In 1995, Gary Chapman published his influential book The Five Love Languages. In it, Chapman argues that love isn’t expressed through a single means, but that each of us has different ways in which we express and receive love—what he calls love languages. With this, he dramatically expanded the ways in which we understood how to love and be loved by those around us!
Augustus, the Roman emperor mentioned in Luke 2:1, was a divisive figure. He instituted the imperial cult— religious worship of emperors—which would later cause the death of many Christians. But he was also the leader who established the Pax Romana, a period of relative peace in that part of the world. Before then, the Roman Empire was continually seeking to expand and conquer. Augustus’ idea of peace, for nations to seek to live in relative harmony, was completely novel to the aggressive Roman Empire.
During World War I, German and English soldiers were locked in battle on the Western Front. Thousands of troops on both sides had been killed, and any kind of understanding between the bitter enemies seemed impossible. Yet, on Christmas Day of 1914, something remarkable happened. Soldiers on both sides emerged from their trenches and celebrated Christmas together, singing carols and even engaging in a game of football. For a brief moment, Christmas helped enemies remember their shared values and humanity.
By nearly all accounts, the founder of a prominent multinational technology company was a difficult man to work for. Early on, his abrasive tone and management style caused many employees to leave the company. But those who endured his initial rudeness often came to win their boss’ respect, and eventually developed a productive relationship with him. But that positive relationship was the fruit of a longer process; it certainly wasn’t instantaneous.
In the middle of the twentieth century, Japan and America were embroiled in a bitter war which only came to an end with the detonation of two nuclear bombs. Yet in the decades that followed, these two countries worked hard to forge peace not only through the ceasing of hostility, but through military and economic cooperation and cultural exchange. Today, the two former enemies are close allies.
Soldiers in the US Army are expected to live by seven values: loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity, and personal courage. And new recruits are also expected to abide by all of these values—not just the ones they agree with. A private can’t say to a commander, “I like all of these values . . . except duty. I don’t want to do that.” I imagine that would result in a whole lot of push-ups!
Nelson Mandela didn’t just acknowledge that the treatment of black Africans in South Africa was a terrible injustice—he went to great lengths to reverse it. He endured prison for twenty-seven years, confined with little to eat and being forced to labor for long hours—including pounding gravel. After he was set free in 1990, he continued to work tirelessly to dismantle apartheid and establish a more just government in South Africa.
One of my favorite TV commercials of all time involves a man and a woman sitting in a conference room together. The man suddenly proclaims his attraction to her. While the woman is surprised, she responds that she feels the same way. But then the man turns his head toward her, revealing that he was actually talking to someone else on the phone via an earpiece—his passionate proclamation wasn’t meant for her. Oops!
Following World War I, there was no more accomplished golfer than Bobby Jones. In 1930, he achieved the Grand Slam by winning the US Open, British Open, US Amateur, and British Amateur championships—all in the same year! The golfing world was stunned, however, when shortly following those victories Jones decided to retire from golf. He didn’t decide to hang up the spikes because his skills had diminished in any way. Instead, the talented athlete made his decision because he had accomplished the greatest feat in golf at the time and had nothing left to prove. He simply chose to give his golf career a rest.
Golf, with its myriad rules and special victor jackets, is marked by tradition and sportsmanship. But feuds between golfers can be surprisingly bitter, perhaps few more so than the rift between Tiger Woods and Sergio Garcia. So when Garcia won his first major tournament in 2017, commentators expected Woods to scoff and point out how his own accomplishments dwarfed his rival’s. But instead, he tweeted brief but sincere congratulations to Garcia, calling the victory “well-earned.” One can only wonder how Garcia reacted to this unexpected response!
In the 1950s, a promising running back at Florida State University dreamed of a professional career in American football. But an injury prematurely ended these ambitions, leaving the young man adrift. During that uncertain period, he enrolled in various acting classes, surprised by how much he enjoyed the craft. That young man was Burt Reynolds, who would go on to become one of the most famous US actors of the 1970s and 1980s. Few realize that Reynolds’ acting career began with the death of a dream.
Whenever I counsel couples considering divorce, I always start by asking them this question: What kind of relationship did your parents have? Children whose parents divorce are far more likely to do so themselves—in fact, men whose parents are no longer married are 35 percent more likely to divorce, and for women the likelihood is a startling 60 percent. Sometimes in order to heal our broken relationships, we have to look back at the relationships in our past.
It’s easy to downplay how traumatic a broken heart can be. But the reality is that being rejected by another person can have a profoundly negative impact on the well-being of a person. The Journal of Personality and Social Psychology states that in the two months following a breakup, 40 percent of those affected are clinically depressed, and 12 percent moderately or severely so. When we’re rejected, it’s hard not to feel unimportant and unloved.
“But how are we going to go on without you?” my youth group student asked on my last day as the pastor. I was touched, but I also knew that God loved these kids and would provide the perfect pastor for them, which is precisely what happened. Only weeks after my departure, a replacement was hired who was actually far better qualified than me for youth work. As much as I hate to admit it, my leaving was probably the best thing for that ministry!