The more I learn, the more I understand that one of our main purposes while we are here on this earth is to love other people. That, and to know God. Of course, knowing God is first and foremost, because only by knowing Him do we get a better understanding of what love is. In 1 John, we are told that someone who claims to love God but “hates his brother,” is a liar (1 John 4:20). Jesus tells us to go beyond what we are used to and to love not only our neighbor, but also our enemy. He tells us that when we do that, we are acting like God’s children, and He makes the point that if we only love those who love us, we are not really doing much to stretch ourselves in the way of loving others (Matthew 5:43-48). In 1 Corinthians, Paul talks about the many gifts he could have (the ability to prophesy, an understanding of God’s plans, the possession of all knowledge, faith that could move mountains), but points out that without loving others, he would be nothing. He concludes the chapter with, “Three things will last forever – faith, hope, and love – and the greatest of these is love” (1 Corinthians, 13:1-2, 13). So, loving others does not seem to be optional in God’s plan, but of primary importance. I believe that one of the best things we can do when desiring to love others better is to look at the example God has given us, in Jesus. Jesus was forgiving, patient, compassionate, and humble. We can also study what the Bible teaches about how to love others better…being slow to speech and quick to listen (James 1:19), giving a gentle answer to turn away wrath (Proverbs 15:1). Finally, we can ask God not only for His strength to love others better, but to give us the desire to love others, because sometimes, we are lacking even that.
“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.” – John 15:12
Every day we are able to see evidence of God around us. We see the work of His hands in what He has created: our friends, our family, our pets. We see His power when we witness people suffering, yet who find their strength in Him. How have I seen Him this week? I was reminded of His faithfulness as I listened to a wounded friend confide that God would be The One – the only One she would lean on through her pain. I was reminded of what happens when God’s love captures someone’s heart, as I watched one of His faithful followers spend time and energy aligning each chair in our church sanctuary perfectly, in order to glorify Him. And I heard about Him in a song this morning called, “Reckless Love,” by Cory Asbury (see below). It conveys so well the kind of love God has for us. As the song says, “Before I took a breath, You breathed Your life in me…You have been so, so kind to me.”
“By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins…We have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us.” – 1 John 4:9-10, 16
I met *Sarah in a retail store. She helped me shop for a ring. She informed me that people are calling costume jewelry by another name now, “progressive jewelry.” We both laughed a little. Sarah was in her 60’s and had retired several years earlier so that she could travel. She was back at work, but in a job that she liked, and she spoke of no regrets having used some of her savings to explore the world. Sarah told me that her family was made up of diverse backgrounds. She and her siblings were raised Muslim (although she did not identify herself as Muslim any longer), and she had relatives by marriage who were Jewish, as well as Catholic. She said that family ties meant a lot to her. She said that she celebrates Christmas. Sarah’s life and family background were atypical, and she seemed to appreciate that. I liked thinking of her family sitting together at holiday gatherings, differing beliefs and all. I do believe that there is one true way for people to find close relationship and eternal life with God, through Jesus’ sacrifice, but it’s because of this that I can appreciate when people show love toward one another even and especially when their views differ. It’s one way of truly loving our neighbors, which Jesus equated with loving God with our whole heart. Before leaving, Sarah and I shared a hug. I said goodbye and she responded by saying that she wasn’t going to say goodbye…that she had a feeling we would see each other again. Not hearing goodbye from my new friend touched my heart.
” ‘Teacher, which is the most important commandment in the law of Moses?’ Jesus replied, ” ‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ ” – Matthew 22:36-39
(*Names have been changed to protect the privacy of individuals.)