Jesus replied: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.” -Matthew 22:37-39
Seems easy enough, right?
If you can answer yes, please teach me because I am struggling.
Many of us have heard these verses along with a multitude of others on ‘how to love’ throughout our lives, but I don’t think we (i.e.-me) truly grasp the weight of this command. So in the hopes of God using these words to speak to you while breaking down some of my own walls, I want to be real with you. Loving everyone is not easy.
Loving people you don’t like is hard enough, but I would argue that its often hard to even love the people your supposed to love. Before my family reads this and I get a phone call asking me why I think they are hard to love, let me be very clear: I love my family and I love my friends, fiercely. I don’t show it like I should, but the fact of me loving them should never be in question. The point that I’m trying to make is its not whether or not I love them, but it’s how I love people that needs work.
If you’ve read 1 Corinthians 13, you know where I’m going with this. If you haven’t read this chapter, here’s a little piece (but please go read the whole chapter because it is so good):
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails…” (v 4-8)
How often do you find yourself without patience, ready to snap at the next person who even utters a word in your direction? How often does pride stand in the way of you seeking/receiving/extending forgiveness? How often do you hold a grudge? How often do you find yourself unable to find it in your heart to love someone who has hurt you? Or hurt someone important to you? How often do you cherish the love you receive? How often do you take it for granted? How often do you protect the ones you love? How often do you protect their reputation?…
The questions could keep coming, but it all comes down to this: my love falls very short of the 1 Corinthians 13 love. I am selfish. I am prideful. I take the love I’m offered for granted. Sometimes it physically hurts to try to love people who have hurt me or someone close to me. But as with every post, the story *thankfully* doesn’t end with me.
I read a simple prayer a few weeks ago written by Billy Graham that has stuck with me, and thankfully so because this prayer is quickly becoming one I pray daily:
“Your limitless love causes me to see the narrowness of mine, Lord Jesus. Fill me with Your loving Spirit.”
Its easy for me to look at my life and tell myself that I’m good. That I’m living good enough, I’m loving good enough, and I’m a good enough person. Then I think of the lengths Jesus went to to show his love, and I’m reminded of the depth of my sin and my shortcomings.
In being reminded of my sin, I’m also reminded of my need for a Savior and the love He showed so graciously and so humbly. His love literally came down from heaven to pick me up and wash me clean (and to do the same for you). If that’s not enough, God himself is love, and His Spirit lives within us. It’s through these reminders that I appreciate this prayer a little more.
The love of God knows no limits, no end, no conditions. Meanwhile mine knows all three a little too well… so all I can say is “Fill me with Your loving Spirit,” continue walking through this faith-journey with my eyes locked on Jesus, and pray for the heart-change I so desperately need.