Loving Others Well
- Tuesday, March 18, 2008
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.
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