Read: Matthew 6:1-4; Luke 7:36-50
Her name is Nancy Blake, and this week, I heard a bit about her life. What she has experienced is sad, but she shares it with the desire that other women will be encouraged by the truth she now knows. You see, Nancy Blake discovered after 25 years of marriage that her husband was addicted to pornography and that he had been having multiple affairs throughout their years together. What she finally came to understand after much pain was that her husband's transgressions were not her fault. She holds out this truth as a balm to other women who, like her, have been betrayed. During the interview, Nancy was asked if her husband had shown her care and tenderness during their marriage. The answer was yes. He sent flowers once or twice each week, and he even wrote her poems. No wonder the book she wrote is called "Betrayed". What must have seemed like love letters to her turned out to be simply a facade. Pretty words and actions that hid sad truths.
As I pondered that sad hypocrisy, I thought about a very different story. A story of real love involving Coach John Wooden, a long-ago stand-out coach of the UCLA basketball team. Coach died in 2010 at the age of 99, and I remembered that he also wrote love letters, but the story that surrounded them was quite different than the tale of duplicity Nancy Blake experienced. Coach Wooden was married to Nellie, the only woman he ever dated. After 53 years, Nellie passed away in 1985. I love what John Wooden did to honor Nellie after her passing. Each month on the 21st day of the month, he wrote Nellie a love letter. He placed each envelope on her pillow, and he tied a ribbon around the growing stack. The letters said how much he missed her every day and how he couldn't wait to see her again. When John Wooden passed away in 2010, there were 300 letters in that stack. Now that is a story of real love letters.
May I turn a corner? As I thought about earthly expressions of love, I wondered. How could we offer the Lord a love letter. Not words on a page this time but rather actions between each of us and the Savior that only He sees. Could we use the scripture given to us by Matthew as a starting place, Matthew 6:1-4. In these four short verses, Jesus gives us quite a challenge. To keep our actions and prayers between us and Him. That goes against our flesh that likes to "mention" to others what benevolent acts or what voluminous prayers we might have offered. Please don't misunderstand what I'm saying. More than not, I don't think we set out to laud ourselves. Although we might do so. Instead, we often find ourselves divulging little things that are better left as private.
Love letters if you will, between us and the Lord. Times when He puts prayer on our hearts. Someone He brings to mind as we listened for the Holy Spirit's nudge and then we pray. Someone who has hurt us and who doesn't "deserve" prayer. We pray and don't tell others how magnanimous we are. Instead, we thank the Lord Whose love in our hearts enabled us to pray, Romans 5:5. A way to hold out a love letter to Jesus.
In John 14:15, Jesus says that love for Him is expressed through obedience. In 1 John 5:4, the truth is even deeper. God's commands are not burdensome. We are not obeying because we fear the Lord will strike us; rather, we are doing what honors Him out of love. Perhaps it is a small act of serving someone that no one will notice or even care about.
Another way to present a love letter to Jesus. These examples are ways to give Jesus private love letters, but can He also be honored by public expressions of love? Thankfully, the scriptures tell us that if a heart is right, a public love letter offered to the Savior will please Him. We find such an example in Luke 7:36-50.Here we meet an unnamed woman who showered the Savior with love in a very public place. Surely, she knew that her actions would be maligned by the Pharisee who had invited Jesus to his home. Yet, she was not deterred. The contempt she received from the host Simon, didn't cause her to shrink back; therefore, she was honored by Jesus Who said that though her sins were many, she had much love for Him and she also had been saved because of her faith, Luke 7:47; Luke 7:50. Jesus, the One Who knows what is in man's hearts, John 2:25-27; 1 Samuel 16:7 accepted her love letter. Though Simon looked with contempt, Jesus received her love.
What about us? Yesterday, I heard a preacher say that he has observed that people are sometimes reticent to even bow in prayer at a cafeteria, not wanting to be thought of as foolish by others. Jesus Who thanked the Father in public, John 6:11, would be pleased with our thankfulness. Our acknowledgment that God is the Giver of every good gift, James 1:17. Psalm 24:1 says that the earth is the Lord's and all that is in it. What an easy way to offer a public love letter to the Creator when we thank Him for His bountiful blessings.
Let's turn one more corner. I can't end these thoughts without saying that in the scriptures, we have the sweetest love letter ever written. It is here that we discover that God so loved the world that He gave us His only begotten Son. Whoever will receive Him will not perish but have everlasting life, John 3:16.
The most wondrous love that has ever been offered is described vividly throughout the Bible's pages, along with the offer concerning how anyone can receive this indescribable Gift, John 3:16; John 1:11-12.