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
“It was not only the people of His day, but it is so common for people of all times to just keep commandments and church laws and observe the externals of religion. In living this way, we miss the point of what worship of God really is, falling each day more deeply in love with God, expressing that love by our sensitivity to the pain and hurt around us, and reaching out to help others, even strangers. To a person who has found God, no person, ever again, is a stranger. In that is the perfection of love, the kind of love that God is, a love that knows no strangers.” – Joseph F. Girzone, “A Portrait of Jesus”
“…I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger, and you welcomed me…” – Matthew 25:35
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.)
I have found that I need to be careful not to fall into the trap of trying to appear as if I have my life “together” in the hopes of being a better example for God. Since I am human and not without fault, I will never truly have a handle on everything. If I did, I might not seek out God’s help. The most important thing I can do in an effort to bring God glory is to let others see His love in me. That is what drew me to Him. I saw His love expressed through a friend who chose to accept me as I was at a time when she could have passed judgement instead. The love she showed me not only glorified Him, but it made me more curious to know the God she loved.
Love takes your hand
and walks beside you
Love invites you
to climb onto its back
and be carried
Love owes you nothing
but wants to give you everything
Love says, “let’s do this again tomorrow,”
when you feel like giving up.
Sometimes, when I have felt anger, I have believed it was creating a divide between God and me. But, when I think about it, if every time I experience negative emotions, God turns away, it doesn’t give us a chance to build a real relationship. How many people in your life do you consider true friends with whom you only share the more pleasant aspects of your personality; only your best and cheeriest self? The people I consider my closest friends have seen me at my worst, and loved me anyway. I think the key to dealing with anger and other unpleasant emotions is to take them to God and to be completely honest with Him about what we’re feeling. It means talking to Him about even the things we feel almost too ashamed to say out loud. It means spilling our guts so that He can begin to fill us with something new.
“For he loves us with unfailing love; the Lord’s faithfulness endures forever. Praise the Lord!” – Psalm 117:2