BONDING IN LOVE BY CARING AND SHARING
Rachael Martin April 9, 2003
I would like to start with the Golden Rule. It reads like this, "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." To bring this even closer to today's subject, it could read like this, "Talk about others as you would have them talk about you." This is very basic and yet it is the foundation of our relationships with others. If you are always criticizing and finding fault with others, people are probably going to have a hard time finding something good in your life.
Back to the title, "Bonding in Love," just what does "bonding" mean? Immediately our minds go to mothers bonding with their new babies or parents bonding with their children. Bonding means gluing or cementing something together. So when we think of gluing ourselves together in love, it sounds permanent, not something that is easily pulled apart. Do you desire a relationship like that with others? I think we can all say that we do want good, strong relationships, but they take a lot of work. Good friends do not just happen. Love is not automatic in us. We must choose to love, but we cannot just do it on our own. We must first have God's love. Love is of God, which means He is our source of love. He is the model of our love to others. Love sees others as God sees them.
God has given everyone a unique personality. Some people are talkers and some are organizers. Some people are strong-willed and some are always on the go. Others are compassionate and some are perfectionists. We all know people who fit into those personalities and we might be thinking some of those personalities are not very compatible. That, however, is the point. When you get people together whose personalities differ, then you run into conflicts. That is what we call personality clashes. When someone who is a perfectionist is working with someone who is always in a hurry, there can be a major explosion Similar personalities can also clash. How can all these people learn to work together? We know that a working relationship takes love. We can take comfort in the fact that God does not have a standard personality. He does not want us to be someone else's personality. He does have a standard for character though. It does not matter what kind of personality we might have. God still holds us to standards of character. We need to be faithful, loving, and honest no matter what our personality. When we violate one of God's standards, we cannot just say "That's my personality." It's a character flaw. What causes personality clashes, then? They are caused by an immature character. In our clashes we begin to attack personality instead of character. We need to learn, by God's help, to keep our personality in check. For example, if we are someone who talks too much, then we need to learn when to speak and when to keep silent.
Next, let's look at love in friendships. The quality of friendship depends on the quality of friends. In others words, the kind of character we have and our friends have. In friendship, self stands opposed to love. In I Corinthians 13 we see love in contrast to self. Why does a talkative person conflict with a strong-willed person? The two people are operating by self and not by love. Love focuses on deflecting glory to God and not dwelling on self. Self is pleased when others fail, especially when it is someone with whom we have a grievance. Love is aware of others' failures, realizes they have needs, and wants to help. Do the people around me see more self in my way of relating or do they see love? If God's love is within me and operating in me, others close to me will notice.
We also need to have humility and honesty in our relationships. We need to open up our lives to our close friends and let them know we have needs and failures, too. Pride makes us want to give people the impression that we do not have any problems. Pride puts on fronts and masks so people do not know how we feel. Pride keeps us from asking for help. We can be extremely independent people even when we are down and out. If we are refusing to budge when a friend is inviting us to do something, we're not only denying a gift for ourselves, but may also be depriving our friend of a much needed blessing as well.
Now let's get to the practical outworking of love.
First, let's talk a little about fellowship after church. For some people, it's a good time to visit and for others with a fussy baby or children to be watched, it's not such a good time to visit. At any rate, when you meet a sister, ask about things that are current with her. Perhaps a project she is working on or her new baby. If you are talking to a mother with a new baby, she may be anxious for some fellowship because she does not get out as much as she did before the baby. Another thing about visiting after church is all the people around that can eavesdrop. It is rather hard to discuss private problems or needs because someone could easily overhear. That is why I am going into this next part.
We are going to look at the five love languages. I have found this study to be very interesting and informative The book is titled The Five Love Languages and is written by Gary Chapman. Everyone needs all these expressions of love but some expressions speak louder than others. People express love in many different ways. What one person may think is love, another may say, "That's not love." These five languages are as follows: 1. Words of Affirmation, 2. Quality Time, 3. Receiving Gifts, 4. Acts of Service, 5. Physical Touch.
1. WORDS OF AFFIRMATION
Verbal compliments, or words of appreciation, are powerful communicators of love. I'm not talking about flattery or gushy words but sincere compliments. People can usually tell when someone is flattering or when they are sincere. If the sister beside you in church looks nice in her new dress, tell her. If her child sat quietly in church this morning, let her know. She may need to hear that compliment to give her the courage she needs to keep on working with her wiggly two-year-old. Encouragement requires empathy and seeing things through your sister's eyes. With verbal encouragement, we are trying to say, "I know, I care." This is especially true to those whose primary love language is words of affirmation.
