I’m not very good at this loving one another thing.
Jesus’ disciples implored him, “Increase our faith.” I cry out to the Lord, “Increase my love!”
The Bible says we are to love our brothers and sisters “deeply from the heart” (I Peter 1:22, NIV)). Love is to be sincere (Romans 12:9, NIV) or, as some versions of the Bible say, real or without hypocrisy. We are to love as Christ loved us (John 13:34, NIV).
Here’s my dilemma. As I grow in my own ability to trust and obey God, I find myself impatient with those who still struggle with faith and obedience. Yet Christ asks me to love those who offend me, diss me, act in unloving ways toward me, and whose foolish choices cause me to suffer consequences. How do I love the Christian brother or sister who repeatedly dabbles in the world’s ways? How am I supposed to show love to those who don’t seem to notice or acknowledge my efforts?
Then I remember – that verse about loving as Christ loves me holds the answer. How does Jesus love me?
He loves sacrificially. He gave without expecting anything in return. Loving as Jesus loves means I’ll stay in the same room with a grouchy husband, loving him.
He loves universally and unconditionally. He loves me no matter who I am, where I’ve been, or how far I’ve come. I’ll listen with loving patience to the incessant chatter of an overwhelmed mama of preschool children.
He bases his love on my needs, not on my deeds. Grace and love entwine to give me what I don’t deserve.
Like Jesus, I’ll love others intentionally, expecting no return on my love investment.
He demonstrates his love in tangible ways. His death on the cross is a highly visible expression of His deep regard for me. I’ll look for concrete ways to express love to those who need it but don’t deserve it.
He forgives me. He chooses to remove the magnifying glass from the things I do wrong. I’ll hang in there with someone who persists in dabbling in the world’s ways.
Perhaps the answer to my struggle to love is found in the disciples’ plea to have an increase of faith. Paul challenges his readers to have the kind of faith that expresses itself in love (Galatians 5:6). How much do I buy into the fact that Jesus released me from sin’s grip when He died as my replacement on the cross? That I don’t have to earn His approval? That His grace and forgiveness is a gift and I don’t have to cling to guilt or shame any longer? Am I filled with such gratitude for all He has done for me that I am willing to share that gift with others? And if the only way they’ll catch the hugeness of God’s gift is through a demonstration of how the gift works, would I be willing to do it?
Opting to love as Jesus loves becomes a two-pronged approach. First, I commit myself to a growing knowledge of and gratitude for the vast extent of Jesus’ deep love for me. Next, I take the risk to love others in the same way. When I accept how I have been loved and reflect it to others, I am fulfilling God’s call to love with a depth and sincerity that will make those who drive you crazy sit up and take notice.
Who needs a gift of God’s love from you? What loving actions will best speak to their needs?