Grow!

Loving Others

The second greatest commandment in the Bible is to love others, right after loving God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. (See Mark 12:28-31) I’ve been realizing lately that I haven’t taken this commandment serious enough. I “try” to be nice to people and occasionally go out of my way for another person, but I’m not really loving them the way that Jesus did.

If we look at how Jesus lived His life and how he loved, we would see that He “hung out” with sinners. Whhaattt? So you mean all my high school years I spent avoiding the “unholy” crowd was wrong? Well, not necessarily. The Bible clearly says that “bad company corrupts good morals” (1 Corinthians 15:33), however it also reminds us that people can’t be saved if they don’t hear the truth of the gospel from someone who is willing to reach out to them (Romans 10:14). Am I saying that the Bible is contradicting itself? Most certainly not! I believe that Jesus wants us to be careful when we are around unbelievers so that we won’t be swayed by their practices, but that we will be able to stand firm in the truth of Jesus Christ. And even more than standing firm in the truth, He wants us to share it with others so that they can stand firm in the truth too.

I’ve noticed in my own life that I’ve built up self-righteous walls around myself, trying to “protect” myself from all the sin of the students at my school. Sheesh! I am a sinner too.. I wish I would’ve examined my own heart sooner. I kept people at such a distance because I didn’t want other students to think that I agreed with their lifestyle choices. I wish I would’ve spent more time getting to know students and see how I could minister to them. Now I only have a semester left to do that. At the beginning of this year, I made a commitment to Christ for my senior year. I wanted to be intentional in my walk with the Lord and my obedience to Him. One of the criteria on my list was being intentional in reaching out to others by loving and serving them. I’m at the halfway point and I realized that, once again, I slipped back into my habit of being judgmental and cold to the kids at my school. I’ve realized there are a couple reasons I am acting this way:

1. Pride- I compare myself to other people on purpose just so I can see my “goodness” in light of their sin. I think “How could he or she do this?” and then I get an arrow shot through my heart when I see that my sin is viewed the same way in God’s eyes. By comparing myself to others, I put myself on a high pedestal instead of recognizing that I can only do good things by God’s grace. The best works I could do on my own are nothing but filthy rags in God’s eyes. Praise God that I can please Him through His Son’s atonement for my sins!

2. Image- (Which is technically a pride issue anyway). I am way too focused on what other people think of me. I want other people to think I’m cool, so I don’t talk to the kid who sits by himself and really needs a friend. I care too much about my reputation. WHICH IS WRONG! Jesus didn’t care what other people would think of Him when He talked to the Samaritan woman at the well, did He? See John 4:1-42 on the story of the Samaritan woman at the well.

3. Rejection- I fear being rejected by people. So I choose to push them away when I think they don’t like me. Why do I do that? It’s one of my biggest pet peeves of myself lately. Why do I treat other people a certain way based on the way they treat me? For example, I want to be friends with someone, but they are ignoring me or seem irritated with me, so I choose to ignore them so it looks like I don’t care. Or for the opposite example, I don’t really care about a person, but they try to be my friend, so I act nice to them because I don’t want to be a loner. Both of these examples display bad choices. Whether someone is kind, rude, awkward, or annoying, I want to treat them with love because they are valued by God.

If you can relate to any of these reasons, I ask you to talk to God about it and turn away from any sin issue in your heart. I know I need to continually do that so that I don’t lose my focus. So stop reading this right now and go talk to God! I’m going to take a bit to do that too and then I’ll come right back. 🙂

Okay, I’m back. Now wasn’t that nice? 🙂

Well, now that we see that we want to make a change in the way we love others and we’ve repented of our old habits, we need to put on new habits! Otherwise, we will fall right back into our old sinful ways.

Now, I don’t claim to be an expert on this, but I do feel like God has taught me a lot over the past 6 months about loving others and how I can work on that. So here are some of my top tips:

1. Pray for others. If you are struggling with loving someone, pray for them. If someone is treating you unkind, pray for them. If you don’t know how to respond to someone, pray about it. God wants us to rely on Him for strength, and praying helps remind us to be dependent on Him for strength to do what is right and wisdom to know what is right. One of my small group leaders once told me about  a Christian lady who was always treating her unkind. She knew that there was some sort of animosity between them, but she didn’t think that she had done anything to hurt the other lady. So she prayed for her. For a long time too! And eventually, the lady started to treat her kindly. It was obvious that God had answered my small group leader’s prayers and allowed a renewed relationship between the two ladies. So pray for people! God works in mighty ways!

2. Pray for your own heart. Pray that God would give you a heart that desires to reach out to people, even those that are difficult to love. “If you delight yourself in the Lord, He will give you the desires of your heart.” That’s Psalm 37:4 and I think it’s very applicable here. Pray that God would grow you in your faith and that you would make the choice to love others even when you don’t feel like it.

3. Love for the right reasons. Don’t be nice to someone just because they are cool and will get you cool friends. That’s flattery. Don’t “love” someone because it will make you look like a better person. That’s being self-righteous.  Love because Christ first loved us (1 John 4:19). Show others the love that you have been given. This is one of my biggest struggles too. It’s easy to fall into the habit of loving others with the wrong motive. Love from a pure heart and with a desire to do what pleases God.

4. Be intentional in loving others. I’ve heard it said that you can be intentionally loving toward someone, intentionally hateful toward someone, or you can be indifferent toward someone. But only one of those options includes loving someone. Being indifferent toward someone is not the same as loving them. This one hits me hard because loving someone actually takes effort, and I’m lazy. I need to continually be aware of ways that I can love someone, like helping clean up around the house, holding the door for someone, or praying for another person (praying for someone is loving them too you know!).

5. Know how to love someone. It dawned on me as I was writing this, that I kept telling you to love others, but I didn’t really say how you can love others. So here are useful ways to love others: 1 Corinthians 13. And I suppose you could throw in there living out the fruits of the spirit in Galatians 5:22-23. Get to know God and see how He loves us and then implement that in how you love other people!

6. Don’t judge. This is just a final note that I wanted to add in here because it applies to my heart big time. Don’t judge other people because they sin differently than you do. WE ALL SIN. I’m not saying that sin should be tolerated, but I am saying that you can’t expect people to only struggle with the same sins as you. People struggle with different sins, but sin is still sin. If its a fellow believer who is sinning, encourage them and try to help them grow, but remember that you sin too. Don’t place yourself on a pedestal. If its a non-believer who’s sinning, realize that you were in their place once. Aren’t you thankful that Jesus saved you from your sinful life? Don’t you want to share that with this person? Be careful that you don’t think too highly of yourself.

And that’s all I have to say about that.

^hehe Forrest Gump reference! But in all seriousness, I hope that you are working on growing in your love for God and others. Writing this was helpful for my own heart to see what things I need to work on. Please leave me a comment if you had any questions or if I said something that wasn’t accurate! I want this blog to be the honest truth! 🙂

To all my already dedicated fans, I love you.

Love, Em

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