Tuesday, March 12, 2024

Love One Another

"This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you."

John 15:12

According to the Old Testament, we are to love the Lord with all of our hearts, souls, minds, and might and to love our neighbors as ourselves. The commandment given in John 5:12 tells us how we can begin to fulfill the Old Testament command. Essentially, this verse is telling us to look at how Jesus loved and to use that as our standard for loving. It's clear from both His words and His actions that Jesus loved His heavenly Father, loved His friends, loved strangers, loved Himself, and even loved His enemies. 

What did Jesus' love look like? It looked like spending time with His Father alone in prayer. It looked like trusting His Father even in the midst of storms, mistreatment, rejection, false accusations, and extremely difficult tasks. It looked like resisting the temptation Satan placed in front of Him. It looked like seeking out people and teaching, admonishing, and exhorting them. It looked like touching the untouchable and healing the sick, the lame, the blind, and the deaf. It looked like spending time with those who were deemed less than--the children, those in bondage to sin, and those who were outcasts from social circles. It looked like casting demons out of the souls of men. It looked like crossing the cultural, gender, economic, and spiritual boundaries to invite all who would come into a relationship with Him. At times it looked like being social and partying with friends at a wedding a grieving with those who lost a loved one. It looked like sharing openly His heart and seeking out others where they were. It looked like wrestling 's so hard emotionally that He sweat blood over God's will for Him to go to the cross in the face of His own desire to avoid it. It looked like choosing to obey His Father, even in that severe state of angst, just so that He could demonstrate God's great love and reconcile us to Himself. It looked like loving His enemies.

When we think of Jesus' enemies, we tend to think of Satan, the Pharisees, and those who put Him to death. But according to Romans 5:10, we were all enemies of God before we were reconciled to Him through Jesus. That's such a sobering thought. If Jesus considered us His enemies when He chose the cross on our behalf, what right do we have to refuse to love those we call enemies? If we're serious about loving the way He loves, we must identify and acknowledge our enemies and choose to love them. They're the people who aren't for us and the people who are proactively against us. They're the people who glare daggers at us every time they see us. They are the people who are nice to our faces, but speak ugly words about us behind our backs. They're the abusers who robbed us of our innocence or who left bruises on our bodies, and on our hearts as well. They're those who criticized us, wounding us to the core of our being with harsh words, untruths, and judgements. They're those who refused to see us, withholding their love and compassion. They're those who isolate us through slander, who kill our joy, or who rob our hope on a daily basis. They're those in positions of God-given authority who use their positions to harm us. Some might even consider God an enemy because He didn't protect them from the evil they experienced. But, sadly, for many of us, our worst enemies are ourselves. 

Every person we hate is a person Jesus loved unto death. That same Spirit who loved us unto death indwells us and gives us the capacity to love when it's humanly impossible to do so. As we bask in His love, we are able to love with His love--and that's a love without limits. It's a love that offers the gospel to those we would deem the most undeserving.  

To love as He loves, we must take an honest look at ourselves and the motives behind the words we speak, the actions we carry out, and our reactions to life. Sometimes our motives are loving and at other times our motives are selfish, self-serving, and/or driven by fear. We are capable of showing what looks like great kindness with a motive of hoping another will return the kindness. Some of us look like people who love well, but in truth we are people pleasers who are afraid to say "no" out of fear that someone would get angry with us, abandon us, or think that we are bad Christians. Sometimes we are serving others, hoping to earn favor with God. Sometimes we may serve compulsively to avoid dealing with the pain in our hearts, the anxiety we experience in our souls when things are out of control. Sometimes we keep the peace and refuse to rock the boat by speaking God's powerful truth into situations and relationships that desperately need it to be godly and healthy.

If we want to love as God loves, we need to understand the truth of 1 John 4:19, "We love because He first loved us." We can gain understanding of His love by spending time in the gospels and seeing how Jesus loved others and by seeing his Sacrifice for our sin. We can understand it even more by studying the attributes of God, gaining and understanding of how pure and holy God's love is. God's love pours from His character, not from a desire to get something from us. His love never rejoices in wrong and will always want what is best for us. His love is eternal, and it is based on His omniscience, which means there never was a time that He didn't love us and there will never be a time when He will cease loving us. His love is not dependent on our behaviors, thoughts, service, intelligence, or our appearance. It is only dependent on God and His Character. Our great God is a relational God and He desires us to be relational beings who love in ways that foster growth in us and in those we love. May the truth of His love compel us to love God with all that we are, to love others, and to love ourselves as well. 

(Adapted from Glimpses of God 11, Loving from a Pure Heart, by Wendy J. Mahill and Nancy Keller, Xulon Press) 

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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!