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
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.)
Nearly every day I hear the sound of a dove cooing outside of our window, and each time I hear it, I am reminded of when the Holy Spirit descended on Jesus “like a dove” (Luke 3:21-22). In the book of Matthew, Jesus referred to doves as “harmless” (Matthew 10:16). So the Spirit of God took on the appearance of a harmless creature as He fell on Jesus. God is powerful, as we see in the story of the parting of the Red Sea. He is the Creator of all things and has dominion over all things. As He reminds Job, He “laid the foundations of the earth” and “kept the sea inside its boundaries” (Job 38:4, 8). At the same time, through His Spirit, God chose to appear in the form of harmless dove at Jesus’ baptism. I’m glad that although God Has the ability to move mountains, He also places value in the gentle, harmless way of a dove.
“You have given me the shield of your salvation, and your right hand supported me, and your gentleness made me great.” – Psalm 18:35
I remember that soon after I became a Christian I was impressed by the fact that the Jesus I was coming to know was consistent with the Jesus I was reading about in the Bible. It was as if the love, gentleness, kindness, compassion, and understanding that He demonstrated, and the truth that He brought had been gently set down inside of me; to teach me, guide me, and comfort me. The Bible says that when we trust in Jesus to be our Redeemer, God’s Holy Spirit makes His home in our hearts. This was when the words on the page also became the Voice in my soul.
“And because we are his children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, prompting us to call out, “Abba, Father.” – Galatians 4:6