HOW TO LOVE OTHERS AS CHRIST DOES
Our journey with Jesus, thus far, has helped us develop our understanding of who God is, who we are, and how we can grow our character to be more like Jesus. Now it is time to consider, how do we love others as Christ does?
“Imitate God, therefore, in everything you do, because you are his dear children. Live a life filled with love, following the example of Christ. He loved us and offered himself as a sacrifice for us, a pleasing aroma to God.”
(Ephesians 5:1-2. See also John 13:34)
For two weeks, I sat staring at an all-but blank document on my laptop, reading and rereading the few words you see above. Writer’s block exasperating me…
Loving others should have been easy to define, right? 1 Corinthians 13 clearly says… Be patient and kind. Don’t envy. Don’t be prideful and boast. Honour others. Consider the needs and interests of those around us, above our own. Don’t become easily angered. Forgive…
Familiar with this list? Doing reasonably okay at living it out… (at least most of the time…)? ‘Loving Others As Christ Does’ is Unit 101 in the Bible College of life, wouldn’t you say? Yet, as I meditated upon the topic, the Lord said, “Yes, but there’s more (greater depth)”. So, I’ve been praying, “God teach me. Show me.”
To understand how to love others in a full and complete way, requires us to consider the multi-faceted nature of love itself (Love the person, for God Himself is love – see 1 John 4:16, and love the action).
Love is purposeful sacrifice
For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16).
Christ poured/pours out love freely and sacrificially for our benefit and to bring glory to the Father.
He prayed and intercedes for our: salvation, peace, healing, deliverance from oppression, comfort, provision of food, clothing and shelter; and wisdom for life (See Matthew 4:23; 14:19, 23; 19:13-15; 26:36, Mark 1:35; 6:46; 14:32, Luke 5:16; 6:12, John 14:16, Romans 8:34 and Hebrews 7:25).
Jesus shared the gospel and our need for it – whether it was convenient or not, when he was well-rested and when he was exhausted, without complaint or excuses; compelled by love, rather than obligation (Matthew 14:14, Mark 6:31, John 4, John 10:18). To love was worth it to Him – even when it cost Him everything (1 John 3:16).
We too must: pray, share the good news and lay down our lives for others (See John 15:13, Matthew 10:1, 2 Corinthians 2, Psalm 51:17, Romans 10:9-10; 12:1, Philippians 4:6-7, James 1:5, John 16:26, John 11:22).
Love is a response and a demonstration
We love because we were first loved by God (1 John 4:19) and we have become His disciples (those who’ve learned ‘His way’) (John 13:35 and 1 John 3:23). If we were to watch a cooking demonstration on television we could learn from the chef/cook how to imitate his/her behaviour (creating delicious meals) and motives (delighting in providing bountifully for one’s family and guests). Similarly, a child of God’s motivation to love is to lead others to the Lord, so that they too might experience the breathtakingly beautiful relationship they have with Him, both here on earth and into eternity (2 Corinthians 4:18). We can love others as Christ does by taking this responsibility seriously and also giving from the joy and fullness we have found in Him! (If we struggle with this, we can pray, “God, give me your heart for these people. Give me courage to share about you through word and deed. Give me the answers to their questions. Help me!”)
Love is surrender
What is it to love? It’s to surrender everything I think about a person, and to lean in and pray, “Lord, teach me to love them as you do“. There is no checklist. It’s different for each person we relate to. It’s a matter of growing to learn to love. Beginning to see the person through the eyes of the Creator.
Surrender requires a change in our mindsets – the way we think things ‘ought to be’ – what we consider to be ‘normal/good’. It’s letting go of our fears in order to embrace difference, when others are not the same as us. It’s saying yes, when it is easier to say no. It’s a to-and-fro of giving and taking, learning together from one another (Proverbs 27:17) It’s gratitude for the uniqueness of God’s creation in humanity – appreciation for the beauty in the kaleidoscope of humankind. To love this way is to give the person grace, permission and encouragement/support to become – they may not yet be the best reflection of the identity they have in Him… for they too are on a journey. It’s to hold their hand (figuratively or literally) and walk alongside them towards the goal of being perfected in Him (Hebrews 12:2).
Just this week, as I went through some old paperwork, I uncovered a letter which reminded me of this surrender. It was from a guy who at the time was serving a prison sentence. A mutual friend had asked if I’d write to him. ‘Um… sure…’ (What was I to expect? Was this safe? Hmmm…) All my fears were wiped away as I came to know, just a little, someone incredible (who’d just so happened to have walked down a wrong path in life). He wrote interesting letters and drew me the most exquisite pictures of flowers you could ever imagine! Today, he’s a free man (free from prison and his former life and free in Christ). How cool, that God allowed me a glimpse of his special journey – all simply by accepting an invitation to step outside my comfort zone!
