Looking For True Love?

Nehemiah 1:2-4, “…Hanani, one of my brothers, and some men from Judah came; and I asked them concerning the Jews who had escaped and had survived the captivity, and about Jerusalem. They said to me, ‘The remnant there in the province who survived the captivity are in great distress and reproach, and the wall of Jerusalem is broken down and its gates are burned with fire.’ When I heard these words, I sat down and wept and mourned for days; and I was fasting and praying before the Lord God of heaven.”

Hope cannot exist apart from truth. Like a strong medicine the inital taste of truth may not be pleasant, but the lasting proof of its power is realized in healing and wholeness. This note may make you uncomfortable. But I challenge you to embrace it with an open heart. There is life herein.

The tragedy of our fallen humanity is that our hands so often undo the words of our own mouth. We readily profess our love for other people. In fact, we do it far too easily. That is why the words “I love you” have come to mean so little in our modern culture. The failure is not in saying the words. I am convinced that you cannot say the words “I love you” enough. People want to hear it. People need to hear it. But the greater truth is that people need to “see” it. The failure comes when our words are not followed by appropriate actions. We say one thing but our actions are saying another.

These first few verses in Nehemiah give us all a clear picture of true love. Long before Nehemiah ever set the first brick he evidenced his compassion in some very meaningful ways:

  • Real love asks questions. Genuine concern asks questions about the welfare of others. Nehemiah asked because he cared. If I am truly concerned, I will ask. Usually I don’t ask because I just don’t care. God, forgive me for being so preoccupied with my own pain that I don’t have time or concern for others.
  • Real love gives honest answers. The men answered Nehemiah truthfully. They did not gloss over the true condition of the people. Their answer was authentic, their pain was transparent, and their openness made them vulnerable. Had they given Nehemiah the standard cliche the story would have ended right there. Stop lying to people. It isn’t all good. Help and healing begins with honesty. Your honest answer could be the very thing that becomes the catalyst to having your life rebuilt by God.
  • Real love listens. Nehemiah heard what was being said by his brother. How do I know? Because we have the rest of the book. His response is evidence that he was actually listening when the other person was talking. Most of the time we are already thinking about the next thing we want to say while the other person is still talking. We want people to listen to us. Why are we so slow to return that desire to those we love?
  • Real love prays. All the rest means little unless we pray. Asking, honesty, and listening are nothing compared to the power of prayer. The people’s great need was Divine intervention. God’s great desire is for compassionate intercession. Real love both weeps and prays over the brokenness in the lives of others. Prayer is the one thing that will bring the power of heaven down to bear in the lives of those whom we love. It was true for Nehemiah. The same holds true for us. Yes, Nehemiah eventually went to work. But prayer came first. We fool ourselves if we fail to see Nehemiah’s prayers and fasting as the crucial component in this magnificent story of restoration.

Told you this note would be difficult. I long for real love in my life. I weary of shallow relationships that never move beyond the weather. But if I am willing to be honest, I will admit that much of the fault lies with me. I need to learn to ask about others first. Too often I want to share my pain without first asking about theirs. I need to give people honest answers. Authentic. Transparent. Vulnerable answers. I need to learn to listen instead of trying to do all the talking. Maybe that’s why God gave us one mouth and two ears? And finally, I need to pray for others. Seems like that is the one thing I hardly ever do. God, give me a heart like Yours, one that lives, and when necessary, is willing to die, for those whom it loves. Amen.