I have always felt deeply and loved deeply. Loving is the greatest joy and the greatest sorrow, both at the same time. Those that love deeply hurt deeply when those whom they care about are going through sorrow and pain. The other side of the coin is that the relationships you build through love bring great joy and meaning to your life.
Some people have a difficult time learning to love people. They go through life and never understand why they haven’t built lasting and close friendships. It’s sad to see that happen.
The Bible gives us a description of what love looks like in I Corinthians 13:4-7 in clear, measurable ways. These markers also give practical ways to deepen and enrich our love. This post involves the truth that states that love “thinketh no evil” (I Corinthians 13:5). We learn from this how to love others so that they would know we really care for them.
God created us with three parts: body, soul, and spirit. Each is independent, but related and affects the other. Simply put, my body interacts with my physical environment, my soul interacts with people, and my spirit interacts with God.
Love involves all three parts of our person. I love through my body by serving, doing kind deeds, writing letters, hugs, speaking words of affirmation and other ways. I love through my soul (which is the sum total of my mind, emotion and will) as it motivates my body to serve and meet practical needs. My spirit is the engine which makes it possible for me to love over the long haul through God’s grace and also guides me to meet specific needs in a timely way.
We say to people sometimes, “I love you with all of my heart”. Typically that alludes to our emotions and feelings for a person. However, before the emotions are stirred it is our thinking that prompts our feelings to be moved.
Now, this doesn’t sound as romantic, but perhaps it is more accurate to say, “I love you with all of my mind”. The Spirit of God speaks to my spirit and causes my mind to think about specific people.
Several months ago out of the blue I became burdened about an old friend whom I had not seen in a long time. I texted him simply to let him know that I was praying for him and that I loved him. A few hours later I received a text from him telling me that I had no idea how timely that simple word was for him. That night I called him and he shared some very deep trials through which he and and his family were going.
My friend desperately needed a word of encouragement that day and the Spirit of God spoke to my mind about him. As I thought about him my emotions were stirred about our friendship through the years. Ultimately that caused my body (fingers) to write him and express my heart. Before the action, was the thought. It’s true, love involves thinking.
God thinks about us because He loves us. A precious thought for me is that God’s will comes from His heart. The Bible says, “The counsel of the LORD standeth for ever, the thoughts of his heart to all generations”. (Psalm 33:11) He has a special plan for all of His children that is not random; He has thought about it.
We cannot comprehend or count the times we are on God’s mind. He thinks about us because He loves us. The Bible says of God, “…thy thoughts which are to us ward: they cannot be reckoned up in order unto thee: if I would declare and speak of them, they are more than can be numbered”. (Psalm 40:5)
Here’s another Scripture that teaches the same truth, “How precious also are thy thoughts unto me, O God! how great is the sum of them! If I should count them, they are more in number than the sand…” (Psalm 139:17-18)
“For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end”. (Jeremiah 29:11) These are special words as they were given to the nation of Israel during a time of judgment and chastening. Yet. the Lord still loved them and thought of them.
The word “expected” has the idea of hope based on an expectation from God’s promise. He is thinking of the good things that will ultimately come to us even through pain. Even when I cannot see God’s care for me I can be assured that His mind is on me for my good.
If God loves us with His mind (in addition to His actions), since we are made in His image that is the way we love Him and people, too.
I believe this quality of love was one of the reasons that God chose Mary to be the mother of His Son, Jesus. When Christ was born the first to visit Him were the shepherds near to the city of Bethlehem. They shared with Mary and Joseph what the angels had said about the Lord Jesus.
It’s interesting what the Bible says about Mary’s response to the message of the shepherds – “But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.” (Luke 2:19) The word “kept” means “to remember” and has the idea of preserving something important to keep it from ruin. The word “pondered” means “to combine different thoughts” and carries the idea of conversing with one’s self.
The message of the shepherds lodged in her mind and she never forget it and frequently mused upon it’s meaning. Twelves years later when Jesus spoke to His parents (of course, Joseph was His step-father) about the purpose for His life Mary had a similar reaction in her heart and mind. The Bible says, “… his mother kept all these sayings in her heart”. (Luke 2:51) The word “kept” here means “to watch over something thoroughly in order to protect it”. It means that she gave these words much care and oversight.
Here is my main point, the two instances above concerning Mary’s deep thinking about her son were twelve years apart; one at His birth and the other when He was twelve years old. This was one of her dominant character qualities, thinking about those whom she loved.