Love is brokenness transformed
Have you ever prayed, “Lord, break my heart for what breaks yours”? These prayers highlight issues, yet I feel like God doesn’t just want to break our hearts but to lead us to respond to the heartache, pain and desolation of this fallen world.
When brokenness is transformed into beauty, that’s love.
A broken heart sees injustice and it tugs at our heart strings. A transformed heart says, “Something needs to be done about this. What can I do, God? How can I help?” (New Amsterdam fans… I see you!)
A broken heart cries at… lives lost to abortion, criminals exiting jail as damaged as when they went in, domestic violence, homelessness, a loved one’s life ravaged by drug and alcohol abuse, human trafficking, war… and every other act of injustice in the world.
A transformed heart responds to bring… love to mothers faced with uncertainty, reform to prison systems, support for struggling families, homes for those without, freedom for those in bondage…
An incredible example of this, is the A21 Foundation (https://www.a21.org), which frees victims of modern-day slavery. Just as noteworthy is a small church in my region that saw families struggling financially and set up a Food Pantry, offering not only discounted groceries, but conversation, connection and encouragement.
The reality is, we each have the same opportunity to make a difference (Isaiah 58:6-14). We just need to pray about what we’re passionate about (the things our hearts break for), then bravely step out in obedience as He prompts us to take action!
Closer to home, we are called to love our family, friends, neighbours and colleagues. To be fair, fighting for a cause can sometimes feel easier than this! We can pray and give financially (for example, to a child sponsorship organisation) from a place of security, the refuge of our own home. To love some of the people closest to us requires so much more. No matter how demanding or stretching it may be, God still calls us:
- to embrace these ‘tough eggs’,
- to love them when they hurt, annoy or disappoint us,
- to champion them when they frustrate us by returning again and again to the same pattern of sin in their lives,
- to bite our tongues when we’d like to give them ‘a piece of our mind’,
- to forgive them and let go of the irritations that we find we experience when around them,
- To see their heart motives above their actions and words (which may not always be well aligned), and
- to give more and more of ourselves when we feel like we’ve already given enough or the giving is harder than we’d like it to be.
It’s true that these people’s brokenness also needs to be transformed into beauty, and when we love them as Christ does, it can be a catalyst for this change. Our love can be an invitation to others to experience the transformative nature of Jesus for themselves – for their true selves (who He has called them to be) to be unearthed and unhidden, brought to light… For darkness and sin to be dealt with and put away (no longer holding them captive).
I’ve watched this process unfold in the lives of some of the people I love, and it has been incredibly humbling and inspiring to walk the journey alongside them. I’ve seen them willingly embrace God’s sanctifying work in them, laying aside the ways of their old life and taking hold of His righteousness. Having a friend apologise for wrongdoings has been so sweet – not because of what it means to me, but as it has demonstrated the softness of her heart unto the Father – evidence of the transforming beauty of Him in her. I’ve truly seen the ‘goodness of God in the land of the living’ (Psalm 27:13) in these moments, and joy and gratitude has overflowed my heart. Also, to be completely real with you, I have to say that sometimes, it has been plain out hard, and it’s okay to acknowledge that.
Still, it’s important to choose to love unconditionally and immeasurably!
(and finally) Love is immense…
Love really is so much bigger than what a few mere words can say (hence, you’ll have to wait until next time for the second part of this message! Stay tuned!)
Let today’s message ‘slow cook’ in your life and ruminate in your thoughts. To receive revelation from God, it can be so helpful to dwell in a place awhile, and not rush on too quickly. Allow Him room to show you areas of your own life in which He needs to shake up your understanding of love, and push the boundaries ‘so-to-speak’ to enlarge your heart in this area.
My prayer for each of us would be that we give Him permission to mould us and make us to be more like Him. My challenge, as you read the Word in your personal quiet times over the coming weeks, would be for you to view each story through the lens of the question, ‘Who did Jesus love and how did he love them?’ Jot some notes in your journal if it helps you to make sense of it. Then, respond, asking, ‘Lord, who am I to love? Show me how to love them well’.
As we wake each morning let’s remind ourselves,
‘Today, my mission is to love like Christ did’.
Then, take note of the incredible things that happen, the miracles you get to experience and be a part of, and the moments of pure joy that you might otherwise miss if your focus was merely on the busy distractions of life.
You, Daughter, were made to LOVE! Go, do it well!
Scripture references: The Holy Bible (several translations)
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Photo by Andre Furtado: https://www.pexels.com/photo/man-and-woman-sitting-on-bench-1417255/
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