I’m not very good at this loving one another thing.
Jesus’ disciples implored him, “Increase our faith.” I cry out to the Lord, “Increase my love!”
The Bible says we are to love our brothers and sisters “deeply from the heart” (I Peter 1:22, NIV)). Love is to be sincere (Romans 12:9, NIV) or, as some versions of the Bible say, real or without hypocrisy. We are to love as Christ loved us (John 13:34, NIV).
Here’s my dilemma. As I grow in my own ability to trust and obey God, I find myself impatient with those who still struggle with faith and obedience. Yet Christ asks me to love those who offend me, diss me, act in unloving ways toward me, and whose foolish choices cause me to suffer consequences. How do I love the Christian brother or sister who repeatedly dabbles in the world’s ways? How am I supposed to show love to those who don’t seem to notice or acknowledge my efforts?
Then I remember – that verse about loving as Christ loves me holds the answer. How does Jesus love me?
He loves sacrificially. He gave without expecting anything in return. Loving as Jesus loves means I’ll stay in the same room with a grouchy husband, loving him.
He loves universally and unconditionally. He loves me no matter who I am, where I’ve been, or how far I’ve come. I’ll listen with loving patience to the incessant chatter of an overwhelmed mama of preschool children.
He bases his love on my needs, not on my deeds. Grace and love entwine to give me what I don’t deserve.
Like Jesus, I’ll love others intentionally, expecting no return on my love investment.
He demonstrates his love in tangible ways. His death on the cross is a highly visible expression of His deep regard for me. I’ll look for concrete ways to express love to those who need it but don’t deserve it.
He forgives me. He chooses to remove the magnifying glass from the things I do wrong. I’ll hang in there with someone who persists in dabbling in the world’s ways.
Perhaps the answer to my struggle to love is found in the disciples’ plea to have an increase of faith. Paul challenges his readers to have the kind of faith that expresses itself in love (Galatians 5:6). How much do I buy into the fact that Jesus released me from sin’s grip when He died as my replacement on the cross? That I don’t have to earn His approval? That His grace and forgiveness is a gift and I don’t have to cling to guilt or shame any longer? Am I filled with such gratitude for all He has done for me that I am willing to share that gift with others? And if the only way they’ll catch the hugeness of God’s gift is through a demonstration of how the gift works, would I be willing to do it?
Opting to love as Jesus loves becomes a two-pronged approach. First, I commit myself to a growing knowledge of and gratitude for the vast extent of Jesus’ deep love for me. Next, I take the risk to love others in the same way. When I accept how I have been loved and reflect it to others, I am fulfilling God’s call to love with a depth and sincerity that will make those who drive you crazy sit up and take notice.
Who needs a gift of God’s love from you? What loving actions will best speak to their needs?
“But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,”
Matt. 5:44 NIV (Taken from Wholly Loved’s 365 Daily Devotion, releasing soon!)
Think about someone who hurt you. How did you love or pray for them? Or, did you?
As a mother, I love and protect my children. When someone wounds them, my mama bear instinct roars. I want to peel back the fur and watch those razor-sharp claws swipe.
But emotional reactions like that don’t come from Jesus. They usually arise when we’re attempting to play God.
A few years ago, while driving home from a school event with one of my kids, I received an unexpected phone call from a classmate’s mother. She accused my daughter of bullying and made harsh statements about her. Unfortunately, my daughter sat in the passenger seat and well within earshot. My mama bear instinct stood ready to rip and roar, but I sucked in a breath and prayed silently, Help, God!
His truth guided me through that phone call. I recalled Jesus’ words about praying for those who persecute us, which includes mamas protecting their children. God’s guidance to be quick to listen and slow to anger (James 1:19) rushed to mind as well. I fought the urge to lash out, using patience, truth, and prayer to battle instead.
Afterward, I prayed for that mother and both children—myself, too. It wasn’t easy, but it was right. And God used those prayers to soften my heart.God uses prayer to soften the heart. @Kristi_Woods Click To Tweet
She and I didn’t realize that both our children were facing difficulties adjusting at school. As new transfers the year before, they were still attempting to find their footing. What seemed a situation of “enemies” ended quite differently.
Loving those with whom we clash or praying for people who persecute us feels awkward and hard. But God can be trusted, even when praying for our enemies.God can be trusted, even when praying for our enemies. @Kristi_Woods Click To Tweet
Do you have an “enemy” or someone persecuting you or someone you care about? How can you love and pray for them today?How can you love and pray for your enemy today? @Kristi_Woods Click To Tweet
Scripture taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION(R), NIV(R) Copyright (c) 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc. (R) Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Sometimes my greatest impact, positive or negative, comes when I think no one is watching. One hand was on the wheel, the other in the air. It was just another drive to the grocery store blasting my favorite gospel music. It didn’t seem like an important moment until I looked back and saw my daughter. Her little hand was stretched high as she sang along with me. Sometimes I forget how powerful our actions of faith can be.
