The more I set out to learn to love the harder I find it is to love. It’s as though I told God, “I want to love,” and He put more challenging situations in my path. My biggest problem is I don’t forget, and in not forgetting, I struggle to forgive. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t have a great memory, but when it comes to being wronged, I tend to remember, and that’s the hard part. How can I love like Jesus loved? How can I learn to love my neighbor as I love myself?
The Opposite of Loving
As I prepare for so many of life’s current transitions, like moving to Australia, I’m finding myself in deep contemplation mode. Lately, I feel like I’m doing the opposite of loving. In the middle of stress and the chaotic disorder that has become my life – the disorder of packing, moving and shifting my life – I’ve found loving “my neighbor” to be harder and harder. My temper is short and the to-do list is long. What does loving my neighbor as myself look like in real life?
The Christian Walk is Not Fluffy Marshmallows and Hot Cocoa
Sometimes I think we view the Christian walk as fluffy marshmallows and hot cocoa. We think “with Jesus in the vessel we can smile at the storm.” And we can, and we will. But in the face of the tempest, we don’t always feel fluffy and sweet. In fact, I was talking with Peter about this earlier today – my inability to forget. Or should I say, my ability to hold a grudge, and He said, we’re going to have to work on that. I paused for a second and thought about it. And then he restated, we’re going to have to pray about it, and let God work on it.
For me that’s my first step to learning to love my neighbor. It’s recognizing that I’m not as soft, kind and sweet as I’d like to portray myself. I’m not as color blind, country blind or culture blind as I’d like to paint myself to be. There are people against whom I have held a grudge for quite some time. There are photos of people that still cause a rush of emotion to wash over me.
Have Mercy on Me a Sinner
Learning how to love for me, right now, is about admitting the deplorable state that I’m in. (Luke 18:13) It’s about recognizing that I’m not who I claim to be. It’s about presenting myself spiritually naked before God, and asking Him to cover me with His righteousness. I know I’m not where I need to be, in fact I’m very far from it.
Bryan Roberts recently wrote an article in Relevant magazine called “How to Love the People You Don’t Like” about the same topic. Apparently God is putting this issue on the hearts of many different people. He states, “According to Jesus in the hierarchy of spiritual acts and activities, love tops them all.” He gives 5 steps to move forward in our quest to love our neighbors.
1. Get over yourself – Much of our dislike comes from condescension. Step off your high horse as you take in the world around you.
2. Ask questions – Engage with people. Relationships are built through the asking and answering of questions, so start asking.
3. Survive and advance – Pick your battles. Some days it’s just smarter to survive than to pick or allow a fight to take place.
4. Focus on common ground – Search for commonalities instead of differences.
5. Become a servant – Jesus was a servant leader. Act as He acted.
What’s your take on this. How can we learn to love those around us? God, please help me learn how I can love my neighbor as I love myself. Help me to be able to see people with your eyes!
(Photo Credit: Johnny Ainsworth, Flickr, http://bit.ly/1nNgn0T, License: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/)