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I heard a quote once that I have never been able to forget. It challenged me to my core, and still does today, provoking me to honestly evaluate the love I claim to possess for God and for others:
“I really only love God as much as I love the person I love the least.” Denise Sarinana
It is hard to love some people. And yet, real love does. God’s love does. Because God, Who is love, can’t help but do anything less. Therefore we, if we belong to God, must do the same.
Jesus said the two greatest commandments are to love God with all of who we are, and to love our neighbor as our self (Matthew 22:37-39), our neighbor being anyone within our reach who is in need.
When I think about the people God places in my path, some of whom I live with and some of whom I simply cross paths with, I cannot deny the fact that they are in deep need. Though they may not be able or willing to acknowledge it, their behaviors are cries for something strong enough to heal their pain. And while I am quick to pray, most of the time, for God to do something to help them, I am often reminded that God’s answer to those prayers lies in my willingness to give to them what I’ve been given: His unfailing love.
It’s easier to judge people. It’s less painful to pray and walk away. It is far less vulnerable to tell them about the answer rather than to be the answer, allowing God to love through me at a level I am not capable of myself. Often, God’s love, which is perfect and persistent, will pursue the people with the worst attitude and the meanest streak, because they are the ones with the most loveless hearts. Because they are the ones whose story will prove the power of His love. And every day, I am invited to live in that love, by trusting it to not only fill me up, but to also overflow to those around me.
I don’t want to pray and sing to a God I claim to love, but despise the very people He wants to love through me, because that would disprove my love for Him. It’s a simple truth we cannot escape: loving God means loving people…even the ones that are the hardest to love. And as we do, we experience – yes – a kind of death which must take place (the death of our pride and selfishness), but we also experience more of the new life we have been given in Christ. We also are freshly reminded that we were once – if not still – the person who was difficult to love, and that brings the kind of humility that makes room for more love.
Sometimes I think that, by fulfilling certain duties or showing certain kindnesses, I am showing love to others. But Jesus did not command us to merely “show love.” He commanded us to love the way that He has loved us, which is only possible as we dwell in His love. His love is sacrificial. It lays down its rights and its life for the sake of another – even if that other doesn’t acknowledge or appreciate the price of the love given.
This cannot be done by willpower or in our own strength. We must be soaked in God’s love before we can give God’s love to the people we love the least. So today, as we are confronted with such a challenge, let us be encouraged by the fact that there is a place we can go to get what we don’t feel we have just yet: in Christ! In Christ, we will realize that we have been given all we need to do what is required: love others more.
Consider the people you are challenged to love, and rather than refuse the challenge, ask God to fill you with more of His love until that love overflows and abounds toward everyone you come into contact with today. Imagine what would happen if we began to live as if we were truly, perfectly loved? There would be a revolution in the world around us!
Mother Teresa said, “When you know how much God is in love with you, then you can only live your life radiating that love.” I am making this my aim today – to know the fullness of God’s love for me, so I can live in such a way that His love radiates toward the ones I don’t know how to love. I pray you will do the same, because the Bible says that the world will know we are His, not by the words we say or the services we perform, but by the way that we love (John 13:35).
May you be encouraged and empowered to love like He loves, because of His great love!