Love Is Something You Do
Dr. Frederick Speakman writes: “For the Christian, love is not just something we feel, it is something we do.” Surely no one in all of scripture underscores the truth of those words like a man named Joseph who came from the little town of Arimathaea.
Joseph of Arimathaea is described in several places in scripture as being generous, just, kind, and gracious. Well, the last deed done on Calvary was his—and what a kind, generous and gracious thing it was for him to do. It comes almost as a sigh of relief after the horrors of the crucifixion. Joseph, you see, went to Pontius Pilate and begged for the body of Jesus. In essence, Joseph officiated at the funeral of our Lord.
It was the custom in those days for the ones crucified to be left upon the cross until the corpses were picked clean by the vultures. When this dreadful process was completed, the bones were scattered. Joseph simply couldn’t bear the thought that that would happen to Jesus. So drawing upon his great reserves of courage, and a little of his political clout, he went to Pilate and asked for the body. And Pilate, probably because he was still angry at the Jewish religious leaders for putting him in such a difficult spot, and thus wanting to spite them, gave the body to Joseph. Joseph then buried the body of Jesus in his own tomb located in a garden. And what Joseph did spoke to all of those living at the time, and to all those who have read the story since, that “Love is something you do.” And by way of playing out that theme, I wish for you to see that Joseph came to understand that when you do something about the love that is in you, you make some marvelous discoveries.
For example, Joseph of Arimathaea discovered that love is stronger than hurt.
It is very hard for us to look at Calvary in all of its awfulness, for after all, we are 2000 years removed from the event. But think how it must have been for Joseph to have stood there and watched the whole hideous thing happen. Think how deeply that must have hurt. Yet somehow in the midst of the terror of it all, he managed to catch a glimpse of the love of God. And as he saw the love of God on the cross, he began to realize that love often involves pain.
You know how it is. As long as you love only yourself, you will be hurt only by that which hurts you. But the very moment you begin to love someone else, then whatever hurts them will hurt you also. And there are those who see the pain involved in love and say that it is better not to love. But that is not very profound reasoning. For I never yet heard a mother and father, who were laying to rest the dead body of their child say, “We wish that we had never had this child or loved this child, for that would make it easier on us now.” I have never heard that said. I have never heard a fellow who was chasing after a girl, wanting for all the world for her to be his wife, only to see her choose someone else—I have never heard such a fellow say, “Knowing what I’m going through now, I wish I didn’t have the capacity to love.” No, the poet was dead right. It is “better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.”
It is better, but it is not easier, because love is something you do and sometimes it is very costly. When Joseph stood there on Calvary, I am sure he didn’t feel very much like loving. But there on Calvary, he discovered that love is something you do even when you don’t feel like doing it. That’s the kind of love Joseph saw in Jesus on the cross. Jesus didn’t feel like going to the cross—if you doubt that, then go back and read again the story of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane—but Jesus knew that love is something you do, so Jesus laid down His life in love for us. Joseph saw that and he saw that love runs much deeper than mere feelings. Do you want an illustration of that? Try this…
Bruce Larson tells of a woman who was married to a man who did not believe in Jesus Christ. She worked incessantly to win him to her belief. Did I say “win him”? It was more like “badger him”—and in the process she alienated him. He became convinced that she did not love him as he was, so he became more resentful and antagonistic. She went to Larson for help. He said to her: “This is what I want you to do. When your husband comes home from work each day I want you to embrace him warmly and say, ‘I love you more than ever’. And then each morning as he leaves for work, I want you to tell him that you are going to be thinking about him during the day. Can you do that?” The woman replied: “But if he were to laugh at me, I think I would die.” And Larson asked her: “Are you more concerned about your feelings than you are about your husband? Or are you willing to do something, to love with a love that is stronger than hurt or pain?” She was, and she did. And her marriage found new life. But that only happened when she learned just how costly love can be.
That’s what Joseph discovered on Calvary. He loved enough to do something. He loved enough to go to Pilate and seek permission to bury the body of Jesus. And in the process of loving like that, he discovered that his love was stronger than his hurt.
Something else. Joseph discovered that love is stronger than hate.
I am sure that Joseph was filled with anger as he stood there that day. This was no Casper Milquetoast. This was a strong man—strong enough to face the Sanhedrin and vote against them, strong enough to face Pontius Pilate with a dangerous request. This was a man of courage, and I am sure that there was a burning anger within him that wanted to lash out at someone for what they had done to his friend, Jesus.
