Loving Others Well
- Cliff Young Crosswalk.com Contributing Writer
- 2008 18 Mar
I command you to love each other in the same way that I love you.
— John 15:12
I read this verse and think of family members, friends, acquaintances (and dates), and reason to myself that I am doing fairly well at loving others. I treat people fairly, I spend time with them, and I like to lavish gifts upon those close to me. What more can I do? And speaking of “me,” when I’m alone and left out of activities, holidays, and events, I wonder, “Where is the love back?” “Isn’t anybody applying this passage to me?”
Truthfully, however, my response to this verse is, “I’m trying, but. ...”
This is probably not what my reaction should be (as a mature Christian), but many years ago I would have only replied, “But …,” so I’ve made some progress.
The reason for my apprehension in being fully obedient to this command is that I look around and I see broken, hurting, poverty-stricken people everywhere needing a hand. It can be so overwhelming that I say to myself, “Where do I start?” “How can I make a difference?” “What can I do as a single?”
What is this love? This word (in our society) has become so watered down. It is used to describe feelings for inanimate objects, food, television shows, and every once in awhile, people. We use love in relationships the same way that we describe our favorite sports team. When all is going well, there is an abundance of love, but when we’re “losing” or things are going poorly, we blame others and our love is gone.
The love that Jesus talks about is not a passing or temporary emotion, nor is it superficial. Rather it’s a choice, a decision, a commitment, an action. Love is not based upon attraction, but virtue. In order to love others in the same way that Jesus loves us, we must learn how to love the Lord, and then how to love ourselves.
Love the Lord
If you love me, obey my commandments.
— John 14:15
This sounds simple enough and most of us could list many of his commandments and easily affirm that we are being obedient.
Do not murder – I haven’t done that.
Do not give false testimony – I speak the truth.
Do not covet your neighbor’s servant, ox or donkey – Hmmm, maybe his flat-screen TV, but none of the others.
However, God distinguishes one as the most important.
Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment.
— Matthew 22:37-38
I do love the Lord, but do I actually do it with all of my heart and all of my soul and all of my mind? What does it actually look like to live this verse out in my daily life?
All of Your Heart
But you desire honesty from the heart, so you can teach me to be wise in my inmost being. Create in me a clean heart, O God. Renew a right spirit within me.
— Psalm 51:6, 10
The word heart comes from the Hebrew word lev, which carries the simple meaning of center, as in the will or intention of a person.
My intention is to love the Lord, but the state of my heart (selfishness, negative thoughts, doubt, fear) tends to inhibit me. To cleanse my heart of all impurities (not of God), I must start by admitting my weaknesses, asking the Lord for forgiveness and forgiving myself. Spending time with the Lord—in his Word and in prayer, reconciles me to God and enables me to love him with all of my heart in the same way that he loves me, unconditionally.
All of Your Soul
Honor the Lord and serve him wholeheartedly. Put away forever the idols … Serve the Lord alone … Choose today whom you will serve … As for me and my family, we will serve the Lord.
Soul in Hebrew (nephesh) can be defined in many ways to mean heart, life, soul, wish or desire. Some scholars have translated it to mean passion.
Passion today is often used to describe a desire to achieve wealth, fame, fortune or notoriety, but rarely as a way of how to love the Lord. As a result, I find it difficult to do on a daily basis. I am faced with many distractions. The imagery of big homes, big cars, and big screens cause me to have big desires. Most of these desires interfere with me wholeheartedly serving and being passionately in love with the Lord.
No one can serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other.
— Luke 16:13
To truly love the Lord with all of my soul (and passion), I must reevaluate my priorities and not create or serve any other god before the Lord; not money, not fame, not power, not love (of any thing or anybody).
All of Your Mind
Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
— Romans 12:2
The Hebrew word dianoia translates to the word mind, meaning to think through and think over in meditation and reflection.
I have prayed often that I would know God’s will for my life. Looking back at many of these moments, I can see how I didn’t hear His will because my mind was not on Him, but rather on things of the world (my job, my finances, my wants, my desires). I was so engrossed in being like the world, that I lost focus of the things of God (spending time in prayer, growing in his Word and serving others). What I was honestly looking for was confirmation of my will, not his.
In order to love the Lord with all of my mind, I need to be one with the mind of Christ. That takes time, patience, and perseverance, as it would with any relationship.
The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned. The spiritual man makes judgments about all things, but he himself is not subject to any man’s judgment: “For who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ.
—1 Corinthians 2:14-16
Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you.
— Romans 12:3
What is your immediate thought when you hear that someone loves themselves? Conceit? Arrogance? Pride? “Loving yourself” in today’s world usually translates to mean that you love some thing (usually superficial) about yourself, such as looks, possessions, status, money, or a significant other. The reason some people do not love themselves is because they have based their self worth upon these things and currently lack them.
A large percentage of our television shows and advertisements are focused on surgically altering (cosmetically), physically changing (weight loss/quick fix exercises), or superficially covering (make-up/fashion) one’s body these days. Billions of dollars a year are poured into “making over” the way God created us, which means there are a lot of people who don’t genuinely like how they are, let alone love who they are.
Don’t worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food, drink, and clothes. Doesn’t life consist of more than food and clothing?
And why worry about your clothes? Look at the lilies and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing, yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are.
Oswald Chambers says this about the “lilies of the field” and us:
“They grow where they are planted. Many of us refuse to grow where God plants us. Therefore, we don’t take root anywhere.”
We refuse to grow where God plants us because we tend to not like who we are, where we are, or what we are—God’s intended creation. Many of us look at ourselves each day through the world’s point of view. Instead we need to look through God’s eyes.
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; that I know very well.
Until we are able to love ourselves and accept God’s creative work in us, we will fall short on loving others as the Lord has commanded us to do.
And the second (commandment) is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’
In My Utmost for His Highest, Oswald Chambers asks us the question:
“Are we experiencing the ‘much more’ He promised? If we are not, it is because we are not obeying the life God has given us and have cluttered our minds with confusing thoughts and worries. How much time have we wasted asking God senseless questions while we should be absolutely free to concentrate on our service to Him?”
And our service to him is “to love each other in the same way that I love you.”
Are you absolutely free to concentrate on your service to him, able to love the Lord your God with all of your heart, soul and mind, able to love yourself as God’s creation (not the world’s), and able to love others in the same way that he has loved us?
These questions shouldn’t make us feel defeated as in looking at a final losing score, rather they should inspire us to work harder, love better and serve more sacrificially.
I recently read where an anonymous donor bequest the Architecture Department at my alma mater $60 million. “Financial hardships forced him to give up his dream of becoming an architect” (many years ago) and “supporting students who dream of becoming architects is a way of achieving that goal” (Connections, Cal Poly, Fall 2007).
This man showed how a person’s dream doesn’t necessarily have to die, but can be passed on and encouraged in other people who share the same dream.
Isn’t that what Jesus did for us? He gave his life so that we can have life, so that we can pursue our dream which is His command for us: to love others in the same way that He loved us.
Cliff Young is a contributing writer to Sandlot Stories (ARose Books), as well as the monthly column, "He Said-She Said," in Crosswalk.com's Singles Channel. An architect and former youth worker, he now works with Christian musicians and consults for a number of Christian ministries. Got feedback? Send your comments and questions to [email protected].