True love is selfless. Too many relationships described as loving today are anything but, for the people involved are actually focused on themselves and how the people they are “in love with” or “love” cause them to feel. “I love her because she makes me feel good about me.” “I love him because he’s so goofy.” (That implies he brings her amusement.) “We love our uncle because he spoils us.” That’s not the way love is supposed to be at all. Let me give you a picture of love:
His sons used to go and hold a feast in the house of each one on his day, and they would send and invite their three sisters to eat and drink with them. And when the days of the feast had run their course, Job would send and consecrate them, and he would rise early in the morning and offer burnt offerings according to the number of them all. For Job said, “It may be that my children have sinned, and cursed God in their hearts.” Thus Job did continually. – Job 1:4-5, ESV
Job was concerned about the spiritual state of his children. Whether or not he knew of any issues, he still spent the time and energy to offer sacrifices to God on his children’s behalf. Verse 5 ends with the comment that Job did this continually. It wasn’t a one time thing. It was an all the time thing. That’s true love. And when you consider that making a burnt offering likely consisted of the sacrifice of some of his livestock or flocks, this wasn’t an inexpensive offering, either. It cost Job something to perform this. Job loved his children so much, that even if he had no reason to assume they needed intercession, he went ahead and did it anyway. That’s not just love, but that’s love executed in a very generous way.
The interesting thing about this action by a loving father is that it flies in the face of what the world says about love today. Job’s actions weren’t performed to make his children feel better about themselves. He didn’t shower them (in this act) with things. As a matter of fact, there was no direct, tangible benefit to Job’s offering sacrifices on behalf of his children. Loving generously isn’t about stuff. And it’s not about doing things just to make the other person feel better. Loving generously is considering what the other person might need and meeting it in abundance. When Job looked on his children, he knew they needed a right relationship with God. Now we can debate the effectiveness of Job’s actions, but that’s not the point. What is the point is Job focused on what is the most important aspect of our lives: our relationship with God (or lack thereof). And it is obvious that he took the steps to do everything in his power to help their relationships.
Take a step back this week and really look at what love is. Often cited is 1 Corinthians 13 and it is the basis of our understanding of what love is. Paul gives specific examples of what it is and what it isn’t. Weigh what you’ve considered to be loving and unloving actions against that standard. Then think about the folks closest to you. Think about how to show real love, the way God defines it, towards them. The ones we’re closest to will often respond positively to genuine acts of love. Seek to do generous things. Maybe it’s going over and sitting with your mom for an afternoon while she reminds you of all your foibles of childhood, meanwhile clenching your teeth and reminding yourself that what she really needs is company, and you’re doing your part. Or maybe it’s calling up a best friend that you’ve been tense with lately and being the first to apologize and do so profusely… to the point where they say, “Stop! Enough! Okay, I forgive you!” Whatever it is, seek to start with those closest to you and then expand outwards. We want to live generously because God has loved us so generously. His is the example and the standard we should be shooting for.