The following article is by Alice Mills over at poemachronicles.com. Once upon a time she was my professor and mentor at William Jessup University. Now she is a powerful friend filled with endless wise counsel. She is one of the most brilliant, loving, and healing individuals I have ever met. Her words have changed my life more than I will ever be able to thank her for, and I am thrilled that now they can change yours too. She is a part of the Real Hope Rising community, but be sure to go visit her on her own page as well. I promise you it will be worth every minute you spend there…
If They Don’t Know You Love Them, You Don’t
The title is a quote from a Danny Silk conference that hit me like a ton of bricks. I sat there listening to his sage advice on relationships at a conference in Atlanta. To be honest, most of the material was familiar. I am a longtime self-help and pop psychology junkie, and the boundaries and communication methods he was espousing were a good review.
But that particular phrase really hit me. I had to ask myself the question. Did the members of my family know that I love them? His point was this:
Whatever warm and fuzzy feelings you may have towards the people in your life unless you manage to communicate that love in a way that is received, your ‘love’ is wasted.
Now I realize a lot of books have been published about this topic, foremost among them, the oft-quoted book by Gary Chapman, The Five Love Languages. I have no intention of rehashing that popular work. Instead, I want to take this concept to into a larger scope of reference.
Danny Silk’s main point was this:
If you genuinely love someone, you will take the time to express it in such a way that they are left in no doubt of your affection.
Too many families skate by on the fact that love is assumed between them, negating the obligation to actually practice loving each other.
The darker side to this is that if a parent or a spouse does not actually communicate love to you, they don’t love you. That is, they may have feelings for you or not. Feelings are beside the point. They are not actively loving you. If they have not actively loved you in living memory, then the more difficult truth may have to be faced. You may in fact not be loved by them.
I say this knowing that sometimes love is expressed in ways that are subtle. A man who goes to work daily and sacrificially provides for his family is loving his family. But they need more than just service from him. They need engagement.
It would be safe to say that if he is unwilling or unable to engage on a more intimate level, that there are limits to his loving capacity.
So to make the concept clear before I widen my focus: Love must be actively communicated. If it is not communicated, it is not loving. People have limits to their capacity to love. Some people are limited by a lack of willingness, others by a lack of understanding, and still others perhaps because they have received so little, they have little to give. In all cases, love is an active, participatory expression of esteem and affection. If one were to examine the quality of love one receives from friends and family, one might discover that love exists on a number of different levels and capacities, and in some instances, not at all.
Now for my larger application.
Does the world know that they are loved by the church?
If not, then the church does not love them. This is a heartbreaking question to ask, although one that must be considered individual church by individual church.
I will allow myself to be a bit controversial here. I can only speak for the churches I have attended myself. Of the eight or nine churches I have attended, I would say that at least half made regular and committed attempts to love others. In fact, the one I am attending now is pretty good at it. Lakewood Church run by the ever notorious Joel Osteen is pretty good at it on a global level. Money pours into that church. None of it goes to the Osteen’s. Money pours out of that church and the schools, homeless ministries, and countless other global medical and evangelistic ministries are funded. Houston, the city proper, feels generally loved by the Lakewood Community as well as many poor communities throughout the world.
On an individual level, the church suffers for being so large. If I wanted to become an active member, I probably could. There are a million outreaches to individuals with every kind of need, from educational programs for couples, parents, and singles to recovery groups etc. I, myself, have not engaged fully enough to judge, but from the 56,000 culturally diverse people that attend every Sunday, one gets the idea that most people get something out of it. But being so large, I fall easily into the temptation to remain anonymous.
But this begs the question.
Does the world at large experience love from the church in general?
I am not about to go on a rampage about the church. I remember having a conversation once with a woman who suffered from a great number of difficulties. Like all of us, some were products of her own choices and others were sins visited upon her. I can say, however, that she felt and was in fact, unloved by her family. She had a boyfriend who would sometimes attend the wonderful church I attended at the time in Lincoln. He was in his late fifties, wore a long black leather trench coat and sat or stood in the back of the infrequent services he attended. He reminded me of an alienated teenager with his habitual sulky expression. He had a long history of substance abuse.
She told me that God had called him to judge the churches, that one day he would be given authority in the churches. He would then rise up and tell the church everything that was wrong with them. It was all very grandiose. And a bunch of crap.
I laughed when she told me this. She was a little offended and asked why I didn’t take his calling seriously. I told her that God loves the church. His concern isn’t with telling the church what is wrong with it. That is the job of the accuser. Jesus gave His life for the church and continues to serve and love the church unconditionally.
So then I have to ask myself, Do I love the church? Would any particular church know that I love it and its members? Ouch. That question is a little harder to face. A couple of the eight or nine I have attended might. But no more.
These are questions that must be asked and answered by those for whom criticism of the church is their favorite sport. Ok, does the city you live in know that your church loves it? If not, then how are you a part of that lack of love? After all, you are that church. Do the people in your church know that you love them? This is not a guilt trip. After all, I can’t effectively love 56,000 people every weekend. But I can love a few. Does anyone in your church know that you love them? How do they know this?
Love is evidenced by concrete actions.
Greater love has no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends say the scriptures.
A drastic lack of love exists in the world today. It is as if we have forgotten that love, Love, is the most powerful weapon in the world. It alone can bring unity to a divided world. It alone can bring healing. Perhaps I should say He instead of it. Jesus left us concrete evidence of His love. Is there concrete evidence of yours? Of the churches? Yes, some. There is always room for so much more.