Thursday, August 2, 2012

Love each other. What does that mean?

      What does it mean to love each other?  The bible says, "love your neighbor as yourself" and" love your enemies".  But what does it really mean.  Most of us don't really live that out.  We tolerate most people at best.  We maybe call ourselves "loving our neighbor" if we like them, get along well, or if they are being nice to us or "loving" toward us.  What about people who are just downright ugly?  What about that neighbor that you really wish would just move?  Forget about enemies.  They can all burn.....right?  I have heard many a person say that about enemies like Hitler, Osama bin laden, or maybe even gangsta types.  How about that enemy that shows themselves in the person of your neighbor, or boss, or even a family member?  Mom, Dad, sibling, children, spouse, inlaws.  Do we really love anyone the way that God commands us to love everyone?  Are we even able to....without God's help?
      We have all heard of love bible verses quoted somewhere.  There are plenty of people who use
1 Corinthians 13 as a part of their wedding ceremony but you look at their marriage and they look more like enemies than allies.  Let's look at 1 Corinthians 13:4-8.  To summarize, Love is patient, kind, does not envy, does not boast, is not self seeking, is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs, does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth, always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.  Love never fails.  If you are "religious" or even trying to actually live a Christian life, you have heard this scripture. But we have to ask ourselves the question, do we live it?  I for one have failed miserably at it.  I can tell you that it is only in the last six months that this scripture is something that I have honestly given any serious thought.
      In that six months I have done pretty well outside of the home at beginning to treat others better and to be less selfish.  In fact, aren't we generally more well behaved for the world than we are for our own families?  I think the phrase is, we hurt the ones we love the most.  Isn't that a sad truth.  We forget that, especially if we are Christians, that our family deserves our very best effort.  That they should be as much, if not more, a recipient of ministry and our example of Jesus, as the world is.  Yet usually we rest in and abuse their love and forgiveness rather than trying to show our appreciation for it by giving them our greatest effort at showing Christlike love.
     I have always done relatively well at being loving and forgiving towards friends and coworkers, yet the closer people are to my heart the harder I have found it to show them love and forgiveness.  In ministry that has proven to be true at times but, in the last six months I have found much more success in that area.  As a husband, I have failed miserably.  Oh, I called myself being loving by much of today's standards of marriage and intra-marital treatment.  I mean, I wasn't physically abusing her, or being unfaithful.  But, God did bless me with a temper.  I believe he did it so that he could show me one day that he is stronger than my temper.
     For a long time I believed that I was a pretty good husband.  The problems I did have were way more my wife's fault than mine. Or so I thought.   I mean, when I lost my temper it was because I believed I had been done wrong by her.  Even if I was calmly disrespectful, I called myself being passionate about what I was talking about.   Then I came face to face with the details of 1 Corinthians 13.  I realized that, often I was getting angry because I was "keeping a record of wrong" subconsciously.  I realized that I was becoming less patient very often and in turn, less kind.  I  realized that in my own self-seeking I was becoming easily angered, thus loosing the ability to protect my wife's heart and keep her trust, thus killing my witness toward her.  My apologies baby girl.  I realized that in order to be effective at leading my family I had to die to myself and allow the Holy Spirit to hold me accountable for my failure at loving selflessly.  I then needed to lovingly pray about concerns that I have in regards to my wife.  Realizing, of course, that the answer to the prayer may be a change in me.
      If we have a concern or complaint about someone else, no matter the relationship, the only power that we have to effect change, if the problem is in fact them and not us, is to pray and watch God work.  He can resolve any issue whether he has to move on you or the other person to do it.  Ultimately, the only person God holds responsible is us individually.  Even though as husbands we are the spiritual leaders of our households, we cannot be effective if we are not maturing in Christ and pursuing a selfless love towards our families.  The bible says that we are to love our wives as Christ loved the church.  That is a heavily sacrificial picture if you really think about it.  
    In regards to anyone else, including our children, I believe that the fruits of the spirit are the ultimate goals that we should be striving for when interacting with them.  The bible says that if we are in unity with the Spirit that we will exhibit these nine fruits of the Spirit : love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control(Galatians 5:22-23).  If we are exhibiting these, we will always show God's love towards others.  We will not be rough, rude, or hurtful to our spouses, children, strangers or enemies.  We will not have outbursts of uncontrolled or even controlled anger. Proverbs 15:1 says,"a gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger".  Oh, if only I had paid attention when I was younger and learned scripture back then.  I might have saved myself so much trouble.  Praise God that he is faithfully teaching me now.
     Proverbs 15:3 says, "the eyes of the Lord are everywhere, keeping watch on the wicked and the good".  I don't know about you but if God is watching everything we do I want Him to find me being loving and obedient, faithfully striving to keep his commands.  
    Lastly, two more scriptures regarding our response to others and I will end.  Proverbs 15:18 says: "A hot tempered person stirs up conflict, but a patient person calms a quarrel".  I can attest to this personally.  I have stirred up conflict because of my temper and I have calmed my children with patience and been calmed with patience by my wife.  James 1:19 says, "Be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry".
     I can certainly not say that I have been successful in representing these truths consistently.  However, I know God is faithful to finish what he starts and so I anticipate constant improvement in the area of loving everyone with whom I come in contact to a greater degree.  I long to represent the qualities and characteristics of Christ and his sacrificial love to everyone that my life impacts.  My sweet wife, children, other family, friends, coworkers, even enemies deserve it because Jesus died for them all and I represent that sacrifice.  As do many of them.
   I hope that you will reflect on these ideas and evaluate whether you are truly loving others according to biblical standards. If not I pray that you will ask God to show  you any area that needs improvement and that you will surrender unto His unfailing love. If you do not know Jesus, then I pray that this post has planted a seed of the love and character of God in your heart that will bloom into a moment when Jesus draws your heart unto him.  Then you will understand a love like none other this world has to offer.

Love in Christ,

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