By L. Alfred James
One of the most important things I’ve ever learned in my entire life is this: If people believe that you care about them, they will be receptive to what you have to say. But if they don’t think you care about them, they won’t take you seriously. It doesn’t matter if you explain the most profound secrets of the universe to them. If you don’t exhibit concern for them as human beings, they won’t give you a hearing. They will probably be polite to you, but secretly they will dislike you and avoid you as much as possible.
This is one of the great secrets of success. Not just in one’s professional life, but in one’s family life as well. If you want a peaceful family life, you need to show love to your spouse, your children, your parents, and your siblings. You need to effectively demonstrate that you care for them, that you seriously value them for who they are. An enormous amount of strife between parents and children is simply caused by the child not feeling loved—whether it is a teenager or a two-year-old—because the parent never does anything to communicate their love.
But how do you do this? What is the secret to showing people that you love them?
It is actually very simple. I can tell you in four words. Are you ready?
Make sacrifices for them.
Make sacrifices for them. Sacrifice your time for them. Sacrifice your money for them. Sacrifice your emotional energy for them.
What does that mean in practical terms? Well, if they really enjoy the company of other people, then sacrifice time to spend with them. If they need to be complimented, encouraged, or praised, then expend the emotional energy (and time) needed to find the right words to do so. If they feel loved by receiving gifts, then sacrifice some of your money by getting them a gift. If they are lonely because no one listens to them, sacrifice an evening to hear their story. If you don’t know how to be a good listener, then read some books on listening. (By the way, no book is better on this topic than Mark Goulston’s Just Listen.)
All of these things cost time, money, or energy. That means they require a sacrifice. In fact, love always requires a sacrifice. It is impossible to believe that another human being loves you if they never make any sacrifices for you. Just think about it. Suppose someone says to you, “I love you,” on a regular basis. But they never allow themselves to be even slightly inconvenienced by you. What does that communicate? It communicates that they don’t really love you.
Love cannot be communicated without sacrifice. Sacrifice is the evidence of love. And the greater the sacrifice, the more love is evinced. If your car needs $2,000 in repairs that you can’t afford, you will be grateful if a billionaire like Warren Buffet hears of your plight and pays your bill. But you won’t necessarily feel that Mr. Buffet loves you. He’s got tons of money, and he won’t even notice $2,000. However, if your lower-middle-class neighbor pays your bill, you will be deeply moved by such a gesture. You will probably be convinced that your neighbor genuinely cares about your well-being.
Does Your God Love You?
If love cannot be communicated without a sacrifice, this has implications for our relationship with God. On Christianity, it is easy to believe that God loves you. The most commonly memorized verse in the Bible tells us why: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).
Jesus’’ love is clear because he endured untold shame, emotional pain, physical pain, isolation, and death for us. And the Father’s love is clear because he loves Jesus, but he still gave Jesus as a sacrifice for us. God genuinely suffered an unfathomable amount of pain for us.
So, if you believe the Bible is a revelation from God, then this question is easy to answer. What evidence is there that God loves you? The cross of Christ screams out, across all of time and space, that God loves us more than we can comprehend.
But if you do not believe the, there is no satisfying answer to the question. What evidence is there that God loves you? You cannot give any.
To be sure, there are a few possible answers that might seem satisfying at first, but they miserably fail to provide the evidence I’ve requested:
“I know God loves me because he made a beautiful world for me to live in.”
If God is omnipotent, then making the universe cost him nothing. There was no sacrifice at all. An all-powerful God can create the universe with less effort than a human being can think of the number one or the color pink.
“He gives me wonderful feelings. Lots of warm fuzzies.”
Again, if God is omnipotent, it doesn’t cost him anything to give you warm fuzzies. Besides, how do you know you are not deluding yourself by simply imagining that these warm fuzzies come directly from God? Why not think you simply are fooling yourself, or that you are experiencing the effects of serotonin and dopamine in your brain?
“I know God loves me. I just can’t give evidence for it. Maybe it costs God something to love me in ways I can’t think of.”
This is just another way of saying, “I don’t know.” This is another way of admitting that I’m right. The fact of the matter is very clear: If you do not accept the Bible as God’s word, then you don’t have any reason for believing God has ever sacrificed anything for you. This means you cannot provide any evidence that God loves you.
If it is important for you to believe that God loves you—and it should be important to you—then you have a good reason for becoming a Christian. Christianity says that God became a human being and made the greatest sacrifice of all: “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:13).
That is the greatest sacrifice of all: the greatest demonstration of all, of the greatest love of all.