Don’t let my example fool you. I blow it about twenty times a day in parenthood and in life. Who knows what my three-year-old tells his preschool teacher. Maybe something about his mom yelling at the dog who peed on the carpet again. Or perhaps how I gasp fearfully at any sudden movement.
Truth is, I’ve modeled frustration, impatience, doubt, and fear more than I’ve wanted to.
But that day in the car made me more aware that my actions and words are important in God’s kingdom. I claim to be a Christian, but is my faith evident to others by what I do? Do we as God’s people show God’s love instead of just telling about it?I claim to be a Christian, but is my faith evident to others by what I do? Do we as God’s people show God’s love instead of just telling about it? Click To Tweet
I need God to help me live out my faith. I want to live life outwardly trusting Him so that my kids, neighbors, friends, and family can know the Jesus I do–Jesus who loves fiercely, forgives genuinely, and is completely pure and faithful. He is who I want to be like.
This is a something we should desire as Christians.
Peter, one of the disciples, urged, “Shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock” (1 Peter 5:2-3 ESV).
So we have to ask ourselves who’s in our flock? Who are the people God put in our lives who look up to us? And how can we show God’s goodness and love to them? Most importantly, are we willing to be an example?
For me, this starts with my family. I desire so much for my children. I want them to grow into joyful, kind, helpful, and patient people. First, I must model those qualities to them.
Scripture says, “But the fruit of the Spirit”– what God produces in us– “is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law” (Galatians 5:22, ESV).
A few years ago, I didn’t feel like I had any of these qualities. I wanted these traits to be true of my family, but they weren’t true of me. I had little joy, peace, or patience and couldn’t be the model God had called me to be. I had to start desiring the fruit of the Spirit in my own life before I could give it away to others. I needed the source, God’s Holy Spirit, to work in me so my life could display God’s grace.
I needed the source, God’s Holy Spirit, to work in me so my life could display God’s grace.I needed the source, God’s Holy Spirit, to work in me so my life could display God’s grace. Click To Tweet
I love that the Bible says there’s no law against God’s love. It’s good for us to want all of His traits–His good fruit–to fill our hearts so we can pass unconditional love along to everyone we meet. But how?
I’ve found, the more time I spend with God, reading Bible passages of His love for me, the more I am prompted to show extravagant grace and love to others. Likewise, the more I pray asking for Him to fill me up with His goodness, the more my default is to extend patience in chaos and forgiveness in hard times. When we let God be our leader through His Holy Spirit, we naturally model His love to others.
We’ll never be perfect this side of heaven, but as I seek to live out my faith, I keep my lifeline to God active so I can reflect His love when mine wears thin. Thank you Jesus for teaching us how to walk in Your ways through your Spirit!
Let’s talk about this! When have you realized you were or needed to model faith in action to those around you? Share your thoughts in the comments below, so we can learn from and encourage each other. And make sure to engage with us on Facebook and Instagram where we post daily snippets of encouragement.
Sometimes what I think is of the highest priority, isn’t, and what I put aside is really what I should focus on.
I walked downstairs and saw my mom talking on the phone. She was empathetically offering words of comfort to a friend in need.
I noticed the dinner dishes still on the table and immediately judged her for misaligning priorities. How could she just leave the dishes? How can she drop everything to answer a phone call?
God immediately spoke to my heart. She was doing His will. She was behaving like Mary.
Luke 10:39-4(WEB) reads “She had a sister called Mary, who also sat at Jesus’ feet, and heard His Word. But Martha was distracted with much serving, and she came up to Him, and said, ‘Lord, don’t you care that my sister left me to serve alone? Ask her therefore to help me.’
Jesus answered her, ‘Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is needed. Mary has chosen the good part, which will not be taken away from her.'”
Though Jesus was specifically speaking about spending time with Him, Scripture teaches us to prioritize people above things. In the fast-paced world that we live in, this message is even more pertinent because society teaches us to be like Martha. It teaches us to focus our energies on the wrong things – worldly things.
While my mother tends to put others first, I tend to prioritize my “to do” list. Had I been in her shoes when her friend called, I’m afraid I would not have answered. Even if I had a friend in need, I would most likely clear the table and finish the dishes before returning his or her phone call.
Why do we think our agendas are more important? How can we shift our priorities?
Growing closer in Christ through reading Scripture is a good first step. We can also ask God to reveal situations in which we can grow in this area. Times that we may choose Mary’s path and can witness true servanthood through others like my mom did. Opportunities to allow others to embrace and model Mary-like hearts. How can we prioritize seeking Christ’s guidance in what is truly most important?
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