We always thank God for all of you and continually mention you in our prayers. We remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.
I walk with my husband just about everyday around our neighborhood with our two Westies leading the way. We’ve done this now together for at least seven years, beginning when we moved to a new town. At the time, both of us were going through career changes that shook our foundation—he was leaving a job he had done and had loved for seven years, and I was in the middle of a new job. We were also coming off of a hard season of temptations and challenges in our marriage. I was still uncertain whether we were going to survive, daydreaming about what life might look like if we separated.
But Brandon and I began walking together when I came home from work. We had a new puppy, and she made a perfect excuse for this daily excursion. Sometimes we walked in silence. Sometimes, my emotions would crest over the breakwall of guardedness, and I would say what I really thought, what I really felt. Sometimes, he would receive my thoughts and emotions graciously, and other times he didn’t know what to think.
Throughout that season, even in my uncertainty, I heard the Lord saying, “Be patient. Love is patient.”
It took miles and miles of walking, but those reliable evenings together brought us back to each other. They deepened our trust and cemented our commitment to one another. He is my partner in this life, and I am his. Those long walks, our commitment to love each other, the faith and trust that our marriage was worth saving, and our hope in better days carried us through that hard season and brought us into something deeper, healthier, and more joyful.
Love takes work. It has taken work from the beginning of time, with Adam and Eve learning to work together in the garden to Jesus promising that his yoke is easy and his burden is light (Matthew 11:29-30 NIV).
But it’s still work, to love people well. Even those we are closest to can be hard to love, let alone those we don’t know as well. This is our greatest commandment from the Lord, to love each other.
At the beginning of his letter to the community in Thessalonica, Paul acknowledges the work of their faith and the labor of their love. Faith and love are not passive activities. Both require our consistent attention and prayerful contemplation so that we can be effective servants of the Lord. The community of Thessalonica figured out how to love each other and their neighbors well, and for that Paul was thankful.
And when our circumstances are grim, the quiet but persistent voice of God’s love urges us to be patient. Have hope. When the work of faith is hard, when the labor of love takes all of our energy, the source of our endurance comes from the hope of Jesus Christ, who promised he is making everything new, who promised that heaven and earth would pass away, but his words would never pass away (Matthew 24:35 NIV).
Keep up the work of love.
Points of Reflection
- What were you taught about love? What was modeled to you?
- What are your labors of love for your neighbors, your family, your friends, and your community?
For the Kids
- Do you think love takes work or do you think it should be easy?
- How does the hope of Jesus Christ help us to keep loving people?
In these days before Valentine’s Day, take a moment to assess your relationships, and not just romantic ones. How intentional have you been with loving your partner? Your children? Your parents? Your friends? Relatives? Church community? Neighbors? Strangers? For each category, note one reason you are thankful for each group of people in your life. Then, jot down one way you are actively showing them love. Next, ask the Lord to search your heart and reveal to you any ways you have fallen short in those relationships, then write down what the Lord tells you. Confess these shortcomings, and then ask the Holy Spirit to help you love with more grace, mercy, and faith that your efforts will not go unrewarded. Through this work, we become beacons of the love of Christ.
One of the places God has worked hard to change in my life is my relationship to different races. It’s hard and humbling to admit, but there are a lot of ideas and prejudices that have been planted in my mind the Lord has had to root out over the years. As a white woman in a rural community, it was easy for me to believe I was not a racist, until God forced me to face my sin and begin to change my heart. God has been merciful with me, helping me to see and to celebrate the beauty and wonder and intentionality of the diversity of the human race. I recently finished How to Fight Racism by Jemar Tisby. Tisby outlines the hard work of faith, the hard labors of love that Christians are called to in order to heal the wounds of God’s people. He challenges us all to be people of reconciliation, mindful of the ways we can actively love others and create change that can make a real difference for our brothers and sisters in Christ. I highly recommend Tisby’s book.