Jesus revolutionized love. He showed us that to love we often have to disregard personal comfort and convenience. Jesus demonstrated love to the fullest, putting it into action even when it was really painful.
No one forced Jesus to leave heaven and come to earth. But His love compelled him. He didn’t want to just stand by and watch the world suffer. He volunteered for the rescue mission. He chose to experience suffering to show us what love really looks like. In the words of the Message, “The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood.” (John 1:14a)
The Son possessed more than anyone else in the entire universe, but He left it behind to grow up as one of us and experience our pain. And how did the world thank Him? A few welcomed Him as savior, but most ridiculed Him and rejoiced in His brutal murder.
“And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!” (Phil 2:8)
How does our love compare? Do we cling to comfort, or do we willingly give it up to help those in need? Do we readily forgive others, or is it a bit like pulling teeth? I know I need a whole lot of help to love like that. I look at the perfect, selfless love of Jesus and feel like a total failure. I could say, “Hey, look, I’m no Jesus; God doesn’t expect that kind of love to come from me!” Or does He?
Here’s the kicker. I’m not off the hook. Jesus actually commands us to love one another: “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” (John 13:34) Jesus also said, “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you.” (Luke 6:27) OK, so I am called to love others, to forget about my own comfort and convenience and reach out to those I don’t really like, even to those who might hate me.
Sounds impossible! Well, that’s because it is. This kind of love isn’t going to flow naturally from our hearts. There isn't an 'on' switch we can just flick. This love is not from this world. That’s why Jesus entered our world. He knew we needed to be freed from sin in order to love.
So what hope do we have of growing in this kind of love? The key is faith. We can only love this way through trusting in the one who embodied love. Think about that difficult person you butt heads with at work or at school, or that rough individual you feel God is calling you to reach out to, or someone in your family with whom you have a broken or rocky relationship. Would you dare to trust God to show you how to love that person?
Here are 5 steps to loving by faith:
Remember how much Jesus loves you. Read through the stories of His crucifixion and regain that sense of awe at all He gave up to secure your freedom.
Confess the limitations of your own love. Jesus knew none of us would measure up. That’s why He sent His Spirit to nurture His love in our hearts.
Surrender the difficult relationship to Him. Place the person’s negative responses to you in His hands. Ask Him to heal any emotional scarring you have from this person.
Ask Him to teach you how to love. You don’t have what it takes, but He does. Trust that He will give you the words to say in times of conflict, and that He will show you what actions you can do to demonstrate true love.
Choose love. When pain and frustrations with this person surface, you need to choose to bless and not curse, to sacrifice your time and energy and not just retreat for self-preservation.
As you take these steps, your attitude will begin to change. You will be amazed at the transformation that will take place in your heart through faith. Love—the real Jesus kind of love—will be taking root in you. When you put yourself in the place of total dependence on His power to help you love, He always proves Himself faithful. His Spirit will speak to your heart and teach you what it means to love even when it’s painful. He will give you the strength to love as He commanded. And the joy it will bring will be out-of-this-world—literally, cause it all started when Jesus loved us so much that He moved into the neighborhood.
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