Is there Any Power in Simple Loving?

By Keith Miller | September 7, 2010

Sometimes I feel like my life for Christ doesn’t amount to much.  I don’t do big things that change people or their lives, and I don’t know how to do that.  Someone told me that they felt their purpose is just to love people.  But I can’t see how simple acts of love in my ordinary life could be significant.  Any ideas about that?

For years it didn’t occur to me that simply doing or saying loving things as a Christian could be significant.  But your question took me back to a time when Andrea and I were doing a course with some people who asked this question:  “What can we do that’s loving, and how could simple loving actions as Christians be powerful?”

So we decided to explore what Christian loving would look like in our daily lives.  We met with this group of people to try to see what we could learn about what loving people for God might mean.  At the end of each weekly session, I’d give them various assignments, such as focused listening and paying attention to someone in their family, getting to know people around their church, in their neighborhood or at work whom they didn’t know very well, and then experimenting with doing caring acts for people—like calling on new people moving into your neighborhood and helping them locate good cleaners, pharmacies or other services they might need.

As the final weeks of the course approached, I gave this assignment:  “Think of somebody that you really don’t like.  You don’t like to be around them, you have negative feelings and you find yourself not wanting to be with them at all.  Then do one of these loving acts that we’ve all been doing in the previous assignments with one (or more) of these people and report what happens when we meet again next week.

There was a collective groan and a spattering of chatter before the closing prayer period.  So Andrea and I were really curious to see what we and the other group members would come up with.  (We always did the same assignment as we asked the others to do.)

Well, the next week one woman—who was usually one of the last ones to report—spoke up first.  (She never had done that before.)  She said, “I just don’t believe what happened this past week! I didn’t have to go outside my own family to find somebody I didn’t like.  I have five siblings, and we haven’t communicated with each other in our family in almost twenty years.  As a matter of fact I moved out to Texas from up north to get away from them.

“Our oldest brother is the one that drove me away.  We just don’t like each other, and I haven’t spoken to him in all this time.  So although it really scared me to think about talking to him, I prayed about it and decided that he would be the one I’d contact.

“After putting it off for several days, I called him.  When he answered the phone, I felt a kind of shock to hear his voice, and I didn’t know what to say.  So finally I said, ‘Uh, Brother?’

“And he said, ‘Sis, is this you?’  And then after a brief silence, he added, ‘ What do you want?’

“I took a deep breath and said, ‘Well, I just want to…uh…to tell you… uh… that I love you.’

“Then Brother said, ‘Good grief, Sis—what’s happened to you?”

“I didn’t know what to do then, so I just said, ‘I can’t talk about it.’  And I hung up.”

Everybody laughed , and she did too.  Then I asked her, “Well how did that feel?”

“I don’t know,” she answered.  “It was frightening, but there’s more!  The next evening my sister called, the one I’m closest to.  I haven’t really communicated with her very much either but she’s the one I would call in a family emergency.  She called me from 1,500 miles away and said, ‘What in the world did you tell Brother?’

“And I said, ‘Why?’

“Then my sister said, ‘Because he just e-mailed us today that he’s sending all of us round trip tickets to Austin, TX to come down and find out what happened to you.”  And she stopped talking and swallowed hard.  And we both almost cried.

And as I heard that woman’s experience, I thought, “My gosh, I’d been thinking all my life about big things could I do for God that would be helpful.”  And then after the other group members had reported, I thought, “Maybe there are some people in my life I’m reluctant to talk to whom I just need to tell that I really care about them—because listening to that woman’s simple act of caring made me realize how important simple acts of love can be.

Lord, teach me how to be loving even toward those whom I do not like—or am afraid don’t like me.  Forgive me for reviewing in my mind all the reasons for my dislike of people who hurt me so that I can learn how to re-approach them with simple in loving ways that are genuine.  In Jesus’ name.

“You’re familiar with the old written law, ‘Love your friend,’ and its unwritten companion, ‘Hate your enemy.’ I’m challenging that. I’m telling you to love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer, for then you are working out of your true selves, your God-created selves. This is what God does. He gives his best—the sun to warm and the rain to nourish—to everyone, regardless: the good and bad, the nice and nasty. If all you do is love the lovable, do you expect a bonus? Anybody can do that. If you simply say hello to those who greet you, do you expect a medal? Any run-of-the-mill sinner does that.”  Matthew 5:42-44, The Message

“This is a large work I’ve called you into, but don’t be overwhelmed by it. It’s best to start small. Give a cool cup of water to someone who is thirsty, for instance. The smallest act of giving or receiving makes you a true apprentice. You won’t lose out on a thing.” Matthew 10:40, The Message

“Let me give you a new command: Love one another. In the same way I loved you, you love one another. This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples—when they see the love you have for each other.”  John 13:35, The Message

Please share your experience with us.  How has a simple act of love changed you? Post your comment below.

