HOW TO LOVE OTHERS AS CHRIST DOES
“You are God’s children whom he loves, so try to be like him. Live a life of love just as Christ loved us and gave himself for us as a sweet-smelling offering and sacrifice to God.” (Ephesians 5:1-2)
Love is in the AND
Have you ever watched ‘Pride and Prejudice’ and wondered at how Elizabeth Bennet finds Mr Darcy barely tolerable and yet also lovely? As much as we can look at that film and think, ‘Oh, it’s just a sappy romance’, I must admit that loving another can actually be very much like Lizzie experienced. It can seem contradictory, even when it is not (case in point: God is a mighty judge, yet also a merciful friend to us). Love calls us to act ‘this way’ AND ‘that way’, which can take us a little to get our heads around.
Our words may need to be gentle, kind and comforting; and at times strong and confronting (exposing darkness by bringing truth) (Proverbs 27:6). Our love should acknowledge wrongdoing, whilst also offering forgiveness. We need to be patient with others, whilst also hoping for change and growth to come quickly.
Love which delights in what is right, good and best, also necessitates discipline and correction.
Our love must allow for questions and conversations, and also demand trust (even when answers are not forthcoming). We must hold tight to those we love, whilst also letting them go, giving them freedom to choose the life they wish to lead. We should not be easily angered, yet allow righteous anger to stir us to act against injustice. Our love cannot be envious (coveting, comparing, controlling), but should also be jealous (in that we should eagerly desire to spend time with others, to come to know them more fully as the daughter/son whom God created them to be) (Exodus 34:14). Our love should be full of consistency (the ‘to be expected’) and also surprises (kind gestures which say, ‘I thought of, and wanted to honour and celebrate, you’). Sometimes we need to rejoice with a friend, and other times to mourn with them (Matthew 5:3-10).
Love at it’s best is a reciprocal relationship of giving and taking, a sharing of ourselves with others, an exchange which says, ‘You are seen, known, valued and loved’ and also ‘I am allowing myself to be vulnerable before you’. There is a depth to love which grows over time, as a relationship is invested in, hurdles are overcome, strength is built and commitment is more fully established (as our words and actions essentially say, ‘I’m in this for the long haul, for you matter to me’). Love develops from a small seed into a flourishing plant with fresh green foliage, vibrant flowers and sweet fruits that we can delight in.
Love is a covering
In Pride and Prejudice, Elizabeth comes to a realisation that Mr Darcy had known of the indiscretions of one of her sisters, but had ‘covered’ them. He’d essentially done what he felt was necessary to ensure there wouldn’t be embarrassment or shame placed upon the family. He protected them – which is an incredibly honourable and loving thing to do.
1 Peter 4:8 says that love covers a multitude of sins.
Lizzie and Mr Darcy covered up with thick, warm, woollen cloaks for their frosty Winter morning walks. In the same manner, ‘covering’ the sins of others provides them with refuge and emotional safety. This type of love doesn’t ‘cover up’ in a corrupt manner (which would allow for sin to continue and for people to be hurt in an on-going way), but rather it gives grace and encouragement for a person to acknowledge and face their transgressions, repent and change. In a sense, it says, ‘What you’re doing is not right, but rather than oust you to the gossipers who’ll tear apart your reputation, I’ll walk with you towards restoration’. Sometimes, we’re called to do this by speaking openly and freely with the person, and in other situations, God simply prompts us to pray, asking that the Holy Spirit will reveal their sin to them, along with the forgiving nature and character of God, that they may be able to deal with it and grow to become more like Christ.
Wives, this can be a real learning journey with knowing how to approach your husband when you might feel that they could be doing things differently and you’re wondering, ‘How do I help them in this situation?’. A few verses you might like to prayerfully consider around this include: Genesis 2:18, Proverbs 11:22; 12:4; 19:13; 21:9 & 19; 27:6 & 15-18; 25:24; 31:11-12 &26, 1 John 4:18, Zephaniah 3:17, Romans 12:10, Ephesians 4:29 and 1 Peter 3:1-2. If you find visual reminders helpful, perhaps grab a piece of paper and write in the middle of the page, ‘My role is to…’, and then create a mind map with the key thoughts from the verses above (and any other revelations God gives you) around that heading. Place it somewhere prominent where you’ll see it and be reminded of God’s heart for your role as a wife. As you reflect on these verses you might feel that word ‘contradictory’ come to mind again… Ask God what His ‘this’ AND ‘that’ looks like for your marriage. Also, remember that God never calls us to do something that He hasn’t equipped us for (2 Timothy 3:6-17). If you’re struggling, go to the source – pray and ask for the Father’s help, and seek truth from the wisdom in the Word! (It can be so reassuring to go to a friend for advice, but be selective in this. Will your friend speak Godly wisdom and biblical truth to you, even if it’s challenging to hear, or will they just ‘tickle your ears’ with an answer that makes you feel good?)