2. QUALITY TIME
Quality time is giving your friend you undivided attention. It means spending time with each other and talking. When you are talking with a friend, listen for feelings, observe body language and refuse to interrupt. This is a hard one because so often we feel we know the answer or we dogmatically state our position. Your goal in listening is to discover her thoughts and feelings, not set her straight. Learn to LISTEN! Hurting people often need to talk. Do not launch into a litany of misfortunes that have happened to your family. They are the ones who are hurting and that is all they can deal with now.
Quality time also includes quality activities where the emphasis is doing things together while you talk. The other should leave feeling as though you care. These activities are limited only by your interests and ideas. If you have a friend who is getting on behind with her sewing, take your sewing machine to her house and do some sewing together. Okay, so say, "Sewing isn't my thing.- Try just sitting down and having tea together. Tea parties are kind of unheard of today, but they are an excellent way of getting together and sharing. It can be with just two people or several people. If you choose several friends to come for tea, do so carefully. Think about who might really benefit from a heart-to-heart discussion because of where they are right now in their lives. Would they really enjoy something like that? Another aspect to consider is confidentiality. The sisters around your table need to be able to keep the shared feelings confidential. If anyone suspects that a sister is not keeping things to herself, this will put a strain on the entire group. (It might take some time to warm up, but after a time or two, you will become more comfortable with each other.) You may be thinking, "I could never share a struggle with friends," but you might be surprised. After listening to the others share, you start to feel a genuine closeness, and you will feel more like talking. Spending time with your friends takes special effort but the rewards are great. Another activity that can be fun is if your friend's husband is away on a business trip or having revivals at a distance. Take supper over to her house and help the evening go faster. I realize this is not feasible for some whose husbands are always home for supper. I used to resent that Eldon always has to work one night a week. Now I sometimes use that time to do something with a friend. Remember that whatever activity you choose to do, your friend should go away feeling like you care.
3. RECEIVING GIFTS.
A gift is something you can hold in your hand and say, "She was thinking of me." You must be thinking of someone to give them a gift. It is not only the thought implanted in the mind that counts, but also that she was willing to get a gift and give it as an expression of love. Gifts do not need to be expensive to convey a feeling of love and caring. It can be something as simple as a homemade card or flowers from your flowerbeds. Birthdays are a nice time to remember a friend, but it certainly does not need to be only on special occasions. For your friend whose love language is receiving gifts, their worth has nothing to do with monetary value and everything to do with love.
4. ACTS OF SERVICE
Jesus gave a simple illustration of expressing love by an act of service when He washed the disciples' feet. In a culture where people wore sandals and walked on dirt streets, it was customary for the servant of the household to wash the feet of guests as they arrived. Jesus gave His disciples an example of how to express love to each other when He took a basin and towel and proceeded to wash the feet of guests as they arrived. Jesus gave His disciples an example of how to express love to each other when He took a basin and towel and proceeded to wash their feet. Jesus also says in Matthew 20:26, 27, ". . . But whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister; and whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant." The apostle Paul summarized that philosophy when he said, "Serve one another in love." What are some "acts of service" I can do for a sister in my congregation or a sister that I associate with on a regular basis? How about offering to drive school children for a sister on your school route that is facing a difficult time? Or how about a family at church who has just lost a loved one? Do not say, "If there is anything I can do, just let me know." Offer specific ways of helping and show that you are ready to put your words into actions. Take a casserole and paper plates, go get some groceries, take some laundry home and bring it back washed and folded, or if they live on a farm help with whatever needs to be done. This only names a few ideas and is limited only by your own ideas. Sometimes the simplest little kindness can have enormous results.
5. PHYSICAL TOUCH
We all know that physical touch is another powerful way of communicating emotional love. In our society we shake hands when greeting another person. It is a way of showing openness and social closeness to them. A time of crisis provides a unique opportunity for expressing love. Almost instinctively in a time of crisis, we hug each other. Words might not mean a lot at a time like that, but physical touch says you care. A hug or some other touch can be the emotional lifeline of the person for whom physical touch is the primary love language.
We will look a little yet at loving the unlovely. Claiming to have feelings that you do not have is hypocritical, but if you express an act of love that is designed for the other person's benefit or pleasure, it is simply a choice. We certainly do not have warm feelings for people who hate us. That would be abnormal, but we can do loving acts for them. I especially like this saying, "A man that hath friends must show himself friendly."
I hope this essay gave each of you a renewed desire to love your sisters in Christ more than you did before.