So…What IS Love?

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Some people are just hard to love. Perhaps they’ve hurt you or they continue to hurt you and your heart is broken. Shattered in pieces, laying on the floor…impossible to put back together.

How does God call us to love these people? What are we really supposed to do in these situations?

Our theme this month is loving in action. Perhaps for those who celebrate Valentine’s Day, love comes easy for you. Loving in action might just be second nature. But it might not be easy for everyone.

Excuses come:

“My parents didn’t show me love, so why should I show others love.” (Bitterness?)

“I was never taught how to love.” (Ignorance?)

“Oh, they know how much I love them..there’s no need to take the time to show them.” (Pride?)

“I’ve been hurt before and so my heart just can’t love anyone anymore.” (Unresolved pain?)

Can you add any to that list? Is there anything holding you back from loving others…loving in action?

I know for myself, I have become stubborn. Maybe I always was stubborn, I don’t know. But I see it more clearly now. And when I’m hurt…and my stubbornness comes out…I fail miserably at loving others the way I am called to love them. My intentions change and I don’t like it! Does this resonate with anyone else? Or am I alone in this?

Then we introduce judgement. When our hearts aren’t in a healthy place, it is so easy to fall into that trap of judgement. We might be stuck on harshly judging ourselves or we might be hurt, angry, or jealous when we see someone else who is happy and who radiates love.

know there are groups of friends who sit and put others down. It’s their habit…their past-time…the way they connect. But let me ask you this: do they ever sit and ponder what that other person might be feeling? Or going through? Could their judgement, snickers, looks of irritation, be causing this person to feel even worse? To feel even more unloved?

A lot has happened to me in my life. Some is private, but most things I have put out there and I know the feeling of being judged. I’ve been judged on how I parent our children, what kind of wife I am to my husband, what kind of daughter I am to my dad (and my late mom), what kind of sister and sister-in-law I have been. I’ve been judged for my friendships, my honesty, my “rawness” when I reveal the pain I’ve encountered…the pain that is so real. And believe it or not, I’m still being judged for how I grieve.

People dislike me simply for who I am. I’m gossiped about, I’m judged for following my faith and for my faith being the center point in my life. I am called names–sometimes to my face, sometimes behind my back. There are people who don’t like what I stand up for….for my convictions. So, what do I do with all of that?

For many years, I learned to wear masks. I learned that my heart was safer if I didn’t let anyone know how hurt I was about these particular things that were happening to me. I kept a safe distance from my heart and my feelings, because if they ever came out, it was like Niagara Falls…and why would I want to add that to the list of judgements I already receive? So, it was hidden…even from myself…even when I didn’t know it.

Now? I can’t dig up a mask if my life depended on it! Sometimes I want them back–if only for the ability to please others so they would accept me…maybe even love me again. Maybe I want them back so I can pretend to forget all that has happened in my past. Then again, that is what has molded me into who I am today. Perhaps I just want to go back to being “unseen”, not the topic of gossip or finger-pointing or judgement. Back to be being the extrovert I always believed I was.

But you know what? That’s not real. If I have to pretend to be someone I’m not? If I have to push aside my hurt because my other people are sick of it? If I can’t be honest, true, and raw (in a loving and kind way), then that’s not living loved. As much as I want a break from the criticism, I’ve come too far to go back to where I used to be…hidden, approval addicted, my happiness being based on other people’s views me.

Is that really love?

As I sit here I think of the sins I have committed. I think of the ways I haven’t shown love to others–either out of fear or busyness or maybe out of anger. And I’m ashamed of that! How can I claim to love the Lord God with all of my heart, soul and mind, yet harbor anger or ill feelings towards one of his creations? I’m guilty. I deserve God’s wrath and punishment and it amazes me that He loves me so much, that HE took the wrath and punishment. Now that is love….

So this is the “month of love”. (Yes, I know every month is a month to love each other…I’m just speaking in terms of Valentine’s Day…and capitalizing on that “holiday”, if you’d like to call it that.) This is the time people want to show loved ones just how much they mean to them. How they appreciate them and how thankful they are to have them in their lives…how they “couldn’t imagine their lives without them”.

But there’s way more to it than that. There are people, strangers, acquaintances, fellow children of God, who need and long to be loved. Loved by us.

Do you ever walk into a store or a building and the person ahead of you holds the door for you?

Have you been in a bind at the checkout and someone behind you lends you or gives you some change for you to finish your transaction?

Or have you had the pleasure of the “pay it forward” movement, where someone in the fast-food drive-thru has paid for your coffee or lunch?

Maybe you’ve been blessed with a group of young teens who have come to rake your yard in the fall…just because.

Those are just small, simple ways we can show love to one another.

We aren’t called to judge, even though so many of us are guilty of doing it. We aren’t called to be a thorn in someone’s side. We aren’t called to question the way they are handling a particular situation. Do you know why?

Because we are not them.

We have no idea what it’s like to walk in another person’s shoes or know the battles they struggle with daily, seen or unseen. We don’t know how they grew up or what they were taught…maybe it was to be abusive for all we know. We don’t know their brain chemistry and how they process information, such as a death of a friend or family member. We just don’t know…because we are not them.

