The Power to Love Others Well
“God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus.” Philippians 1:8
I don’t have the power to love others well. I can be entirely too self-obsessed, too selfish and impatient. A few years ago, our family opened our home to a troubled teen. I knew doing so wouldn’t be easy. This kid had a rough background, behavioral problems, and carried a lot of anger. But I also knew, beneath his biting words and hostility hid a wounded kid crying out to be seen, to be loved.
I so wanted to be an instrument of healing in his life, to show him, through everything I did and said, the love of Christ. But it seemed, when I most needed to display patience and grace, I least had it to give.
One day, overwhelmed and feeling as if I was failing, I spoke with our pastor. “I don’t think I can do this,” I said. With a gentle smile, he replied, “You’re right. You can’t. You need Jesus.”
He wasn’t giving me a pat, Sunday school answer. He was reminding me of a truth I’d seemed to have forgotten. I couldn’t love this child in my own strength. I needed Jesus to love him through me. I needed to spend less time trying and striving and more time abiding—connecting with Christ.
This was Paul’s consistent position. He remained close to Christ. Christ was His strength and the source of everything good within him. “I long for you with the affection of Christ,” he wrote. In other words, his enduring, selfless love came not from himself but from Christ living in him.
After that conversation with my pastor, I learned to love that kid differently. When I felt overwhelmed, I pulled away to spend time with Jesus. He provided the strength and grace I needed for each trying moment.
We cannot love others in our own strength, not the way we desire or they need. But as we draw near to Christ, His love expands within us, spilling out onto everyone we encounter.
Jennifer Slattery is a writer, editor, speaker, and the founder of Wholly Loved Ministries. She writes for Crosswalk, is the author of eight contemporary novels, including the soon to be released Building A Family and helped write Wholly Loved’s Bible study based on the life of Sarai (Gen. 12-23) titled Becoming His Princess, available for free (in ebook form) from Wholly Loved Ministries. When not writing, reading, or editing, Jennifer loves going on mall outings with her adult daughter and coffee dates with her hilariously fun husband. Visit her online at jenniferslatterylivesoutloud.com.
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