Over the years I have had to learn to accept compliments that are not exactly what I think are complementary. Compliments from my husband range from: you look smart today, you look expensive, you match. When dressing to go and lecture he may say: you look like you know what you are talking about. His most recent compliment has been about a pair of shoes: ‘They look like fish’. When I asked if that was a good or a bad things he said it was a good thing, he likes fish! Sometimes you just have to take a compliment in the spirit it is given, even if it is not expressed in a way you expect it. When I worked in Malawi I was often complimented on my figure, but not for reasons that made me happy – I was much bigger then and would often hear: Oh you are so lovely and fat! Not a compliment to my western ears, but very much intended to be a compliment.
If God is the creator of cultures how then do I compliment him? It seems to me that from the bible that the real way to compliment God is with a heart that is turned towards him – the words are not as important as the heart and the actions.
Hebrews 13:15-16 Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise–the fruit of lips that confess his name. 16 And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.
When our words and hearts are out of step with each other we end up speaking empty word, mere flattery which God sees straight through. When Ramos compliments me I know he means his words because of his actions in being a good husband – it is not mere flattery that my shoes are like fish! Language is one thing, but the heart is the main thing.
If we really want to pay God a compliment we need to love those in need.
Matthew 25:35-40 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ 37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ 40 “The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’
Max Lucado put it this way:
But for the Christian, none is higher than this: when we love those in need, we are loving Jesus. It is a mystery beyond science, a truth beyond statistics. But it is a message that Jesus made crystal clear: when we love them, we love him. (Out Live Your Life)
So, rather than saying, ‘How do I love thee? Let me count the ways’ we need to be saying to God, ‘How do I love thee? Let me show the ways.
How will you love God today – with what words, with what heart and with what actions?