I’ll be honest… I’ve never been great at memorising scripture. It’s something I want to work on, but it’s never really been something I’ve been all too brilliant at.
There are, however, a few passages that my parents taught me and my sisters when we were younger, that I don’t think I’ll ever forget. We would write them on a little chalkboard in the middle of our kitchen table and practice them every morning. The first was Galatians 5:22-23- the fruits of the Spirit. The second was the Lord’s prayer and the third, 1 Corinthians 13:4-8… the ‘love passage’.
‘Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonour others. It is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices in the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.’ 1 Corinthians 13:4-8
I love this passage… such a beautiful description of what Christ-like love should look like.
Friend, I don’t know about you, but I want to love like described in 1 Corinthians 5. I want people to be able to see Jesus just through the way I love them. But, surprise, surprise, I’m not perfect. In fact, I’m far, far from it. I daily mess up, I realize it as do it, and so often in my sinful nature, I don’t even change my ways at first. I struggle continually with loving the people the Lord has placed in front of me… I try to do better but I still suck!
But, even though I’m the furthest imaginable from being ‘good’ at loving, I’m trying and I’m praying. I’m asking God to help me love better and love stronger… I’m asking Him to help me love more as Jesus did. I’ve been learning lots on this journey. It hasn’t all been nice or easy to hear, and some of it has been oh-so painful, but I want to share just five ways I’ve felt God telling me I can love better.
1) Love selflessly
Hard as it may be to hear, loving like Jesus does means putting others first over and over again. In fact, in Mark 12:31, Jesus himself tell us that the second greatest commandment is ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ As Christians, our call is to love others so much that they can see the love of Jesus shining through us. The problem is, when we focus on ourselves (which we so often fall into the habit of doing), we don’t give a good representation of how Jesus loves. Jesus’ love is displayed in this: ‘While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.’ (Romans 5:8) That is the most selfless act of love throughout all of time… that Jesus gave up His perfect self for us so that maybe, one day, if we’d ever choose to, we could love Him back and spend forever with Him.
I’m not saying we need to die on a cross for the people we’re called to love, I’m just saying we need to love them in imitation of Christ’s selfless love for us.
2) Love obediently
Here’s the thing: the people or the person God is calling you to love might not be the ones you want to love. I’ve battled with this before and I’m finding myself struggling with it again… so often when God shows me someone who He wants me to love, it’s not the person I want to put all the effort into loving. Sometimes I think it would be so much simpler if God could give me someone who would be ‘easy’ to love… but as Christians, we are to obediently love whoever God places in front of us, even if we’d rather they be someone else. We need to humble ourselves and obey what the Lord has asked of us!
3) Love practically
I remember being upset a while back about someone I knew who was struggling with something. I was explaining my feelings to my dad, and he said to me, ‘I love your compassion for this person, but don’t just cry about it… let it call you to action’. I thought about that for a while, and about what things I could do to show this person love. Sure, I could pray, I could use kind words (and indeed, I did both of those things), but why not be practical too? So, I thought about what practical things I could do to help this person out and how I could show them love by doing that.
I saw something recently that said, ‘I feel loved when your actions match your words.’ It struck me how true that is… when we use our words in a loving way but don’t back it up with action then it can often be hard for the person we’re trying to love to understand if we’re actually serious or not. It can so often be far easier to say loving things than to do them… after all, words slip out far easier than actions!! So, let’s make an effort to love practically too!
4) Love constantly
Some days when I get out of bed I really, REEEALLY don’t want to love the people God had placed in my life. I want to go on my own merry way and focus on myself and what I want to do. And whilst that might be the easy thing to do, it’s not what Jesus asks of us. No, Jesus asks us to love the Lord our God and then to love our neighbour. So, even on the days where we don’t want to put in the effort or go the extra mile, we have to… because that’s what Jesus asks us to do, and that is how we can best show HIS love to those around us.
5) Love without expectations
I learned this one the hard way. People leave. They’re unkind. They give up on your relationship. They don’t return the love you give to them. And that SUCKS. But we can’t not love others because we fear of our time may be wasted if they eventually leave. We can’t love others tentatively in case we end up getting hurt. We can’t stop loving people out of fear or to protect ourselves. Part of loving like Jesus is loving unconditionally and unashamedly, even if that love mightn’t ever be returned.
Well, there you have it, my five lessons in loving. Friend, I want you to know, I am nowhere near good at any of these things… each day the Lord is still teaching me how I can do better. I’m not perfect at loving… in fact, no one but Jesus is! But whilst I may not be good at these things, I desperately want to be able to love more like Jesus does.
I want to love selflessly, love obediently, love practically, love constantly and love without expectations. I want to love like Jesus does.