The Marks of Love
True Love ALWAYS Makes or Leaves a Mark
John 20.19-29 – ‘Then the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews, came Jesus and stood in the midst, and saith unto them, “Peace be unto you.” And when he had so said, he shewed unto them his hands and his side. Then were the disciples glad, when they saw the LORD. Then said Jesus to them again, “Peace be unto you: as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you.” And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and saith unto them, “Receive ye the Holy Ghost: Whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained.” But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came. The other disciples therefore said unto him, “We have seen the LORD.” But he said unto them, “Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe.” And after eight days again his disciples were within, and Thomas with them: then came Jesus, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, “Peace be unto you.” Then saith he to Thomas, “Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing.” And Thomas answered and said unto him, “My LORD and my God.” Jesus saith unto him, “Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.”‘
Luke 24:36-40 – ‘And as they thus spake, Jesus himself stood in the midst of them, and saith unto them, “Peace be unto you.” But they were terrified and affrighted, and supposed that they had seen a spirit. And he said unto them, “Why are ye troubled? and why do thoughts arise in your hearts? Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have.” And when he had thus spoken, he shewed them his hands and his feet.’
Whom do you love? How do you show your love to someone else? What do you do to prove your love to another person? These are important questions in this day and age, especially in these modern times. This is the “month of love”, February, when we celebrate St. Valentine’s Day. A lot of people have different ideas of what love really is. As there are many different ideas of love, so are there even more and different ways that people show love to one another. How do you show love to another person? What are the marks of love?
Point #1 – We Do Many different Things in the Name of Love
If you look very closely at history, literature, and culture, it is easy to see that people do many different things to show and prove their love for another, especially when it comes to romantic love between a man and a woman. In ancient Greece, the Trojan War between Greece and Troy – an ancient city in Turkey – allegedly began when a Trojan prince kidnapped a Greek Queen. Romeo and Juliet, Shakespeare’s famous play, was a tragic love story. In Ancient Roman times, the great Roman General Marc Antony and Cleopatra committed suicide together following their loss in battle to Caesar Augustus. Even in more modern times, we see acts carried out every day in the name of love. Many people – from celebrities to common folk – do many and varied acts to show or prove their love to someone else. From elementary school students making construction paper cards to the rich and wealthy buying expensive jewels, we people do many different things to show and prove their love. This is because love is such a great part of a person’s life. To love and be loved in return, according to most sociology and psychology studies, is as important as breathing air, drinking water, and eating food. Studies conducted with laboratory animals even have shown that animal babies that received food and water, but no affection actually lived shorter lives than those which had no food nor water, but did have some sort of physical affection shown to them. Love is a strong factor in life, as stated by King Solomon:
“…love is as strong as death…”
—Song of Solomon 8:6
These acts of love quite often, later in life, become the marks of our love for that person, whether the love is accepted and returned, or rejected and spurned. How many people have ever broken, thrown away, or totally discarded a gift, given prior to a relationship being broken? What we do in the name of love either becomes a symbol of sweet memories, or a shill of mocking and rejection.
Point #2 – If You REALLY Loved me, You’d…
This begs the question: How many times have you heard this statement used by someone you loved, or thought you loved? A better question is this: How often have you used that question with someone else? Sadly enough, people quite often use love for their own ends. Time and time and time again, young people – from early teen-age to late-twenty-year-olds — either use this statement in order to have sex with their girlfriend or boyfriend or hear it from the object of their affections. This just goes to show that many of the marks that we see, many of the actions that we undertake in the name of love, are quite often used as counterfeit tokens of getting what is wanted, with no real care or concern being held for the one for whom this statement is directed. The young, handsome young man may use this line time and time again with woman after woman after woman in his desire for sexual gratification. A woman may use this line to get her demands met by her boyfriend or fiancé, or even any one of a number of friends. A son or daughter many use this line as leverage in an argument or request from a parent. Generally, when people use this line, it is for personal desire, and the party being asked is usually not factored into the equation at all. Especially in this day and age, personal gratification often uses the statement which is the header for this point, rather than true love being the object for the requested action. Jesus uses this statement, too, but in a different way:
“If ye love me, keep my commandments.
“He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest manifest myself to him.
“If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode in him. He that loveth me not keepeth not my sayings…”
— John 14:15,21,23
The difference between Jesus’ use of the statement, “If you really loved me…”, and people’s use of it is that Jesus Christ isn’t looking out for himself first: he is looking out for our own good. Further, Jesus is speaking a very great and essential truth: if we really love someone, we will naturally do something for that person, even so far as doing what that other person asks. There is a story of a wife who’d been married to a tyrant of a husband. This terrible husband made a daily list of chores for the wife to do, and if she failed in even one, punishment was waiting for her. This poor wife never was able to finish the list, and her husband often abused her as a result. Some time later, her tyrannical husband died, and the woman remarried. Her second husband deeply loved her, cared for her, and treated her as if she were a precious treasure. Later, as this woman was looking through some of her old things, she found a copy of the list of chores that her first husband had given her. To her great surprise, she found that she was doing everything on the list, and more, for her second husband. The reason was, her second husband loved her, and she, in turn, loved him so much that the chores she did for him that the cost was not counted. It is the same thing for just about anyone alive today, or that has ever lived. We do things out of love that far outweigh anything we would and/or ever could, really, do out of compulsion.