12 comments | Add One

  1. Amy Lively - 09/7/2010 at 8:44 am

    My former youth group helped pay my tuition and rent during a crisis my first year away at college, even though I had wandered away from the church (all churches, not just that particular church!), Their practical assistance, much more than their prayers, left a lasting impression on me. Thank You, Lord, for welcoming me home, and for the forgiving, giving people in Your church!

  2. Jessica Lyon - 09/7/2010 at 9:33 am

    That’s awesome Amy. I pray everyday that I can be obedient to God’s call in my life so that I may help others when they need it.

    In my first year of teaching at an inner-city school in Houston I was totally overwhelmed, exhausted, and just sick by what the system had done to the students I was leading. One of the Principal’s was always at school very early (like me) and about once a week he would bring me in his office and pray over me and we would pray for our students together. He gave me the best advice I ever got: All you gotta do is love ’em! The rest will come.

    Thank God for Mr. Okoli and his prayers and presence in my life.

  3. Shawn Frey - 09/7/2010 at 1:07 pm

    Thanks so much for the wonderful post. I really needed that.

    Also, loved the book.

    Have a great week,
    Shawn

  4. andee - 09/7/2010 at 5:20 pm

    Some time ago the Lord convicted me of the way i treated my youngest sister (i’m 63; she is 55). She has always been the “problem child” and it became easy to dismiss her or think of her in negative terms; she mismanages her money, smokes, and never does anything right. Because i felt this conviction i began trying to just converse with her, ask how she’s doing, give her a birthday gift, and most recently had her and a couple of ladies over for lunch on her birthday. She was absolutely thrilled. She has been coming to church and i think her general outlook has improved. Regardless, i feel better knowing that i’ve obeyed. The Lord has opened my eyes to see her in a different light, perhaps His light.

  5. Diane Britson - 09/8/2010 at 12:08 am

    Keith ,
    Grief is a normal part of life. It comes with multiple research studies; thesis that have been written over the decades; change with time. But, the basics remain the same & are just given new names etc.
    God comes with broad, strong shoulders. He is capable of hearing and listening to the depths of pain we feel.
    Why does he seem to watch, not interrupt and end our pain! Why must we feel like JOB locked in our pain unable to find the door knob to open the door and go forward and live life again?
    Diane

  6. Jessica Lyon - 09/8/2010 at 7:14 am

    Thanks Andee.

    Just yesterday I reached out to a close relative whom I have avoided for years. This person is intense, overwhelming, intrusive and I just don’t like her! But because I want to love others as Christ has loved me (as imperfect as I am) I felt it was necessary. I don’t know what will happen, but if God has anything to do with it, it’s going to be good!

  7. Jessica Lyon - 09/8/2010 at 7:25 am

    Diane, I’ll pass your comment along to Keith but wanted to respond to you because I’ve had similar questions. I’ve been in so much pain before that I couldn’t see straight – to where the pain literally consumed me and I was certain that God was completely ignoring my request, my prayer, my pleading with him. Many people have said to me that “pain is the pathway to peace” and I have come to find that this is true. And sometimes I stare so long and hard at the closed door in front of me that I don’t notice the cracked window to my back. One painful situation took 29 years to resolve itself in my life. Why God waited that long to change the situation? – I don’t know. Was it worth the wait – you bet!

    Thank you for bringing that to my attention.

  8. David@RedLetterBelieversss - 09/8/2010 at 8:31 pm

    Loving nice people is easy. But when Jesus asked us to love our enemies, he ‘ramped it up’

    Interesting post! I blogged on “loving your enemies” today at http://www.redletterbelievers.com

  9. David@RedLetterBelieversss - 09/8/2010 at 8:32 pm

    and that ‘new command’ to “love one another’ is real buzz kill to my selfish life!

  10. David@RedLetterBelieversss - 09/8/2010 at 8:32 pm

    Blogged about “loving your enemies” today at Red Letter Believers blog.
    http://www.redletterbelievers.com

  11. Keith Miller - 09/15/2010 at 9:02 am

    I just checked out your post. It was wonderful. I am going there to comment now.

  12. Joyce Evans - 09/27/2010 at 1:19 am

    For more than ten years I have mulled and stewed over the very mean things a person said to me and about me.
    I once considered her my very best friend. She told fibs about me to others and rudely ignored me.
    However, I still like her and I miss her.
    I think she will ridicule me, but I will try to tell her that I still pray about some of her problems and apologize for anything I may have said or done that was hurtful to her.

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