Matney: The power of proactive love
Happy Valentine’s Day! This month, my wife and I celebrate our 40th wedding anniversary. Ever since my little sisters introduced me to one of their high school teachers, who became my wife a couple of years later, I’ve had the comfort and joy of love in our long-term friendship.
Of the many blessings of life – health, music, beautiful scenery, great works of art, great food, housing, clothing, recreation, work and careers, good books, education, entertainment, laughter, pets, travel, adventure and great memories, etc., etc. – love is the greatest blessing of all. What else compares with the exquisite feelings of love from our parents, a spouse, a child, or a true friend?
All of these blessings, and the love we experience in our relationships, flows from the great heart of God. 1 John 4:16 says, “God is love.” Please read all of 1 John 4:7-21 and 1 Corinthians 13, to learn more about love.
One of the greatest milestones in life is coming to believe in God and in his great love for us.
1 John 4:16 says, “We have come to know and believe the love that God has for us.” Friend, my heart’s desire for you and for me is for us to grow in the comfort and joy that comes from accepting and believing in God’s love for us.
Now, let me pivot just slightly from God’s love for us to our love for one another. Of the many blessings in life, mutual love exists only in a relationship with other people. None of our other blessings, including a beautiful home full of great music, art and food and with beautiful cars parked in the garage, can love us back. Only in human bonding is love fully experienced. So, let me talk, briefly, about divorce-proofing our marriages, healing our strained friendships, growing in our parenting and other connections and the absolute importance of doing this.
Loving friendships and good relationships are important because they can bring so much happiness and purpose into our lives, and an overall sense of well-being. They can eliminate or minimize the sense of anxiety, loneliness and isolation that so many of us feel. They contribute to our physical health and our emotional well-being.
But what can we do to prevent divorces, alienated children, and strained relationships? We have to practice “proactive love.” I’ve written about this for several months. I’ve said we need to share sincere compliments with the other person, pray for the other person, extend forgiveness, don’t judge, speak gently, be patient, etc. These will go a long way to tuning up our relationships and keeping them running smoothly. But even so, anger will enter our relationships. Let me talk briefly about anger.
At times, anger is justified but vindictive anger is not. God said revenge is mine and I will repay (Deuteronomy 32:35; Romans 12:19). So, let us ask God for help in letting go of selfish anger. Righteous anger is not vengeful or personal. It is directed at the action and not the person’s character, and it is focused on solutions not revenge. So as Ephesians 4:26 says, “In your anger do not sin: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry.”
A small act of kindness, and doing good for others, has solved more relationship problems than venting anger has ever accomplished.
So, proactively do small acts of kindness for the other person; buy them a Valentines Card, wash the dishes, take out the trash, do that project they’ve been asking you to do. My wife wants me to clean out some closets. It’s time for me to get to it.
Romans 12:21 talks about proactive love: “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” A small act of kindness, and doing good for others, has solved more relationship problems than simply venting anger has ever accomplished.
There are many facets to maintaining harmony with a neighbor, friend, family member, coworker or others, and at times it is not possible because both parties must make the effort. But with God’s help, let’s try everything we can before we give up on the power of active love to heal a strained or broken relationship.
When I stand before the judge of all the earth, he will not ask me about my housing, clothing, art collection or bank account. He will ask me, “Dan, how did you treat your wife? How did you treat your children? How did you treat your coworkers, friends and neighbors?”
When we give an account for our lives, we will not be judged on our possessions, but by our relationships. Let us make our relationships with God and others a priority. Let’s get started this Valentine’s Day.