In his message about unity in the church, Paul says in Ephesians 4:13,“…we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ…” The following are 2 Biblical truths about love that are meant only to edify and encourage you. Pay attention to any offense or emotion that arises when you read these- this will reveal opportunities for healing and growth.
1. You are Loved Unconditionally (Without Condition)
The Love that God has to give is NOT based on performance. It is a lie and misconception that we must:
1. “Have it all together” to deserve and receive Love.
Jesus’ intervention is the message from our mess. For those of us who are married- we make a commitment to our spouse on our wedding day despite their imperfections. There would never be another wedding in the world if people waited for the person they loved to become flawless before committing to them in marriage. The same is true here. Romans 5:8- “God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.” There can be fear in abandonment and surrender because it requires vulnerability. But God’s Love totally destroys and annihilates fear (1 John 4:8).
2. “Do the right thing” to deserve and receive Love.
Many people and churches are much more concerned with appearance, ceremony, structure, and ritual than they are about living in the total freedom of Jesus. You do not have to go to an enclosed stall in a church divided by a screen or curtain in which a priest sits to hear people confess their sins (Webster’s definition of the word “confessional”) to find forgiveness. These behaviors evoke feelings of immense guilt, shame and embarrassment. Romans 8:15- “You did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons [and daughters].” Check out the story of the lost, disobedient, and wasteful son in Luke 15:11-32. Despite his deliberate rebellion- he was not only totally forgiven but lavished with gifts, quality time, acts of service, words of encouragement, and physical gestures of love!
2. You are Given Love to Give it Away
We are not only given the ability to, but commanded to Love. In Matthew 22:37-40, Jesus says, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. The second most important is similar: ‘Love your neighbor as much as you love yourself.’ All the other commandments and all the demands of the prophets stem from these two laws and are fulfilled if you obey them. Keep only these and you will find that you are obeying all the others.” Something to pay attention to here… if you find that it is difficult to really love yourself… invest in this. Seek the help of a counselor or wise person in your life that will help you to discover your value, potential, gifts, and strengths- someone who encourages and motivates you.
What about friends and family who are “difficult to love?”
This is a hard statement, but it’s important… You have no excuse for holding onto anger, bitterness and unforgiveness. Make a list of the people (maybe you even place yourself on the list) who you have found it difficult to forgive or love. Work to Love and forgive with God’s help. At times, we may be the family member who is “difficult to love.” But God gives love and grace regardless of circumstances. Once we understand that we are seen as clean slates in the eyes of God (1 Peter 4:8), we surrender the “right” to not forgive. You are not entitled to hold a grudge. You cannot unconditionally love others by your own efforts; God’s love is required to love others radically. Love forgives enemies (Matt 5:44), serves others (Gal 5:13), sacrifices it’s life (John 15:13), encourages others (Heb 10:24), and extends grace (1 Peter 1:2). You will be blessed to be a blessing. 2 Corinthians 9:11 says, “Yes, God will give you much so that you can give away much, and when we take your gifts to those who need them they will break out into thanksgiving and praise to God for your help.”
What are some practical ways that we can love people?
Serve them. Find situations where you can attend to the needs of others rather than circumstances that are self-gratifying, and self-focused. Serve your spouse and children; you will find that they will respond to your service with love and end up serving you back. Love is kind, patient, humble, selfless, truthful and believes the best about everyone (1 Cor 13:4-8), so this is a good place to start! Seek to demonstrate these adjectives- to walk them out. Also, viewing ourselves and others as masterpieces and creations of God motivates and stimulates love. Ask God to open your eyes to people. The people waiting in traffic, riding on the lightrail, serving at your favorite restaurant, sleeping on the street, shopping at the grocery store, teaching your children, locked up in jail, pumping gas, acting in movies and shows on Netflix, and leading your country… those people are ALL deserving of unconditional Love. One of my favorite teachers on the subject of Love, Heidi Baker, says this, “Love must look like something.”
We need to do and be Love!