Have I Told You Lately That I Love You?
Rod Stewart wrote a song with this title. It’s used at weddings (at least that’s where I’ve heard it most) and its words are quite endearing toward the recipient. It is a song that endeavors to prove that the lover’s life is made full because of the love he/she receives from another whose love is just as genuine. Frankly, it is the sentiment each Christian should have toward the God of heaven, for He proved His love toward us (John 3:16; Romans 5:8); and it is the sentiment that should exist between brethren (Hebrews 13:1).
Maybe I haven’t told you lately that I LOVE YOU! Then let me not only tell you but also let me put it in writing! You brethren mean so much to me it is beyond my feeble ability to adequately describe how much I love you! Each one of you is very special: each one having an individual uniqueness that adds to my deepest appreciation for you being a part of my life; an enriching quality that helps me cultivate a better perspective on my place in the Lord’s church, and your involvement in helping me fulfill that task of service for Him!
As a gospel preacher, designing a sermon that feeds both the babes in Christ and those of full age (Hebrews 5: 12 – 14) isn’t always a simple task. One fellow soldier reminded me, “Feeding the flock is the elders’ work,” and he’s right (Acts 20:28). But what are you to do when there are no elders due to the lack of qualified men? And isn’t it the case that even where brethren are blessed with righteousness leadership (1 Peter 5:1-4), it is usually the case the “located preacher” is the one proclaiming God’s truth under the oversight of these godly shepherds? Either way, the task of preaching the gospel comes with a serious responsibility (James 3:1; 2 Timothy 4: 1- 8) that I don’t take lightly.
That said, some sermons are designed to correct erring souls while others are designed to encourage the faithful to keep increasing their faith. Blending those two criteria of preaching (Jude 20 – 23) is as difficult as blending milk for babes and meat for the mature. And that being said, it truly depends on the receiver of such sermons as to whether they are “good” or “bad.” No preacher should desire to have his ears tickled (Luke 6:26), but neither do we “enjoy” harsh criticism … unless it is rightly merited. Even then, there’s a right way and wrong way to discuss disagreements. Let’s understand all of us need discipline from time to time (Hebrews 12: 1 – 13). Correction is a manner of showing LOVE. Therefore, please know I love myself (I hear every sermon and bible class lesson long before you do!) and because I love you even more, sermons and lessons that correct us, set our feet on the path of righteousness, and warn us to flee sin, are not meant to be “caustic” but to cleanse our souls from unrighteousness. They truly are an act of LOVE!
Just as surely, souls need to know they are loved, and sometimes, it’s best to just plainly say, “I LOVE YOU!” Oh, I know in today’s world that isn’t considered “proper,” especially if a man tells a man he loves him. Strange how culture has changed the meaning of that wonderful expression; sinful, but strange! Jesus didn’t have any problem expressing His love for His followers (John 13:34; 15:9) and He proved it with His actions, even unto death (John 15:13). Love is expressed in a variety of ways, not the least of which should be our words! Not so long ago, a hearty handshake or even a meaningful hug proved our sincere love one for another. Somehow, those have been reduced to something called “air hug” or “elbow bumps.” If that’s what it takes, PLEASE don’t stop with the words … I LOVE YOU is meaningful and needs to be said and proven!
Let’s not be naïve about our loving one another! Hebrews 13:1 says, “Let brotherly love continue.” But that can’t happen until it first exists! Our love for each other must not be measured by our fleshly blood kinship, but rather the blood of Christ! Recently, we studied very diligently regarding James 2:1, “My brethren, have not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with respect of persons.” While we agree to this, some don’t prove it! Think about Hebrews 13:2: who are these “angels” we might be entertaining? Since angels are messengers, is it not the case we might be in the presence of some messenger of God whose message contains love for our soul? No, not some “heavenly bodied angel” but an angel nonetheless – one “sent forth to minister [to] them who shall be heirs of salvation.” (Hebrews 1:14) We that claim to “love one another with pure hearts fervently” (1 Peter 1:22) need to be sure we do not merely greet the visitors, but get to know them, their needs, their abilities, etc. Why? Because we love them and want them to go to heaven just as we desire to go there!
Yes, I LOVE YOU! We challenging times together; we enjoy the pleasant times; we share our burdens, and our lighter moments. We’re family – family of God! No local work will grow when there’s turmoil, but it sure will grow when there’s love abounding. Paul said, “And the Lord make you to increase and abound in love one toward another, and toward all men, even as we do toward you: To the end he may stablish your hearts unblameable in holiness before God, even our Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all His saints.” (1 Th. 3:12-13) Then he said, “But as touching brotherly love ye need not that I write unto you: for ye yourselves are taught of God to love one another. (4:9). For me, that describes us as well! Yep, I do love you!!!