“Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth” (1 John 3:18 ESV).
“I love you!”
Those are words we can never hear enough.
But we all know, or have known, people whose actions failed to line up with their words. We are aware of people who have stayed in abusive relationships because their abusers have said those words. “I love you.”
We’ve also known, or have been, people who have said that they, or we, love the Lord, but whose lives failed to demonstrate that love to Him. We’ve acted one way at church on Sunday and a completely different way at work or school on Monday. We have seen people in need, and had the means to help, but we kept right on walking.
It is the easiest thing in the world to say that we love. But true love has hands and feet. True love is spoken more loudly than words in the way we treat our family, friends, neighbors… enemies. And if we say that we love, but our words and actions contradict, are we not still unredeemed?
Those of us who profess faith in Jesus have received a mandate: “and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised” 2 Corinthians 5:15 (ESV) italics mine.
The time of lip-service is past!
If in fact we believe that Jesus is the Son of God, if we believe that His love for us was clearly demonstrated when He chose to give His life in order that we could be free from the bondage of sin, if we truly believe that He rose from the dead, how should we love? How should we demonstrate the reality and efficacy of Jesus’ sacrificial love?
“We love because he first loved us” 1 John 4:19 (ESV).
But self-less love, the “God kind of love,” agape, is so much harder than the other kinds of love (self-love, romantic love, brotherly love, etc.), is it not? Despite having the perfect example in Jesus, we all struggle to love as He loved. It’s not the kind of thing that we can learn overnight, or achieve by setting our minds to it. Rather, it’s the kind of love that we can spend a lifetime pursuing and still marvel at how much further we have to go.
But, rest assured, the task before us is not out of reach. Rather it is a deliberate, moment-by-moment, decision to align ourselves (and our free will!) with the will of God. Our duplicitous nature will always be at odds with it—“For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate” Romans 7:15 (ESV)—but the more time we spend in His Word, the more we recognize God’s will. And recognizing God’s will helps us focus with our “eyes on the prize.”
Obedience isn’t always easy. It’s in our nature to forge our own paths, live our own lives. But through faith, prayer, and action we have “the mind of Christ” (‘“For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?’ But we have the mind of Christ” 1 Corinthians 2:16. To get context, please read 1 Corinthians 2:6-16).
Discipleship, the walk of faith, is a journey. Learning to love the unlovely is like climbing a great mountain. There are scree fields, icy slopes, deep crevasses, and sheer cliff walls, obstacles to reaching the summit. But as climber’s practice their craft to become proficient at dealing with the obstacles, we also need to practice. We will slip and fall, scrape our knees, maybe even break some bones, but learning to love like Jesus is worth all manner of pain and embarrassment.
Don’t make this kind of love your New Year’s Resolution. Instead, make it your right-now resolution! And keep on making it. As always, these are the musings of a mindful disciple. Blessings on your week!
Image by Alemko Coksa from Pixabay