The Bible teaches that love “…thinketh no evil”. (I Corinthians 13:5) Genuine love thinks positive things about people, but it also thinks about people on a continuing basis. Mary loved deeply and it showed by her willingness and discipline to think deeply. This means that the more I love someone, the more I think about them. The corollary is also true, the more I think about them, the deeper I will love them.
I determine the depth of my love by my thoughts. The fire of love is stoked by the fact that I ponder those whom I care about. Someone wrote, “Meditation is love’s nourishment”. I agree with that, but it also depends upon what you are meditating upon. If you are thinking about their faults and how they have disappointed you it will not draw you close to them.
As a teenager I learned these truths by default by losing family members and friends to death. It made me realize the brevity and preciousness of life and caused me not to be haphazard in my thinking about those whom I love. I made it a practice to take time and to think about them intentionally and the things they have done to help me. When I do so I feel close to them even though we are not together.
As a pastor I have done scores of funerals. Several times a year I visit different cemeteries and go to the graves of those that are dear to my heart. Oh, I know they are with Christ and that it’s just their body resting there until resurrection day, but it helps to keep my heart tender. As I stand there and remember I smile and sometimes I cry as I recount special memories. And my love for them and their family deepens.
Gifts serve the same function for me. They prompt my mind to remember the person that gave them to me. It causes me to pray for them and I love them as I think about them.
A while back I was baptizing a young man and his father was in the baptistery preparation area and he noticed that I needed a new tee-shirt. The next Sunday he came to my car as I was leaving church and gave me a half dozen new tee-shirts for me to wear on Sundays when I wear dress shirts. Every time I wear them I thank the Lord for him, pray for him and his family and know that he loves me and that I love him. It’s the power of a gift when remembered with gratitude; it deepens your love.
Someone wrote, “A gift is an altar where the receiver meets the giver and thanks God for them”. I like that. Gifts can become sacred if we will allow them to draw our hearts to those that cared enough to think about us.
I think one reason we are shallow in our love for God and people is because we are shallow, undisciplined thinkers. One of the most common themes in the Bible is warnings about our thought life.
The writer prays that “…the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O LORD, my strength, and my redeemer.” (Psalm 19:14) Part of this is not having wrong thoughts about other people.
Again, the Bible says that we are to bring “into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ…” (II Corinthians 10:5) Part of this intentional thinking is to not think about the evil others have done to us or to keep score of wrongdoing against us. Failing to do so will make one bitter, negative, cynical, and unloving.
“Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life”. (Proverbs 4:23) This compares the heart (or your mind) to the fountain head of a stream. Everything flows from it. This is why we are to guard our thinking. We love or hate with our thoughts long before we ever act out of it – but at some point we will. Zig Ziglar said, “You aren’t what you think you are, but what you think, you are”.
Jesus said, “…out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh”. (Matthew 12:34) A homespun way to say it is that what’s in the well is going to come up in the bucket.
Ultimately spirituality is a matter of the mind rather than one’s behavior – “For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.” (Romans 8:5-6). Note the relationship of our mind with being spiritual or carnal.
What we think is crucial. John Maxwell wrote, “What we think determines who we are. Who we are determines what we do.”
At the new birth when Christ comes to live in us through His Spirit we receive the desire and ability to love God and people. We don’t have to work it up, it is already there. We do need to soak in it in our thoughts, though.
The Bible says that “…the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us”. (Romans 5:5) The words “shed abroad” mean to “pour out” or “gush out” in abundance. At the moment of salvation God poured out His own love in my heart. An unloving Christian is a contradiction in terms.
Love is natural to a true believer – “But as touching brotherly love ye need not that I write unto you: for ye yourselves are taught of God to love one another”. (I Thessalonians 4:9)
This is good news! It means I don’t think the way I used to because the Spirit of God has given me the very love of God in my own heart. This affects my thinking, feelings and choices – and ultimately my behavior. But it all starts in the way I am thinking.
Friend, as long as you are thinking negatively about someone you will never love them. If we would have strong marriages, solid relationships with our children and siblings, and have meaningful friendships we must be ruthless about the way we think about them.
Is there someone in your family, at work, at church or in your other environments where you need to begin to change your thinking? I would encourage you to take one of the Scriptures listed above, write it on a card and put it in a place where you see it often. Soon you will memorize it and it will prompt you to think correctly.
“Life consists of what a man is thinking about all day”. (Ralph Waldo Emerson) What will you be thinking about today?