled at your parents’ political beliefs? Are you totally frustrated with their view of the world? Do you want them to wake up and understand the Jesus you know?
Work on yourself. It’s the exact same message I gave to your parents. Let them see the fruit of the Spirit in your life.
When you do that, perhaps it’ll start to change the conversation.
TIM – WHEN THE ONES WE’RE SUPPOSED TO LOVE FAIL US
What do we do when someone we love fails us? Okay. This is a huge one because people can fail us in so many ways. They can fail us by making terrible decisions that turn our lives upside down. They can fail us by lying to us, by betraying our confidences and spreading gossip about us. They can fail us by making promises they never keep. This list could go on and on. But when people I love fail me, I start by reminding myself that Jesus knew all about this… he understands this! Why, his own family, his mother and his brothers, tried to take him home with them because they thought he’d lost his mind. Once, when Jesus was visiting his hometown everyone there blew him off and said all sorts or horrible, hurtful things about him. And who can forget that Peter denied that he even knew Jesus and Judas completely betrayed Jesus? Jesus knew what it felt like to have people that we love fail us. But we also know that a good number of the members of Jesus’ family, the same people that thought he was out of his mind, eventually followed him as their Lord and Savior and that Peter, even after denying that he knew Jesus three times, found his way back into the fold. The question is, ‘How did this return happen?’ Well, I think it all started with the fact that Jesus never stopped loving these people. Now I know that this sounds pie-in-the-sky… to love people. But the kind of love that Jesus offered to people wasn’t a gushy, warm fuzzy sort of love at all. You’ve probably heard of Agape love… but just as a reminder, there are 3 aspects to agape: 1. it is a love that always wants the best for others. 2. it always does what’s best for others. 3. it never expects to get anything in return… and let’s be honest, that is a really hard-to-do sort of love. And there is a catch with agape love… it is also a love that knows that what is best for someone might be something really hard: something like enforcing really strong boundary’s with someone who consistently hurts you or calling out someone’s destructive behaviors and decisions or telling someone you love that you just can’t be around them right now. Agape love is the very deepest kind of love we can have for someone and sometimes deep love has to say, ‘Enough is enough.’ Agape, though, is also a love that leaves the door open for forgiveness when repentance is apparent. I have no idea how hard it was for Jesus’ brothers James and Jude to say to Jesus, ‘We are so sorry and ashamed of the way we treated you that day in Capernaum… that day we hurt you so deeply. Can you forgive us?’ But we all know what Jesus said. So, what do we do when those we love fail us? First, we Thank Jesus that he understands all about it. Then we pray and Ask the Holy Spirit to help us carefully decide what the appropriate action on our part will be the best for the person we love… it could be we just forget it… it isn’t worth the fuss… or it could be we have to speak to them… give them a good dose of the truth… or it could even be that we have to separate from them… that the best thing for them and for us is that we let them go… all the while Hold the door open to forgiveness. No one ever said loving others like Jesus loves us is easy… but it is the only kind of love that can lead to healing for both the person we love who has failed us and for us.