A young man said to his father at breakfast one morning, “Dad, I’m going to get married.” “
How do you know you’re ready to get married?” asked the father. “Are you in love?” “I sure am,” said the son. “How do you know you’re in love?” asked the father.
“Last night as I was kissing my girlfriend good-night, her dog bit me and I didn’t feel the pain until I got home.”
Some years ago, Dr. Karl Menninger, noted doctor and psychologist, was seeking the cause of many of his patients’ ills. One day he called in his clinical staff and proceeded to unfold a plan for developing, in his clinic, an atmosphere of creative love. All patients were to be given large quantities of love; no unloving attitudes were to be displayed in the presence of the patients, and all nurses and doctors were to go about their work in and out of the various rooms with a loving attitude. At the end of six months, the time spent by patients in the institution was cut in half.
Some strange conversations are often wrapped around the subject of “love.” A 20-year-old daughter earnestly prayed before climbing into bed: “Dear God, I don’t ask anything for myself, but I do pray for my mother. Please give mother a handsome son-in-law to love.”
On the other hand, some seem to be over anxious about landing someone who will love them. The mountain man was doing the best he could to be chivalrous. He carried a washtub on his back and a chicken under his arm, had a cane in one hand and led a calf with the other. Still his new girlfriend was wary. Either that or she was trying to cover up what she really wanted. As they approached the dark woods she held back, saying, “I’m afraid to walk with you in there. You might try to hug me and kiss me.” “How on earth do you think I could manage that?” the mountaineer asked. “As you can see, I’m pretty well loaded down.” “Well,” she said, “you COULD stick that cane in the ground, tie the calf up to it, and put the chicken under the washtub.”
A story tells about a fellow who was far away from home, and in a small town. He had in his possession only one thing, a $1,000 bill, but nothing else, no small change, no identification, nothing. He was famished for food, ravenously hungry, but he could buy nothing, for no one would take his $1,000 bill. It was not until he found a way to break that bill down into small change that he could spend any of it.
Our love for God, quite similarly, must be broken down into small, spendable change.
The teachings of the Hasidic rabbis often provide insight into God’s ways. One story comes from Levi Yitzhak of Berdichev in the Ukraine. He confessed that the learned the meaning of love from a drunken peasant. The rabbi was visiting a tavern owner in Poland’s countryside. As he entered the tavern, he immediately noticed two peasants at a table. Both were gloriously in their cups. Arms around one another, they were protesting how much each loved the other. Suddenly Ivan said to his friend, “Peter, tell me, what hurts me?” Stunned, Peter sat back into his chair and blurted out, “How do I know what hurts you?” Ivan’s response cut through the drunken stupor: “If you don’t know what hurts me, how can you say that you love me?”
None of us are loved perfectly. . . I heard recently of a couple who were trying to raise their little three year old so that he would never know fear. They didn’t paddle him, they never scolded him, they never said no, and they let him go where he wanted to go when he wanted to go, and do what he wanted to do when he wanted to do it.
Some may think that this sound like heaven. . . when it didn’t sound like heaven to the person who was telling me this story. This young couple happened to live by a busy highway. They had to go to a social activity and so they asked my friend to take care of this little boy.
My friend said he had never had such a task on his hands before. Can you imagine trying to take care of a three year old that knew no fear? He was continually disappearing. . . and where did he want to go???? Of course, he wanted to go out and stand in the middle of the highway to watch the cars whiz by on either side. The young parents thought that they were loving the child perfectly but they were just preparing the child for hurt, injury, and pain.
A man was known to carry a little can of oil wherever he went. If he passed through a door that squeaked, he put a drop of oil on the hinges, and if a gate was hard to open, he oiled the latch. So he passed through life lubricating all the creaking places, and making it a little more pleasant for those who followed after him. There is no telling how many lives we could keep from “rusting and squeaking” and how many gates we could open to happiness, if only we would carry a little oil of brotherly love and human kindness in an effort to prevent lives of Christians from rusting away in sin.
John Haggai in his book Lead On tells about Dr. Claude H. Barlow, a missionary to China and one of the most revered foreigners to work in that land. A strange disease for which he knew no remedy was killing people. There were no research laboratories for this disease, so Dr. Barlow conducted his own research. He studied the disease, filling a notebook with his observations. He then procured a vial of disease germs and sailed for the United States.
Before he arrived, he took the germs into his own body, then went to the John Hopkins University Hospital to be observed. Claude Barlow was very sick now. He allowed his old professors at John Hopkins to use him for experimentation. A cure was found, which a healthy Claude Barlow took back to China with him. His efforts saved countless lives.
When asked about the experience, Dr. Barlow replied, “Anyone would have done the same thing. I happened to be in a position of vantage and had the chance to offer my body.”
