Today we are beginning a new series called “Love Does.” Because here’s the deal with love. Love isn’t just an emotion. Love isn’t merely a feeling. Love doesn’t just mean well. Love doesn’t just hope for the best. Love does. Love reaches out. Love makes a change. Sometimes love fights. Love doesn’t sit on the sideline hoping things will work out. Love does.
Today I am starting a new series called “Love Does” but I have a confession to make: I stole the title of this book from author Bob Goff. Bob’s an amazing person and his book details how he has put love into action. I would highly recommend Bob’s book, but this series isn’t based on that book. I just liked the title. This series is based on the book of Nehemiah. Nehemiah wasn’t a guy to simply talk about love. He put it into practice.
Nehemiah is one of the greatest leaders in the entire Bible. There have been countless books written on his life and his leadership. Let me start out with a little background on Nehemiah. Nehemiah lived in 450 B.C. He lived 140 years after Israel was overthrown by King Nebuchadnezzar and the people taken to Babylon.
It’s easy for us to just run past information like that, but think about this for a second. 140 years is a long time. Think for a moment about life 140 years ago. The year was 1876. Rutherford B Hayes beat out Samuel Tilden to become President. There were only 38 voting states back then. That’s 11 years after the end of the Civil War and I mean the one between the states, not the one between Ironman and Captain America. 140 years is a long time. The city of Jerusalem had been in ruin for 140 years.
Nehemiah lived in Susa, the center of the known world at that time. Israel is 800 miles from Susa (Roughly from San Diego to Santa Fe, New Mexico) Back in that day 800 miles was a long way. Back then there were only two ways to travel. Walk, or ride. Which would you pick? If you said “ride,” I bet you’ve never spent much time on a horse or a mule. I rode down the Grand Canyon on a mule with my son a few years ago and let me just say, “Yikes.” Once you make that decision to ride instead of walk, you have to stick with it because after riding for one day your walking days are over for a while. If you ever want to go for a long-distance mule ride I have two words for you: “Ice,” “pack.”
The nation of Israel had longed for the walls to be rebuilt around Jerusalem for 140 years. Nehemiah accomplished that task in 52 days. That’s why people write about Nehemiah’s leadership. These people had been longing to rebuild the wall around the city of Jerusalem for 140 years and Nehemiah pulled it off in 52 days! We learn more about that later in the book but today we are going to look at how love turns into action.
1 The words of Nehemiah son of Hakaliah: In the month of Kislev in the twentieth year, while I was in the citadel of Susa, 2 Hanani, one of my brothers, came from Judah with some other men, and I questioned them about the Jewish remnant that had survived the exile, and also about Jerusalem. Nehemiah 1:1-2
In other words, Nehemiah wants to know, “What’s going on in my hometown?” Have you ever traveled back to the town you grew up in? It’s weird, right. Your house looks smaller than you remember. All the businesses have changed. The Tastee Freeze that used to be there is now a taco stand and Arby’s is now Tofu Hut. I know that sounds like I made that up, but that really happened in Mira Mesa, California. Arby’s is now Tofu Hut. Sometimes it just makes me sad to live in California.
Nehemiah wants a report on his hometown. But he’s not going to like it. Look at verse 3
3 They said to me, “Those who survived the exile and are back in the province are in great trouble and disgrace. The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates have been burned with fire.” 4 When I heard these things, I sat down and wept. Nehemiah 1:3-4
The city that Nehemiah loved was in ruins. Not only was this city important to Nehemiah, but it was considered a sacred city. So for the city to be in ruins was not just sad, it felt like a slap in God’s face to Nehemiah. It didn’t just bring him to tears, he was so moved he sat down and cried his eyes out.
Let me take a moment to give you a fact about love. Most of you have learned this, but just in case you haven’t yet, let me put it to you straight.
If you risk loving someone or something you will almost certainly get hurt. The reality is, love hurts.
[bctt tweet=”The reality is…love hurts. ” username=”canyon_springs”]
- If you risk a dating relationship and it doesn’t work out, love hurts.
- If you do fall in love and actually marry that person, there will be times of pain and conflict and disagreement. Love hurts.
- If you decide to have children, you will fall in love with how wonderful and talented and funny they are, but when they get sick or when they battle depression or when they have their heart broken your heart will be broken. Because love hurts.
Turning Heartache into Hope
There are a couple of things that can happen to your heart in that moment. One is a certainty, the other is on option.
The certainty is that you will feel hurt and pain and tears. The only way to never feel those things is to not risk loving. Don’t love your parents or your kids or a boyfriend or a wife or even a dog. ( If you have a dog, you know you’re in trouble if there are more pictures of your dog on your phone than your spouse. I counted the pictures on my phone and it’s 7-6 dog over wife, but I have two dogs so it’s not really fair.) If you love anything, including your dog, you will feel hurt. When you risk love there will always be hurt. That’s the certainty.
Now let me give you the option. There is a second thing that can happen to your heart when you feel that pain. It can awaken your passion. It can bring to life your compassion. It doesn’t always happen, but it’s beautiful when it does.
Let me tell you some stories about some people at my church, Canyon Springs, in San Diego who have turned love hurts into love does. Each one of their stories started out the same way Nehemiah’s did. They saw something happening in the world and it broke their heart. It was so sad that they couldn’t just stand on the sidelines. They had to act.
- Debbie had her heart broken by what was happening to women who are trafficked so she researched where she could make a difference. Now she chauffeurs girls who have been rescued from human trafficking.
- Randy had his heart broken by the homeless so every Sunday he goes down to the inner city and brings food to people who have become his friends.
- Craig and Erin had their heart broken by what was happening with urban youth in our inner cities so they go downtown and Erin helps work the farm they started and Craig tutors kids.
- Paul had his heart broken by teens who were in poverty so he joined Carehouse Kids and now he mentors kids who need a dad figure in their life.
Heart break is awful and I hate that you have to go through it, but there is an upside. A broken heart can awaken your passion.
Maybe your broken heart won’t be the beginning of an outreach program. Maybe your broken heart will awaken in you a compassion for other broken hearted people. Other people who have battled depression. Other people who have walked through divorce. Other people who have struggled with cancer. Other people who have been lonely.
Nehemiah’s heart hurt. It was broken. Broken enough to do something. Broken enough not just to be moved with compassion but actually physically moved to get out of his chair and do something about it. So what was the first thing he did?
I’ll tell you in my next post but for now my challenge for you and I this summer is this: Let’s not talk about love. Let’s not just hope for the best. Let’s put it into practice. Let’s put it into practice in our marriages. Let’s put into practice with our kids. Let’s put it into practice in our neighborhoods and at our jobs. Let’s put it into practice in our world. Let’s see what God does when love does.