I have a friend whose kids were having a disagreement (read: fight). The brother told his sister, I hate you. To which his sister, Sarah, replied, “God put me in this family & you have to love me or He’ll put you on a cross.”
That would take care of the whole sibling rivalry thing, I guess. But Sarah was right about one thing: she and her brother are family, and they need to love each other.
You see, love — the kind of love that is all over the pages of the New Testament, isn’t simply the opposite of hate. Nor is it even liking someone, and it’s definitely not about how you feel about someone else. For the truth is, brothers and sisters often don’t LIKE each other, do they? Much of the time, they don’t feel good about each other.
But real love is a choice, and chooses to act based on what you know about God, and about that person — that God IS love, and longs for that love to be made real to everyone. As Jean Vanier, the founder of L’Arche Community, has said: “Love is to reveal the beauty of another person to themselves.” Love is the choice we make to seek the best for another person.
Often, that is very practical, where I choose to do what’s right — where I choose what builds another up, or meets their need, or challenges them or encourages them. Love has as its goal the other’s best, where we take on the responsibility of choosing that best — even when it inconveniences or even harms us.
I just finished reading a book on Christian friendship, where the author, Wesley Hill, gives practical ways to live out friendship. One way you do that is by letting someone be a burden to you.
That might strike you as odd; it does me, too. And obviously that statement can be taken too far. But I like the idea behind it; that love is where we are deep enough in relationship with others that we know their burdens, and help carry them – because isn’t that what love looks like?
So, pause for a moment, and think: is there someone who may be facing challenges that you need to let be a burden to you? Where you come alongside them, or continue walking with them, and help them face something difficult, messy, something not-easily-fixed?
Because the best, most-lasting love, isn’t quick, or easy, or casual. The best love isn’t when you give five bucks to a guy on the street, or participate in a one-time service project, or even sponsor a hungry child overseas. Those may all be good things, but they don’t go very deep into the depths of love. For that, I believe, we have to love up close, personal, and faithfully.
So, who needs to be a burden to you?