The other night I was reading through an old journal I kept from 2009 and 2010. I found a lot of random quotes from devotionals, sermons, and books that said something to me at the time.  In the midst there was this quote from Albert Outler I had found in a sermon by Zan Holmes.

We must stop telling ourselves and others that we must love one another. Instead, we must tell ourselves and others that we can love ourselves and others because we are loved by Jesus!

It got me thinking about some of the language we use in the church. We use a lot of “musts” and especially a lot of “should.” But we don’t always use “can.” Okay, let’s get some definitions:

Should: used to indicate obligation, duty, or correctness, typically when criticizing someone’s actions

Can: be able to

So, there is a difference between what we should do and what we can do. Too often in church we tend to say, and I’m guilty of it myself, we should – fill in the blank. We should love God. We should love others. We should fight for justice. We should welcome all.

Remember the children’s book, The Little Engine that Could? The little engine didn’t try to overcome the difficulties of the journey by telling herself, “I think I should. I think I should. I think I should.” No, she told herself, “I think I can. I think I can. I think I can.”


Outler has it right, and is right to draw our attention to it. These are not things we should do, these are things we can do. I know I should love God. I know I should love others. I know I should love myself. But when that changes to I can love God; I can love others; I can love myself, it becomes less of a downer, and more empowering.

Now it doesn’t mean that it won’t be hard. Just like the little engine, there will be curves and hills to overcome. Our lives are filled with all kinds of craziness. But rest assured, you can do it! You can love God with all your whole self. You can love others for who they are. And you can love yourself.

And you know why you can? Because the One who conquered death loves you. The One who gives the gift of grace loves you. The One who became like you and me loves you. Because of this love, I think you can!