I find myself so often struggling to love others, myself, and the Lord. That sounds crazy right when said aloud? Does that make me a “bad” Christian for actually saying that? Let’s be honest, you would think that as a Christian this would be easy. The Bible so clearly calls us to love one another as ourselves (John 13:34-35). Jesus lays out the framework for the life of a Christian in what it looks like to truly love the way He does (1 Corinthians 13). So then, as believers (speaking for the crowd of us who do not have this area perfected), why do we have such a hard time loving others well? Why do we have such a hard time loving others even when our feelings do not perfectly align with “lovey” feelings? How do we renew our minds in changing our heart posture and perspective on living a life that is constantly displaying the love of Christ?
There are a few places to start when diving into what it means to love as Christ loves, but for this brief moment, I want to dive into the book of 1 Thessalonians.
May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you. May he strengthen your hearts so that you will be blameless and holy in the presence of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all his holy ones // 1 Thessalonians 3:12-13
So then, how do we go about truly loving the way we are called to? Plain and simple, staying connected to Him is how we are able to truly embody and express the kind of love that the Word talks about in 1 Corinthians 13 and 1 Thessalonians 3. Staying connected to the Father looks like remaining in the word daily, being intentional with praying, staying connected to your community, worshipping the Father through song, and most importantly guarding your one on one time with the Lord. When we fully embrace the love of who God is (1 John 4) then we are able to love others the way we are called to as believers.
I think it is fair to bring up this side of what it means to love and I often think about this question, and maybe you have before too – “What do I do when I don’t love others the way I’m supposed to? What do I do when someone has wronged me, am I to love that person?” The simple answer: love anyway. Why? Because Christ loved and currently loves you even when you rejected Him and wronged Him with your sin. God’s love is inexhaustible, therefore we should follow in His ways of loving in that same manner. God’s love is a love without conditions and without contracts, yet so often we see contractual love being displayed (in marriages, friendships, etc.) rather than unconditional love.
Now, this is not to say you have to be best friends with every single person, even the ones you do not care for, because that is unrealistic to say. However, as a believer, you are called to love your fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. This means you respect them, and lean into the Lord praying to see them the way God their Father sees them. This is hard, and I have failed so many times in loving a brother or sister in Christ, but there is grace to those who are in Christ and we have the ability to repent to our Father and ask Him to change our hearts. By His power (not our own) He can soften our hearts, and renew our minds so that we are able to love His children well.
Ultimately, our love for the Lord should be our driving motive for all we do in word and in action. It is out of our love for the Lord that an overflow of love comes and is poured out upon others. Think about it, as you draw closer to the Lord, as you abide in Him and get to know who He is based on His character, you will naturally have an increase in love for Him (because He is love). Out of that increase in your vertical relationship with God, your horizontal relationships will benefit from this overflow. The love you have towards the Father will ooze out of your heart and flow into all your earthly relationships as well as into your passions and desires.
I personally have noticed such a difference in my heart and how I think and speak to the Lord, myself, and others when I am studying God’s character. When I take the time to stay rooted in His word, I naturally want to emulate what the Word says. I naturally want to do all I can to say no to my flesh and to sin. I naturally want to love and put others before myself when I am fully embracing and diving into what the Lord says through His scripture. I think this largely has to do with the mere fact that the Word is alive and active and that all scripture is God-breathed (2 Timothy 3:16-17, Hebrews 4;12).
God’s love is a love that took a chance on you and me. He freely gave His son for us so that we may come to one day know just a glimpse of His love. I don’t think we as humans can even fully comprehend that kind of love because we are limited in our thinking. We are able to catch glimpse of His love by seeing a Christ pursuing marriage, a new baby born, or even in the way a stranger loves on another stranger. There are glimpses we see God’s love displayed to us, and as believers, we are called to live our lives in a daily, active pursuit of holiness. As His children, we are set apart and given a purpose to go and spread the gospel. Apart from this is how do we actually live our lives so that others know we are Christians? We love. As Christians, this is how the world will know who we serve… it is by how we love (John 13:35).
Alright so, I have some homework for you (if you have gotten to the end of this novel of a blog post)! Here are some questions to ponder on maybe in your quiet time or throughout your day as you pray….
- How can you grow closer to knowing God’s character?
- How are you tangibly able to see God’s love displayed? (remember a time you may have witnessed firsthand someone display God’s love to you).
- God’s love is sacrificial, not selfish. Do you gravitate to being selfish in your horizontal relationships (maybe even your vertical relationship with God) or do you tend to be more on the humble, sacrificial side?
- How do you speak about your Heavenly Father? How can you love as He loves?
- How do you speak about yourself? How can you rightly love yourself and see yourself as an image-bearer of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit?
- How do you speak about others and creation? How can you better love brothers and sisters in Christ, as well as non-believers? How can you live a life that points to Christ based on how you love?
I hope you truly take the time to sit in at least one of these questions. Pray about it. Ask the Lord for help. Run to Him in repentance. Run after His ways and seek after His face. May love increase and overflow in your life.
Talk to ya next time,