What does it mean to “Love Generously?”

“Surprise!”  “Happy Birthday!”   These are the words shouted at me several weeks ago when I walked into what I expected to be a departmental meeting.  Instead, a room full of Messiah Village residents and team members had gathered to help me usher in my 60th birthday.  I am not easily surprised, but this was a shock to me, albeit a very nice one!  I became a bit emotional as I looked around the room and saw the many smiling faces focused my way.  What a blessing that was, and it will be a memory I cherish for a long time.  I experienced it as an expression of love at the time, and especially as I read the many cards people had brought.  I am grateful for those who organized and participated in this surprise, and the many well-wishers who spoke to me afterwards.  Love expressed openly can be a powerful thing!

Appropriately then, the focus of my blog today is the core value we summarize as “Love Generously.”  What does it mean to show love in this way?  I believe the best model is that of God’s love expressed through Jesus Christ.  This standard of generous love is very high.  The psalmist indicates the concept of eternal love.  “Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever.”  (Psalm 118:1).  Paul expressed the incomprehensible and limitless nature of God’s love in Ephesians 3, when he expresses, “how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is.  May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully.” (Ephesians 3:18-19).  So then, this is an ideal we have to determine how bountiful our expressions of love should be.

In a workplace like we have at Messiah Lifeways, there are many opportunities to share generous love.  It can be in our interactions with our residents and clients, and in how we treat each other as team members.  Perhaps it is as simple as a smile and friendly greeting, or as complex as it sometimes can be to give someone the benefit of the doubt that their intentions are pure.  It can even be expressed in the celebration of a significant birthday!  In any case, it is an expectation for each of us as we live out our values.  Our values statement regarding this is as follows.

Love Generously

  1. Shows Christ-like love by providing tender, compassionate care
  2. Places emphasis on the person and relationships rather than on tasks alone
  3. Offers support and volunteers to help others
  4. Looks for the best in each person and can identify individual strengths and interests
  5. Acts in ways that help everyone feel welcomed and included

I think we can recognize that it is not always easy to exemplify this kind of love.  In society today, there is a lot of conflict and division that is often expressed in unhealthy ways.  There aren’t many expressions of generous love that people experience, especially in the political arena in recent years.  I believe we still have a responsibility to rise above the fray and set an example for others.  I like how Henri Nouwen expresses this in Bread for the Journey.  He writes,

“How can we choose love when we have experienced so little of it?  We choose love by taking small steps of love every time there is an opportunity.  A smile, a handshake, a word of encouragement, a phone call, a card, an embrace, a kind greeting, a gesture of support, a moment of attention, a helping hand, a present, a financial contribution, a visit—all these are little steps toward love.

 Each step is like a candle burning in the night.  It does not take the darkness away, but it guides us through the darkness.  When we look back after many small steps of love, we will discover that we have made a long and beautiful journey.”

As we think about our plans for the day, let us take time to express our love generously to each other, to those we serve, and even to ourselves.  Let that expression of love be the “candle burning in the night” for someone.  Based on my experience on the receiving end of this, it can make a huge difference in brightening up the world!