This past week has been one of controversial court decisions and court appearances. One thing I learned from perusing social networks over the last week is that we as Christians have a very long way to go regarding love. This post will not focus on those decisions that were made in the courts but the decision we face daily to love!
In 1 Corinthians 13: 4-7 the bible gives a definition of what love is. The NLT version states, Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.
Being consistent in displaying the characteristics listed above towards all takes great work, care, and commitment. Therefore, I believe that we have to make conscious decisions and efforts to love God, others, and ourselves daily.
1) I choose to love God
It is difficult to comprehend the agape type love that God showers on us because man has not been able to master the completeness of it. The love many of us have
experienced and shown to God, others, and ourselves has been fickle, inconsistent, conditional, and catastrophically hurtful.
It took me going through several challenges and even going back and forth between my relationship with Christ and the world before I decided to love God. I might have said I did but I was nonchalant and apathetic in how I approached our relationship. I knew how to work hard to prove my love to my significant other and even my friends but I didn’t know how to do the same for an invisible God! I didn’t put nearly as much effort into it and to be real honest I didn’t love him more than the people around me so I didn’t try. (This is a big no, no Exodus 20:3)
As I continued to hear people share how much God loved me and how he showed it I began to realize I could reciprocate that love. This is when I chose to love God more consciously. I chose to love God because he loved me first (1 John 4:19). It was like ok, I’ll give this guy a chance. So I tried to do more like going to church on a weekly basis. Of course you hit a wall at some point when this is all you do but eventually I began to pray, read and actually study the bible on my own and with others. It took me years to get to this point. Now, every so often I find myself saying, woah I thought I loved God before but I love him more today. This increase in love causes me to not want to do anything to hurt him, upset him, or bring shame to his name. Does this mean that I always make perfect decisions and please him daily? Definitely not! What I liar I would be if I claimed that. I mess up daily. But the point is I am very cognizant of it. My conviction meter is set pretty high, I don't always like that but it does help me in my commitment to him.
I love God because he loved me first. He created me in his image fearfully and wonderfully and blessed me with every flaw and every strength. He waited patiently as I served him and the world and then the world exclusively. He loved me, he covered me, he saved me from my destructive behaviors without me even knowing and allowed for me to give others credit (momentarily) without causing a big fight or commotion. There are times I cheat on him and show him no love and guess what, he's still there with the same amount of care, concern, and true love as always! I know that because Romans 8 tells me nothing can separate me from his love. He takes all of my poor choices and turns them into something that will benefit his kingdom. And he always accepts my apologies and never uses what I did wrong against me!
God is hard to love when you are still dabbling in things you shouldn't. But when you refocus your life on him (which can be a difficult feat) he is soooo easy to love...The more time we spend with God the more we learn about his love, the more we learn to love him, and the greater our ability to serve him and others becomes.
Continuously build your relationship with him. I pray that every few months you can look back and say what I continually say, woah I thought I loved God before I love him more today.
2) I choose to love myself
Human love must be modeled on God’s love. I cannot love others without loving myself and I cannot love myself without loving God and understanding his love!
Between all of these tasteless reality shows, sharing of twerk videos online, engaging in destructive behaviors, sleeping with married people, allowing significant others to repeatedly cheat, etc it is clear we don't have a healthy love for ourselves. We love drama, attention, and pseudo-affection.
I have struggled with addictive and destructive behaviors a majority of my adult life mainly because of the lack of love I had for myself (for whatever reason) and a desire to fill this void in any manner that helped me cope. I won't lie and say that I still don't have days where self-hate attempts to consume. But I will say I am now able to recognize the root of the problem and turn back to God for his help...It may not happen quickly, sometimes it take 15seconds sometimes it takes 2 months, but it does happen.
When we learn to love God and accept his love we learn to treat ourselves with respect and worth. We allow God to bring people in our life that validate us in a healthy manner and we stop entertaining foolish people, places, and things.We as a people (human race) can't really love ourselves because we know God's name but don't really know him or the extent of his love. I'm trying out something new...Instead of getting disgusted and discouraged with other people's behaviors and especially my own, I pray for the ability to purely feel God's love, to find him and get to know him for real in that very moment. Doing this gives me a compassionate heart instead of a judgmental one and I am able to see past the behavior to the person and sometimes to the root of the issue. Learning to love God and accept his love gives you a clear perspective into how to forgive yourself, love yourself, and be yourself.
Some might say that loving yourself too much can be a bad thing. I agree. There is a thin line between humility and pride. If the love for yourself causes you to forsake everyone else including God this is an issue. We should put no other god before him, including ourselves (Exodus 20:3). And the bible also says we shouldn’t think of ourselves too highly (Romans 12:5). But this is another reason it is important to go to God frequently so that we stay on the safe side of humility and love ourselves in a healthy manner that is good for us and for the world around us.
3) I choose to love others
It is easy to love people we want to love. It is one of the hardest things to love people who cause grief and stress or who simply rub us the wrong way. But God doesn’t give us an out just because we don’t like someone. Nope matter of fact in Matthew 5:43-47 says:
You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so?
I know that makes many people cringe because like the beginning of the scripture says, many of us are taught to do exactly the opposite. However, I must say when doing things for God out of the goodness of your heart the inconvenience of loving inconvenient people doesn’t really feel all that inconvenient anymore lol...Loving on others and SHOWING that love is an awesome way to show God that you love him. Hugging someone in need is like hugging him. Giving up time to counsel someone when you would rather sleep is giving him a kiss on the cheek. Giving when you feel like taking is like...idk I'm out of affectionate moments in my head right now...ummm getting a piggy back ride? Lol whatever you get it.
What about when it comes to showing love while speaking truth and battling against strong opposition? Sorry folks we still get no free passes. The responses that people posted in reference to the rulings this past week made my whole world sad. I appreciated posts that discussed God's truth in a firm but loving manner. That is what God commands us to do in Ephesians 4:15. The ones that condemned, cursed, and talked about people so wretchedly without fully sharing truth made me cringe. We may not all believe the same things and I do not believe there is room for compromise when it comes to the word of God BUT we have got to learn how to respond in a way that doesn't contradict the word. There is a thin line regarding this as well so that we don’t fall to the side of compromise while forsaking the word of God. But remember, how we respond to others in times of testing is how others will respond to us, more specifically how they respond to God, especially if they do not have their own relationship with him. The way we love others is key to loving God and helping to spread his love to a world that doesn’t know him.
Understanding God's love for us and learning to love him back has huge and positive implications for the love we show to ourselves, others, and everything we do...I challenge you to focus on love this week! If you commit I'm almost positive that God will give you plenty of opportunities to practice. Lol have fun!
I love you all! =) See I started it by expressing it! Check out the daily devotions later this week!
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