Single friends use this season to develop skills in relating well to others (family, friends, colleagues). Learn to live in the ‘AND’ with those God has placed in your life. Let this time be one of refinement, so that you’ll exemplify God’s love wherever you go. For me personally, whilst having been single for a loooooong time, I can honestly say that I feel like the last few years have been those where I know I’ve grown the most in this area. It hasn’t been easy, and I’ve felt the sandpaper of having the ‘knots in my wood’ (issues in my character!) smoothed out, rather harshly at times. I could give examples of specific situations and relationships where this has happened, but in order to be ‘covering’ in my love, I won’t share those details. What I will say is that this process has been so good for me! (Proverbs 27:17) Embrace the hard, for it brings out the best in us!
To love is to offer an invitation
Our love towards others gives them a small taste of the love of God, and it invites them to get to know the One who is love (God Himself). Such love captures the hearts of those who are longing to have their worth recognised and appreciated.
It reminds me of an incredible few hours I spent exploring the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam five years ago. This stunning gallery exhibits exquisite works of art from famous artists such as Vermeer, Rembrandt and others. Something a little unique, at that time, was that you could use an app to hear narration about the artists and their works as you wandered through the halls. I noticed just how much greater my understanding of the artists’ purpose I had when I utilised this tool, as opposed to if I’d merely viewed the works from my own perspectives and understanding. So it is with us, that the only one who truly sees our value, in its entirety, is the One who created us.
What a privilege it is, then, that our love should be a catalyst for this – to give others an opportunity to meet and know Jesus for themselves, and in doing this, for their true selves to be unearthed, brought to light! Want to see this phenomenon in action? Call out the God-given beauty in others – if you see something good in someone, tell them! Let them begin to see themselves as He does and throw out that invitation for them to encounter the Artist who created them (Isaiah 64:8).
To love is to extend forgiveness, kindness, compassion and mercy
Earlier this week, I tried to help someone, offering some expertise around a particular topic in which she could have benefited from some insight. In response, I received some rather abrasive words… and an opportunity.
Opportunity, you say. What? Yes, that’s right. This interaction gave me a choice about how I would respond. Initially, I found myself feeling frustrated at her response, particularly knowing that she was going to face difficulty which could easily have been avoided. Yet in that moment, I got to choose to give her freedom (to do what she wished to with the words I’d shared and to make her own decisions regardless of what the consequences might be), to forgive her for her words and the manner way in which she’d delivered them, and to continue to love her anyway. Did you notice that I used the word, ‘got’? Yes, forgiveness, grace, mercy and kindness are something we get to offer to others. We’re not forced to. We can offer them to others as a gift, just as Jesus gave His life to extend these same things to us (Exodus 34:6 and Jeremiah 31:3). This requires us to make a decision to not be self-serving, nor live out of our feelings, but to approach others with compassion. It also reminds us to love others in spite of their wrongdoings, just as Christ loves us knowing full-well that we’ve sinned against Him again and again. In the moment with my friend this week, I realised I could focus on protecting the relationship, or on knowing that I was right… and I recognised that the relationship was more important (Ephesians 4:2-3 and Luke 6:31-35). This single incident didn’t change my love for her – I just needed to answer her respectfully, then move on. Furthermore, I was able to show her mercy, knowing that I all too often need it myself.
Loving others calls us to greater levels of compassion and tender-heartedness! (See 1 Corinthians 16:14 and Colossians 3:14)
Something worth noting…
If I’d responded in the ‘heat of the moment’ that day, things may have happened a little differently (with a whole lot less grace from me!)… My hot tip for the day is this: be slow to respond… (James 1:19), walk away, take a breath, regulate your emotions, find perspective, pray, seek God for how to proceed).
To love is to be generous
To love is to be liberal with our words, time, possessions, finance, talents and hospitality. Have a look at these verses and allow them to spur you on to ‘good works’: Deuteronomy 10:18, Psalm 9:18, and Matthew 25:35-40.
God loves a cheerful giver! (2 Corinthians 9:7)
Perhaps you might like to comment below, or get together and share with friends:
- What has God taught you about love?
- What has surprised you?
- How do you feel He is challenging you to grow more in your love for others?
- In what ways, or to whom, can you extend your generosity a little further?
My latest personal growth point: foster care. If you’re open to having old mindsets broken and new ones shaped by the gospel, I highly recommend you read, ‘Foster the Family’ (by Jamie Finn)! You’ll be glad you did!
Scripture references: The Holy Bible (several translations)
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