But, you see, Joseph had learned about love from Jesus and he had come to see that love is tough, it’s strong, it’s stronger even than hate. That’s what the New Testament means by love—not the soft sentimentalism of hearts and flowers and valentine candy. No, love is a tough, powerful, enduring thing. That’s what Paul was driving at in 1 Corinthians 13 when he said that love never loses its patience, never becomes possessive, never gloats or ridicules—it has endurance. Paul went on to say that when there is nothing else to trust, love trusts. When there is nothing else to hope for, love hopes. Love outlasts everything. When everything has fallen by the wayside, one thing still stands—and that one thing is love—tough, strong, powerful, enduring love.
That’s what Joseph discovered on Calvary. When he saw Jesus, on the cross, nailed there by the hatred of others, yet still loving the very ones who hated him, loving them enough to die for them—when Joseph saw that, he knew that he could never hate what Jesus loved. Wrap your mind and heart around that, will you! Think what an impact it would have if you and I adopted as the motto for our lives these words: “I cannot hate what God loves.” Think what that would mean in our relationships at home. Think what that would do for the racial unrest that exists in our time. Think how that would defuse the explosive tensions which exist among nations and peoples. Would you be willing to live by that principle? I know you wouldn’t feel like it, but would you do it anyway? “I cannot hate what God loves.” That’s what Joseph discovered on Calvary. He discovered that love—Christ’s kind of love—is stronger than hatred—no matter how he felt about someone or something, he could never hate what God loved.
Then this. Joseph discovered that love is strong enough to heal.
Calvary was a place of brokenness. The bodies on the crosses were broken. The moral standards of those who put Jesus on that cross were smashed to pieces. The spirits of the friends of Jesus were broken, too. This man Joseph had pinned his hopes upon Jesus and now he saw Jesus pinned to the cross. All of Joseph’s hopes and dreams were shattered. But in the midst of that, he decided to do something, something that was loving. And because he did something, his wounds began to heal, his shattered dreams began to be restored.
Love is always something you do. It is not simply a sweet feeling of affection for humanity. The Bible always speaks of love in terms of deeds done. Love is rolling up your sleeves. Love is getting your hands dirty. Love is paying the price. Love is something you do. Like Gene and Ellen Simmons and little Timmy.
Gene and Ellen Simmons believed that God was calling them to be foster parents, but they almost gave up when they received the first child the county gave them to care for. It was Timmy. It took 48 hours for Timmy to come into the world. During that difficult process, there were times when he was without sufficient oxygen. The doctors were sure that brain damage had occurred. Convulsive spasms shook his little body every few minutes. He never made a single sound. His parents didn’t want him. The courts ordered him placed in a foster home. Now to cope with someone like Timmy was more than Gene and Ellen Simmons bargained for. But they took him home. They decided that the only thing they could do was love him—to love him for all they were worth. So every moment that Timmy was awake, they loved him. They took shifts loving him, holding him, cuddling him, playing with him, talking to him, singing to him, praying for him out loud—hour after hour after hour. Two weeks later, they took him back to the doctor for an examination. The doctor said some progress had been made. Timmy seemed better and for the first time that day, when Timmy got a shot he made a sound. He cried. Well, they kept on loving him. It was four weeks before another breakthrough. Gene had adopted the practice of getting up two hours before he was to go to work and he spent those two hours playing with Timmy. One morning he was playing with him in bed and when Gene was ready to get up, he put the little boy down on his back on the bed and for the first time Timmy smiled. In another six weeks the progress was so astonishing that the judge declared that Gene and Ellen Simmons could adopt Timmy. And so they made him their own. Timmy is 13 years old now and is perfectly normal in every way. The doctors say it is a miracle. Gene and Ellen Simmons say it is the healing power of love. And so it is.
Joseph stood on Calvary hurt, but he saw Jesus love when He was hurt, so Joseph loved. Joseph stood on Calvary hated and full of hate, but he saw Jesus love when He was hated and so Joseph’s hate turned to love. Joseph stood on Calvary broken, but he saw Jesus love when He was broken, so Joseph loved. He discovered there that love is something you do. So, in love, he did something very beautiful for our Lord. He gave the body of Jesus a decent and loving burial and for nineteen centuries, Christians have been grateful to him. You know, it seems to me that the world needs more people who love like Joseph, and who love like Joseph’s Lord.
Oh, by the way, did you know that there is a legend which says that Joseph was thrown in jail because of what he did for Jesus? Three days later when Jesus rose from the dead, He went personally and released Joseph from prison. Then the two of them went off somewhere…together. That’s what the legend says. But, you know, it wouldn’t surprise me at all if that were absolutely true.
What do you think?