Point #3 – If There’s No Charity, It’s Not True Love!
The Best example of this is found in 1st Corinthians 13. In this great chapter, we see exactly what love in action really is. Many people mistake the word charity for meaning an organization that takes money and uses it for the poor. The truth is, charity is love in action. 1st Corinthians 13 lists many actions, many good deeds, but, the all-consuming fact is if we don’t have charity in our hearts when we are doing them, these action have absolutely no meaning. Mindlessly giving money to a charity or to a church, with no thought nor feeling to those to whom the money is going is really an empty gesture. In this day and age, where selfishness, self-centeredness, and self-gratification is preeminent, most celebrities give to charity because of being caught in some petty crime, or because of a badly-spoken word at the wrong time. This, as well, is not really love nor charity. The saying, “It’s the thought that counts,” is all too true, and it is especially so when giving to God. The Bible says in several places that God loves a cheerful giver. One who gives to God for any other reason than out of love is giving for the wrong reason. The flip side of the coin of charity is true, as well. We can say that we love someone all we want, but if we give nothing and do nothing for the object of our affections, we really don’t love them. The reason is that we may say all we wish that we love someone, but, as the old saying goes, “Talk is cheap!” In his General Epistle, James the brother of Jesus speaks clearly that Faith is not faith without good works. In the same way, Love truly isn’t love without charity – action – being undertaken. In the same way that James says that faith is lacking when we fail to give to a brother or sister destitute of daily needs (James 2:14-17), so is love lacking if we show no charity towards someone in need. Just as faith is dead without good works, love is dead without charity. No charity, no love; know charity, know love!
Point #4 – True Love Always Leaves a Mark!
Have you ever heard this phrase, “If you do that, it’ll leave a mark”? In the same way that playing with something dangerous – particularly something sharp – true love always leaves a mark. This isn’t to mean that love should be physically punishing (though sometimes it needs to be), but that true love always leaves a mark, a reminder. Do you ever wonder why your heart is broken when someone you love breaks relationship? Do you ask yourself why a man or a woman will, for a long time (if at all, in many cases), not have a relationship with another of the opposite sex when a previous relationship ends? This is precisely because that true love always leaves reminders, memoires, and marks. This is nowhere more easily seen than in the Jewish Tradition of a Covenant. In the South, many have “cut covenant” relationships with others. The practice of cutting covenant involves exactly that: cutting with an edged blade. We see instances of “cutting covenant” in the Bible, the best example being David and Prince Jonathan, son of King Saul, in I Samuel. In a case where two people cut covenant, the hand or arm was cut, and each person clasped the other’s cut, then treasured items – usually a weapon and an article of clothing – were exchanged. In effect, the two were joining together as family, and the promise was that in case death happened to one or the other, the family would be taken care of by the surviving covenanter. Such is the case with David and Jonathan. Jonathan, some time after he and David cut covenant, died in battle, along with his father and brothers. David, when he became King of Israel, took in Jonathan’s son, Mephibosheth, caring for him as long as he lived, inviting the young lame son of Jonathan to eat at his royal table, and giving Mephibosheth free access to anywhere in the kingdom. King David’s descendants further continued taking care of Jonathan’s grandsons and great-grandsons following King David’s death (see 1st Chronicles). In the same way, Jesus Christ “cut covenant” with those who followed him by way of the cross. In our Keys for today, we see that the Apostles and disciples – barricaded in the Upper Room for fear of the Jews – received Jesus after seeing his nail-scarred hands and spear-pierced side. Though we tend to come down hard on Thomas, he, too, was only convinced of Jesus’ resurrection when he was able to place his hands in the nail prints and the spear thrust in Jesus’ body. The disciples knew Jesus by his marks of love that he had for them, and his followers today still know him the same way. Jesus’ true love left marks on his body, and those marks were for us!
Conclusion – The Greatest Love, and the Greatest Marks of Love Come from Jesus Christ…
“Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. Ye are my friends…”
“But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”
These two verses of Scripture tell the whole truth of the matter: Jesus Christ came out of heaven, lived here on earth for 33-1/2 years, then gave up his life in order that we might be saved. There has never been an equal to this, let alone any greater act of love ever recorded in the history of the world. The nail prints, the spear thrust scar, the whip lashes, the scar from the crown of thorns – these are all the greatest marks of love that any man, woman, or child could ever know. Jesus did this for you, reader. Did you know? Did you know that Jesus Christ walked out of his unparalleled place in heaven, took on human form, took you sins (and mine), and willingly offered himself up as a sacrifice so that you (and I) could have a place by his side in heaven? He did this, and he did it just for you! Jesus Christ waits to accept you, to show you his marks of love, to embrace you to his spear-scarred side with his nail-scarred hands, to wipe away your sins, and to prepare a place for you in heaven (John 14:1-3). There is no greater love, no greater marks of love, and no greater way to get to heaven. Jesus Christ awaits you today! Come to him! You will not be disappointed!
Father in heaven, we thank you today for the Marks of Love that you have given. We thank you that you had so much love for us, that Jesus Christ came, he died, he rose again, and he offers us each your marks of love! We pray for everyone who reads these words today that a special blessing will be given, and that you, O LORD, will help us all to know, to recognize, and to follow those Marks of Love that your son bears for us. We Bless Thy Name and we thank thee, and we pray all of this in Jesus’ name, Amen.
Verse to Remember
“Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”