So here’s an idea: how about we give each other a break? How about we treat people with empathy, because we don’t know the battle they’re facing? How about we search out ways to show love to others–strangers, friends, or family members? Anyone.

Instead of judgement, condemnation, gossip, pointing fingers (even if the fingers aren’t actually seen…), questioning their judgement of their own lives, can we please offer grace and mercy? Can we offer them love?

Now, of course there has to be a disclaimer: if you are being abused…if you are in a seriously dangerous situation, please seek help. Yes you can love your abuser, but you are not being asked to stay in that abusive situation and enable it to continue. Please hear me when I say that.

Previously I was talking about the petty things. The clothes people wear. The way they style their hair. The friends they have that you don’t “approve” of. Those are the things we can release and let go of.

As I said before, I am not pointing fingers at anyone because I have been just as guilty. I know it and God knows it. But I’m working on it! I’m a work in progress and for that, I ask for grace and patience. Truth be told, I think we’re all a work in progress and we have been since the day we were born into sin.

Perfection. It has no place in our lives. There is no such thing. Acting like it, pretending it exists, is just a way to fool our brains into thinking we have it altogether on our own. We simply cannot be perfect. The only perfect being is Jesus Christ and the way He loved while on earth…and the way He continues to love is what we should be aiming for. We won’t achieve it until we’re in heaven, but we can sure try here on earth.

No more judgment. No more pride. No more pointing fingers.

Let’s just work on loving.

Here are a few scripture passages to ponder…

“We love because He first loved us. If anyone says, “I love God”, yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. And He has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother.” 1 John 4:19-21

“Brothers, do not slander one another. Anyone who speaks against his brother or judges him speaks against the law and judges it. When you judge the law, you are not keeping it, but sitting in judgement on it. There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy. But you-who are you to judge your neighbor?” James 4:11-12

“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.” Colossians 3:12-14

God wants us to love our brothers and sisters in Christ, as well as those who don’t know Jesus. Is there anyone you feel led to talk to about Him? Is there someone whom you have been feeling led to share the gospel with? If so, follow His lead and speak to them in love. No judgment of them or their past or their present circumstances; simply honest love. Show them what that truly looks like. Show them the love Christ gives us.

 

 

Let’s Talk About Love

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“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16 (ESV)

Such a well-known verse, huh? Did you learn it as a child, like I did? Like my children are?

Or maybe you’re new with your faith and this is a verse you have yet to learn. That’s okay, let me introduce you to it!

“but God shows His love for us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”       Romans 5:8 (ESV)

Have you heard that one before?

Here’s one more:

“Let all you do be done in love.” 1 Corinthians 16:14 (ESV)

There are many scripture verses I could share about love…these are just a few. Do you see a common thread among them?

I’ll give you a hint…it has to do with the verbs.

Okay, not everyone wants an english lesson but I have to point them out.

“gave”, “shows”, “do”

What is He telling us? Any guesses?

He’s telling us that love is an action. 

I know we talk about being in love, speaking words of love to each other, telling those important to us how much we love them. But God doesn’t only want us using our words to show our love…he’s wants us to act on it.

God gave His only Son…to show just how much he loves each one of us.

God shows His love for us…by sending His Son to die on a cross, so we don’t have to endure that horrifying agony.

God tells us that all we do…should be done in love.

We need to follow His example, as hard as it may be at times. We’ve all heard (and probably said) “Actions speak louder than words.” Are loving words important? Of course. Should we still say them? Absolutely. But let’s not forget to show others our love.

I’m guilty of it….maybe someone reading this is, too. Sometimes I can say it, but my actions don’t match it. I’m not proud of that. I want to make excuses for it, but it’s the truth. Something I personally need to work on.

However, I can’t do it alone. I can’t rely on my own strength to show love to those I might struggle with.

Thankfully God’s love isn’t based on emotions, like mine can be at times. When anger or frustration or (heaven forbid) pride rears their ugly heads, it’s hard to show love. That’s when I need God to speak through me…move through me. I need to surrender those feelings to Him and allow Him to take over.

His love is unconditional and I need mine to be, too. Even when it’s hard…and the pain is all too real.

Like when you’re hurt by a friend’s words. Or you get into an argument with a spouse…over and over and over again. Or a family member has hurt you in a way you never thought family could. Or your support system wains and all but disappears. Or nasty words are spoken in the heat of the moment…words that replay in your head. Or when…

Can you finish that last one on your own? Do you have specific hurts that make it hard for you to show love towards someone? Bitterness, resentment, anger, or that nasty word I used before…pride?

Oh, there’s so much that can tear us all apart. If we let it.

Did you get that? If we let it.

Can you join with me and fight that urge? We can work to overcome the negative emotions, or maybe just acknowledge them but then release them…so we can open ourselves up to love again?

I know I can’t do it alone…without God. I don’t think any of us can.

So, let’s do it together…and give each other grace as we try to obey God’s words spoken in this final verse.

“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law? And He said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.'” Matthew 22:36-39 (ESV)

A few questions to ponder….

What does “loving in action” look like in your life? Is there someone you can show love to today? Is there a new way you can show love towards others? Is there anything standing in your way that you need to surrender? 

Spend some time asking God for direction and answers to those questions. Listen for His whisper…and follow His lead. It will be worth it!