I used to think of myself as a loving person, but recently I have been confronted with some hard to swallow realities about myself and my so-called "love". I love my family (most of the time), I love my friends (most of them), and I love my life (more times than not). Isn't that enough? I love more than I don't love. Don't I get some credit for that?
Last night was a big wake up call for me. At youth group we do a lot of outreach, which means that we get a lot of kids that have never been in church and are largely brought up in less than spectacular homes. These kids are truly hard to love. But last night I realized that because of that fact they need the most love. Their parents probably don't show them the love they need. Their teachers are just trying to manage the classroom and don't have the time to show love to each student. Their friends are just as unloved as they are, so they can't show the love they each need either. Looking out over the sea of middle school and high school students I realized that we see them once a week, and our love for them could be the only love they get from an adult all week. They don't need more hugs or presents, they need the love of Christ.
The kids test our patience and sometimes they make us want to scream, but if we want to impact them with Jesus, shouldn't we show love like He shows love?
I know that in my years as a child of God I have tested His patience and given Him a reason to want to scream! I have violated His commands and gone against everything He has asked me to do. Yet He still loves me in such a huge way that I can't understand.
Think about it this way: Before God sent His Son to the earth to die for sins, He knew I would be born and that I would do terrible things, yet He sent Jesus anyway. He forgave me of every sin that I would commit thousands of years before I was even born, and He wouldn't change His mind.
I think we can all agree that our families or those closest to us get the brunt of our anger and least of our love on a daily basis. It is easiest to hurt the ones we know will love us anyway, but does that give us the right to?
I know that I need to do better at loving my friends too. I can love them when I feel loved by them, but that's not true love. Love is not a feeling and should not be based on their love for me. I have a friend that I know that I have hurt in the past, and since then it has been very tense between the two of us. I find myself avoiding situations where I know she will be or leaving a room when she walks in. This is not truly loving her. In my mind, it's over and done with. But for her it isn't. If I truly loved her like Christ loves me, I would do better to ease that tension or pull her aside and work things out. But I don't know how to do that without making things worse. This is something I need to work on. Loving when it is difficult, or when my pride might get hurt, or when I may not get that love back. It is not possible to waste love. It always has an impact.
If we really want to show love to people, we must remember that there is no way to love them enough in our own strength. We have to turn to the Spirit and say "I know that You have called me to love like You have loved, so I am going to need your help in doing that." We are not able to love people enough on our own because of our flesh that fights against the things God has called us to. We can only do that with His love coursing through our veins and His words bouncing off our lips.
There are 2 places that come to mind when thinking about love. The first is obvious, 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 (the "Love is" passage). And the second is also a well known passage, Galatians 5:22-23 (The fruit of the Spirit). I encourage you to look into these passages and find something that you have never seen about them. I know for me, every time I read them I see something or make a connection that I hadn't before.