Love Shapes Character
by Pastor Derek
Love Shapes Character is a value that expresses our thoughts on the heart of God (1 John 4:8, Lam. 3:22-23), the nature of love (1 John 4:10, John 3:16, etc.) and the characteristics that result in that kind of love (Gal. 5:22-23, 1 Cor. 13:13, etc.). There’s an underlying value behind it, which is Humility Drives Health. It is the descent (Phil. 2) motivated by love, which ultimately fosters the kind of service that does not demand position, plaudits, or popularity. The greater our humility, the greater our health. Humility, from a Scriptural perspective, fits hand-in-glove with love. And it informs our response. Love shapes our character response. It informs our convictions.
When I was a boy, we visited my grandparents in Dachau, Germany (at the time, it was West Germany). For context, my grandmother and her twin sister were split by the Berlin Wall. I have relatives who fought on both sides of World War II. My mother grew up in Dachau, where the German residents of the former Sudetenland (one of the first areas to be “annexed” by Hitler) resettled. The main street off of which my grandparents lived was “Sudetenlanderstrasse” (Sudetenland Street) in Dachau Ost (East Dachau). They lived ten minutes’ walk from the concentration camp.
On one visit, the doorbell to my grandparents house rang and there stood an awkward short man holding flowers. His hair was matted, but parted neatly by his hands. His dress shirt was buttoned all the way up, sans-tie. He asked if Gertrud was home. My mom’s name was Gertrud. Mom came to the door and kindly invited him in. They knew each other, but their connection was confusing to me. He stammered and spoke in a childlike way. Mom showed immense kindness and then the visit was over. I was confused – both by the man and the response.
Mom explained that everyone in Dachau knew about his story. When he was young, the Russians swooped in and killed his parents in front of his eyes, forcing him to watch as they killed them. Something in his mind snapped. Mom was kind to him as a girl, and he was a little in love with her.
When I think about love shaping character, that’s what I think about. But in my mind’s eye, I’m not Gertrud in the analogy. I’m the man. In a spiritual sense, we all are. We’re broken somewhere on the inside. Sin has done a lot of damage. But in a church, when others treat us kindly, we find love in action. We see people taking the time to listen to each other. We find some bearing gifts (like flowers or cards) and others helping to lighten the load. Church in community serves in the best way. It recognizes our humanity, but also our longing for connection. It takes humility to listen and receive. It takes humility to ring the doorbell. Humility drives health. It provides human connection in the best sense. Love shapes character. Our response to each other says a lot about who we’re becoming and to Whom we belong.