Tevye, the colorful character from Fiddler on the Roof, leans over quietly and asks his wife, “Do you love me?” She screams in reply, “Do I WHAT?!” “Do you love me?” he asks again with genuine concern. She goes into an indignant tirade of how she bore his children, cooked his meals, washed his clothes, and so many other chores she’s done in 25 years. Acknowledging her many expressions of love, he gently repeated, “But do you love me?” Quietly she admitted, “I guess I do love you.” Teasingly, he replied, “Then I guess I love you too.” Together they sigh saying, “After 25 years. it’s nice to know.”
How do you know love is true? Is it by the repetition of those three little words, “I love you?” (Or perhaps those other three: “I was wrong!”) Or is it in the consistent demonstration of loving acts? We could say “both” and be closest to the truth. But neither words alone nor actions by themselves are the true test of live, are they? We can, and sometimes do, speak idle words and perform repeated acts of service more in response to duty than true love.
But somehow, our hearts are able to confirm what eyes have seen and lips have spoken. Here comes a time when the heart knows for sure what the mind has only acknowledged to be true.
“In sickness and in health” has a way of testing true love. Marcia and I have experienced this to be true through this long and unexpected journey brought cancer. In face of adversity, true love finds both gentleness and strength. It learns the value in f commitment and persevering and also humble surrender. Whatever we knew as star struck lovers 44 years ago has been positively confirmed to be true in a much deeper sense than we ever could have imagined.
The same is true about God’s Word which is his love letter to you and me. At some point we come to acknowledge that God IS God and his Word is inherently true. we know it in our minds, confirm it with our lips, and believe it in our heart. And yet there is a deeper sense of knowing God’s true love that comes only by experiencing it through difficult trials. I’ve commented before that I would t have chosen this journey through cancer, BUT I’ve discovered along its path blessings I would never have discovered on a more comfortable road. Whereas once I “knew” God’s live and Word to be true in my mind and heart, now I know it to be true through the experience of his grace, his power to persevere, the comfort of his promise and the real hope in his faithful promises. That he loves me – and you – is undeniably evidenced both in times of rejoicing and times of sorrow and pain. Even if I had none of this, the price his Son Jesus paid for the forgiveness of my sins was evidence enough of his great love. Our God is a good God. His banner over me is mercy and love.
But is the “flip side” also true? How should we reply when Jesus asks us what he asked his disciple Peter, “Do you love me?” Is it sufficient to go about dutiful good deeds like Tevye’s wife Golde? Or is it sufficient to say the words in prayer and song? Deep down we know true love is expressed not only by simple words or sacrificial deeds. It’s known by all that flows from a humble heart that gives a sacrifice of praise and a life yielded completely to him, no holds barred, no distractions.
He’s asking, “Do you really love me? Is it really true?” How will you respond today?