I doubt that just anyone would have done that, don’t you? Only a person with a very special kind of love in his or her heart would make that kind of sacrifice. It is that very special kind of love proceeding from the heart of God that determined to make a supreme sacrifice so that you might be saved. Without that love we would all still be orphans in a strange and hostile universe. But that love does exist. It exists in the church . . . it exists among people around this earth who have had an encounter with Jesus.
C. S. Lewis in Mere Christianity wrote, “Being in love is a good thing, but it is not the best thing. There are many things below it, but there are also things above it. You cannot make it the basis of a whole life. It is a noble feeling, but it is still a feeling. Now no feeling can be relied on to last in its full intensity, or even to last at all….In fact, the state of being in love usually does not last….But of course ceasing to be ‘in love’ need not mean ceasing to love. Love…is a deep unity, maintained by the will and deliberately strengthened by habit; reinforced by the grace which both partners ask and receive from God….They can retain this love even when each would easily, if they allowed themselves, be ‘in love’ with someone else. ‘Being in love’ first moved them to promise fidelity: this quieter love enable them to keep their promise. It is on this love that the engine of marriage is run: being in love was the explosion that started it.”
At the entrance to the harbor at the Isle of Man, there are two lights, which guide the mariner into the harbor. One would think the two signals would confuse the pilot. But the fact is, he has to keep them in line, and so long as he keeps the two lights in line his vessel is safe. And it is just as we keep our eyes on the two signals — the love of God, and the love of man — that we keep the channel, and are safe from the rocks on either hand. 
The height of our love for God will never exceed the depth of our love for one another. Love is never lost. If not reciprocated, it will flow back and soften and purify the heart.
We can risk loving as passionately as God loves. For we know that the love God makes possible is no scarce resource that must be hoarded so that it may be distributed in dribs and drabs–a little here and a little there. Love is not a rare commodity; rather, the more we love with the intense particularity of God’s love, the more we discover that we have the capacity to love. 
If you have love in your heart, you always have something to give. No one ever said it better than C. S. Lewis: To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket -safe, dark, motionless, airless — it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable…. The only place outside Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers of love… is Hell.
We become vulnerable when we love people and go out of our way to help them. That’s what the wealthy industrialist Charles Schwab declared after going to court and winning a nuisance suit at age 70. Given permission by the judge to speak to the audience, he made the following statement: “I’d like to say here in a court of law, and speaking as an old man, that nine-tenths of my troubles are traceable to my being kind to others. Look, you young people, if you want to steer away from trouble, be hard-boiled. Be quick with a good loud no to anyone and everyone. If you follow this rule, you will seldom be bothered as you tread life’s pathway. Except you’ll have no friends, you’ll be lonely, and you won’t have any fun!” Schwab had made his point — love may bring heartache, but it’s worth it!
Whenever people expend themselves, they want results. If they lay down life, they want someone’s life raised up. If they empty themselves, they want someone to be filled. They want their sufferings to bear fruit.
If this doesn’t happen, they’re tempted to give up. The refusal of the gift quickly becomes a reason not to offer it. Instead of leaning into resistance with love, they’ll back off and say, “Well, we tried.”
However, the motive for offering love is not that it be successful. Christians want reponse, but they are not bound to it. They sacrifice for others because they are the recipients of sacrifice. They are the current generation of a long line of broken bodies and shed blood.
This gift Christians have received, they freely give. They join the living history in enacting the dream of God, [which] is a people sustained and transformed by mutual sacrificial love. 
Show me a church where there is love, and I will show you a church that is a power in the community. In Chicago a few years ago a little boy attended a Sunday school I know of. When his parents moved to another part of the city the little fellow still attended the same Sunday school, although it meant a long, tiresome walk each way. A friend asked him why he went so far, and told him that there were plenty of others just as good nearer his home.
“They may be as good for others, but not for me,” was his reply.
“Why not?” she asked.
“Because they love a fellow over there,” he replied.
If only we could make the world believe that we loved them, there would be fewer empty churches, and a smaller proportion of our population who never darken a church door. Let love replace duty in our church relations, and the world will soon be evangelized. 
We’d be better people and have greater churches if we’d live according to this poem:
Lord, let me live from day to day In such a self-forgetful way,
That, even when I kneel to pray, My prayer shall be for others.
Help me, in all the work I do, Ever to be sincere and true,
And know that all I’d do for Thee, Must needs be done for Others.
Let “self” be crucified and slain, And buried deep, nor rise again;
And may all efforts be in vain, Unless they be for Others.
And when my work on earth is done, And my new work in heaven begun
May I forget the crown I’ve won, While thinking still of Others.
Yes, Others, Lord, yes, Others. Let this motto be;
Help me to live for Others, That I may live with Thee.