Lessons in Love: Part 2
In my last article, I began to unpack a journey I’ve been taking with Jesus over the last 15 years in the area of love. I have been burned and disappointed because I relied on feelings to dictate what love was to me. My first marriage ended after two years and I began my 20s disillusioned and unsure of how I missed the mark so badly. Jesus has been faithful and gentle to show me that love transcends emotions and He too has emotions, but they do not infect His love for us.
To review, here are the truths I touched on last time:
Love is not a feeling
God is love
We are called to love one another
The last point I wanted to discuss was more than I could share in a single post. In fact, it has been so life-changing for me that I wanted it to have its own article.
Once we understand that Love is not a feeling, it is a Person and that Person is God, we can shift our focus to loving others.
If your anything like me, you find that loving some people is easy, but there are others we’d like to exclude. Do we have to love them all? I double and triple checked, but unfortunately there was no asterisk in my bible or the other versions I explored, so, yes—everyone is included in this command. The good news is, if you fall into the “others” category for anyone else, you can’t be excluded in the call on their heart either. *phew!*
In my struggle to love others, I discovered I was trying to do it in my own power. I was willing myself to be love. The problem with that is my reserves were limited to a human capacity. The love we are called to walk in isn’t a human love.
The truth is:
Loving others is a byproduct of embracing His love for us—not an act of will.
I would like to tell you that loving others is second nature when you ask Jesus in your heart, but I think we are in too deep to start spinning tales now. To be honest, I thought this would come easy because I loved Jesus. It just isn't so, friends.
“This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.” (1 John 4:10, New International Version)
Our love for God is a (poor) reciprocation of the perfect love we receive from Him. When our hearts are turned away, He loves us. When we want a relationship, but we are dysfunctional at best, He loves us. When we mess up—again!—He loves us. His love is unchangeable and when we embrace that for what it is and what it means, we can take a deep breath and bask in a love that does not hinge on our performance, but on His character.
In Matthew, when Jesus is asked what the greatest commandment is I believe (though I have no proof) that He answered without hesitation. I believe He knew the answer quickly because it was part of His essence. The secret to loving others—even when we don’t want to:
“‘Love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence.’ This is the most important, the first on any list. But there is a second to set alongside it: ‘Love others as well as you love yourself.’ These two commands are pegs; everything in God’s Law and the Prophets hangs from them.” (Matthew 22:37-40, The Message)
Here is the troubling part. The word love in both of those commandments is “agape.” It is the highest form of love and transcends all circumstances. Loving God beyond your circumstances is hard, but His unwavering character is something you can depend on—come what may. But loving others in that same way? Come on! This is where I begin to give God side eye and ask, “Seriously?!”
Jesus gives the secret away in this answer: the first act (loving God) is how we do the second (loving others). Loving God means to get to know Him in a way that informs us on how to love and be loved.
Loving God allows us to put the truth of 1 John (God loving us) into our hearts, it unlocks EVERYTHING about loving people. I served and loved God for many years before I truly embraced the fact that He loved me. Unfortunately, keeping that wall up is what allowed me to be conditional with others. I didn’t want to love others because they hurt me, they disappointed me, or they didn’t live like I did. Maybe I was nice to them, but I was judging them. Now that I see that God loves me in all my ugly because of who He is not what I do/don’t do, I can’t help but want to emulate that.
How do you love others when you don’t want to? The concept is easier to say than to live out, but simply put: Go to their Creator and ask to see them the way He does. Let Him guide you in the dance of agape love in a eros-dominate world.
Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Scripture taken from The Message Version. Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson