The Depths Of Human Love
Perhaps there is no more beautiful expression of love and devotion between one human being and another than that uttered by Ruth to her mother-in-law, Naomi:
Entreat me not to leave you, or to turn back from following after you; for wherever you go, I will go; and wherever you lodge, I will lodge; your people shall be my people, and your God, my God. And where you die, I will die, and there will I be buried. The Lord do so to me, and more also, if anything but death parts you and me (Ruth 1:16-17).
Several things make this declaration remarkable. First, it is from a pagan. Ruth was a Moabite; Naomi was an Israelite. The two nations were bitter enemies. But Naomi’s family had taken refuge in the land of Moab from a terrible famine, and there her son met and married Ruth.
Second, Ruth poured out her heart as her mother-in-law, departing for Israel, urged her to stay in Moab. It’s not that Naomi didn’t love Ruth, but she knew that Ruth would face many issues as a foreigner living in Israel. Ruth uttered these words on the eve of abandoning her native land. She was sincerely and completely devoted to Naomi.
Such expressions of deep, abiding love highlight a basic need of man: to be loved, and, perhaps more importantly, to love another. Some animals are solitary creatures; and others live in community (packs, herds, flocks, etc.) because of design. But human love goes deeper than some evolutionary expediency.
Loving others satisfies our need for higher purpose. Close relationships give us opportunities of service. We need to know that we are important to someone else. In so loving another we will be loved in return, and that provides for our needs as well.
But there are some things that hinder the giving and receiving of love on such a core level. We are surrounded by people with boiling resentment, insecurity, selfishness, depression and other issues that interfere with or destroy love. This leads to a vicious cycle for those who cannot sustain loving relationships. They further crave them and suffer greater pain and dysfunction as their emotional needs remain unmet.
Here are some brief keys to sustaining love:
Be concerned about others. “Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others” (Phillip. 2:4). It is a cliche, but a true one: In order to make friends, we must be a friend. That is, we must show our genuine concern for the well-being of others. The person who is oriented toward others will not lack for love.
Be humble. “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself” (Phillip. 2:3). We are naturally repelled by a self-absorbed person. Such tend to exalt themselves at the expense of others. Everything is evaluated by its impact upon them. Their conversations revolve around themselves. Not until we minimize our sense of self will others be drawn to us.
Be appreciative. “I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine making request for you all with joy; for your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now” (Phillip. 1:3-5). It’s hard not to like a person who says such things. No, we don’t do things just to be noticed or thanked, but such expressions build emotional bonds that deepen relationships. Are you thankful for your friends and the love they give to you?
Be helpful. “I am full, having received from Epaphroditus the things which were sent from you, a sweet-smelling aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well pleasing to God” (Phillip. 4:18). Of course, the ones with the above attitudes will be helpful to others because they value them and are moved by their needs.
Be faithful. “For God is my witness, how greatly I long for you all with the affection of Jesus Christ. And this I pray ... that you may approve the things that are excellent, that you may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ” (Phillip. 1:8, 10). Faithful Christians will have many loving associates who value them for their spiritual strength. They are concerned to help others get to heaven. People of genuine faith in God will always love and will be loved by many.