Saturday, April 9, 2016


This morning, as I was finishing up a study of the book of James in the New Testament, I read the famous words that Christians are told over and over again -- "Love your neighbor as yourself."

Then, as I continued my study into 1 Peter, it came up again. "Christians need one another."

According to my Google search, the command "love one another" appears in the Bible (NIV translation) 11 times. "Love each other" appears 4 times, and "love your neighbor" 10 times.

That's a whole lot of loving we're supposed to do.

Today, Christians all over the world are constantly faced with accusations of being hateful, unkind, or worse. If the Bible makes it so clear that we are to love EVERYONE (yes, even your worst enemy; see Matthew 5:44, Luke 6:27, and countless other verses), then why is this such a common belief of the world around us? 

I started thinking about this and wanted to share my thoughts and some encouragement.

Take a second to think of someone very close to you, someone you love. Could be a family member, a significant other, or a friend. Got it? Okay.

Now, think of a time when they hurt you. REALLY hurt you. What was it they did that upset you? How did it make you feel? Were you tempted to get revenge, or cut them off from your life?

Did you still love them?

I can't speak for everyone, but I know at least for me (and I imagine in most cases for others), when someone I love does something I don't like, I still love them.

I want to make it very clear that loving someone does not mean that you agree with everything that person says or does.

Webster's defines love as "unselfish loyal and benevolent concern for the good of another." 

The Bible's definition of love is found in 1 Corinthians 13: "Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends."

In neither of those definitions do I see, "Love always agrees and condones." What I do see is that love is concerned for the well-being of others and does not rejoice at wrongdoing. So, actually, love IS occasionally disagreeing with someone if you know what they are doing is wrong or harmful to them. But, "Love never ends." Even when times get tough, love continues on. You don't give up on someone because they did something you don't like. You love them through it.

So, Christians, please don't think you are incapable of loving someone because you don't support decisions they have made. That is completely separate from love.

I think one reason Christians often get a bad rap for being unloving is because of how some Christians choose to show their disapproval of sin. Obviously, not all Christians act out this way. Unfortunately, we live in a time where bad examples (in general, not just of Christians) get 90% of the attention.

In times like these, it is even MORE important to be the good example. Not everyone will notice, but someone will. It's easy to just hide in the midst of all the hate and hope no one notices you are part of the group they despise. It's tempting to just go on living your life and never step out in faith to model Christ-like love to everyone around us for fear of what they may think. (It's SUPER tempting for me to just delete this post and go back to letting the cobwebs grow on this blog).

But I want to encourage you not to do that. There is so much hate in the world today, ranging from attacks and wars to politics and Hollywood drama. Jesus spoke to his followers in the Sermon on the Mount, saying, "You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven." (Matthew 5:14-16)

How can we do this? I'm sure there are many ways, but loving our neighbors is a great place to start. And we can learn the best way to do this by looking back at 1 Corinthians.

Love is patient and kind: We give others time. We do not rush them. When people make mistakes or do things we disagree with, we do not force them to change their ways. We remain kind to them always.

 Love does not envy or boast: Do not be jealous of those you love. Do not boast about your successes to make yourself feel superior. When you love, you treat each other as equal.

Love is not arrogant or rude: You are not greater than the person you love. It is never okay to treat someone poorly because you think you are better than them.

Love does not insist on its own way: Love is selfless. Forcing your way on someone -- even if it is better --  is control, not love.

Love is not irritable or resentful: Don't hold hate in your heart for any reason. If something is bothering you, say something, but do so with kindness. Love does not hold grudges.

Love does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth: Love does not condone sin. When dealing with sin, however, it is important to remember that love is also patient, kind, not rude, and does not insist on its own way. Love does celebrate when truth is received.

Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things: Love remains positive. Love continues even when it is hard.

Love never ends: Love does not give up. Ever.

Are we going to win everyone over? No. But we won't win anyone over if we just hide behind our Bibles and hope no one notices us. What harm can showing Christ-like love to others really do?

I encourage you to give it a try. If you already feel that you do a pretty good job of loving others, then challenge yourself to take it a step further. I know I can do much better in EVERY aspect of love, but there are a few parts in particular (like patience...and not forcing my own way) that I really struggle with. I'm challenging myself to focus on those as I endeavor to love others fearlessly and unconditionally. 

How do you show love to others? Which aspects of the 1 Corinthians definition of love encourage you the most? Scare you the most? Let me know in the comments, I'd love to hear your thoughts!

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