Monday, October 10, 2011

What Love Looks Like

"Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. 
Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another 
above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, 
serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. 
Share with God's people who are in need. Practice hospitality.
Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 
Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. 
Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, 
but be willing to associate with people of low position. 
Do not be conceited. Do not repay anyone evil for evil. 
Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. 
If it is possible as far as it depends on you live at peace with everyone. 
Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath, 
for it is written; "It is mine to avenge; I will repay," says the Lord. 
On the contrary; "If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, 
give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals 
on his head." Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good." -
Romans 12:9-21

John 13:35 says, "By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, if you have love one to another." I can’t help but wonder if this was why Paul gave such practical advice in this Romans:12 passage that describes what love looks like--love is real, transparent, and sincere even when we are tempted to hide. Love abhors evil and clings to what is good even in the face of temptation. Love is being kind when a person deserves it and even when they don't. Love is not being conceited, but putting others first even when everything in us is crying out, "Me first!" Love is not robbing our bosses of time, but giving them our best even when they don't deserve it. Love is being passionate in serving the Lord and in serving others even when they are ungrateful. Love is blessing those that persecute us, rather than cursing them even in the face of their curses. Love is giving good even in the face of evil. Oh, those last two things require a great amount of trust in God to be our defender and to help us overcome an evil act with a good one. 
Love means staying engaged, not avoiding or running from another even when they are acting like an enemy. It is being willing to share in the emotions with others by rejoicing with those that rejoice and even weeping with those that weep. It is looking at all people the same even if the are rich or even if they are poor. It is looking at them the same regardless of the color of their skin even if it is different than our own. It is looking at the same no matter what educational level they have achieved. Love is being honest so our words are trustworthy. Lastly, love assumes responsibility to make peace with people even if they don't approach us. 
There are three things that stick out in verse 12. When I was going through a long painful trial I prayed with a friend and realized I was not living out this verse. I have not been rejoicing in the trial and my friend exhorted me to remember that God was a God of miracles and a God who changes hearts. I also realized that I could rejoice because of who God is--even though the situation appeared hopeless, I knew ultimately that my God was not! I had not been patient in the tribulation. I wanted the trial to end and I wanted it to end now. I wanted a quick and easy resolution. I wanted to experience peace immediately. However, to become more like Christ, to love like He loves, and to learn to face trials with courage and grace, I had to face the long trial.
I also realized during that time I was not being diligent in prayer. I had learned to pour out my heart to God, but I have neglected many things. I had neglected to praise him in the pain, to pray for those involved in the trial, to ask God how He would want me to respond specifically in specific situations in the trial, and to ask Him how He would want me to demonstrate love. 
How am I doing in the love department now? Better, but not perfect. I know now that to love sincerely requires God’s transforming power in my own heart. To be kind when I am tired and under pressure requires I let His kindness shine through me when I believe I have nothing to give. To keep working when I am exhausted means I allow God to help me stay focused and energized. Giving to other's needs and sharing in hospitality requires I make sacrifices and learn to depend on God to meet my needs. To rejoice and weep with people requires I be transparent and let them see God laughing and weeping in me. To love my enemies is a mark of maturity and is only possible when I walk closely with God. Elizabeth Elliot went to the tribal people who had murdered her husband to share Christ with them. I don't know if I could do that, but I want God to get me to the place I could.
No matter what my circumstances and trials--I know you are going through them, too--are we able to rejoice that we serve a God who is powerful enough to change the hardest hearts into loving and kind hearts, to calm storms, and heal deep wounds? Are we able to be patient in a tribulation and ask God to do His perfect work in us? Are we diligent in prayer, in both the good times and the hard times? When life seems hopeless it is time to praise Him for who He is to strengthen our faith. When our hearts hurt, it is time to focus on His love so our hearts can heal! When circumstances seem stormy, it is time to focus on faithfulness to keep us safe through the storm. His light shines the brightest during the darkest moments. Looking to Him enables us to see Him more clearly and become more like Him. Christ’s love shined brightest during His darkest moment, the question is, will ours?

Prayer: Father, You have loved us with a perfect, sacrificial, and eternal love. You have called us to learn to love as You love. Sometimes the only way we learn to do that is to go through a trial that strikes at our pride, overwhelms us, or breaks our hearts. Give us teachable hearts and help us to be patient in our trials so that we can be that ray of hope and love to other people. Amen.

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Several years ago I realized that I often sped through my Scripture reading and gave it little thought. Yet, when I had meaningful conversations with friends or family members I replayed them over and over in my head. One day it occurred to me, that if I thought more about what God says in his word that I would not only know more about Him, but I would come to know Him in a personal way. I would know more about His thoughts, His character, His intentions, His passions, and His actions. So, I began to take one verse at a time and think on it and then journal about it. At the time I was served as a volunteer in youth ministry and shared my “Thoughts on God” with those girls. For a while I have been rewriting and posting them on this blog. I have realized when I am in the Word or move through my day focusing on God's presence that I have wonderful opportunities to Meet God in the Everyday. The Everyday can include storms, blessings, hard things, scary things, exciting things...just any where, anyplace, any time. I hope that you will be able to engage with what I write with both your head and your heart. I also hope you will be challenged to love, trust, and know the God of the Scriptures. It is my prayer that as you read you will experience Him at a deeper level and share pieces of your journey in the comments. It is my desire that we form a safe community of believers who pursue the God who loves us radically, eternally, and without reserve. As a precious pastor once told me, "Don't forget, Wendy, God is Good!" I find myself compelled by His Goodness and His Love to share so others can know Him through all the ups and downs of life. Please feel free to dialogue back and to share how each passage impacts you. If if there is a passage you would like me to write on or if you would like to be a guest blogger, please let me know. I am just learning to navigate this blog and appreciate the kind comments you have made in the past...I promise I will even try to respond if you leave a note. If you are blessed please share the blog with friends!