From the moment we are born we are instilled with the quality to love others. Wide-eyed infants in need of nourishment, we associate love with the comfort of another individual. Oh, to be a child again and feel what it’s like to love others with nothing holding you back! No judgment, no hatred, no record of right and wrong—simply the desire to love another person for who they are.
“Easier said than done,” is repeating through some of your heads (I get it, mine too.). As we get older and learn what it means to love the deepest parts of others, we fall into the sin of hatred. If our feelings get hurt, we associate hurt with that person. If they don’t fit our self-made mold of ‘worthy to love’, we fail to give them our all. The book of right and wrong suddenly begins to fill to the brim and feelings, so far from love, begin to fill our soul.
When I was twelve years old, my family and I took a trip to the mall for Christmas gifts. We had just had the best morning filled with laughter and my dad’s famous monkey bread. After going their separate ways to their favorite stores we all realized my dad was nowhere to be found. What we thought was a trip to the restroom turned into the blurriest day of my life. Phone calls with no answer. Waiting by the phone, expecting the worst. Until he finally returned our frantic calls and told my mom he was leaving us. That he could no longer take it. That he could no longer love us. It came out of nowhere and the monkey bread and laughter filled morning soon turned into skipped meals and tears to no end. In that moment, my heart and my mind redefined what love meant to me. Don’t get me wrong… I knew that my mom, grandparents and so many others in my life loved me to no end, but the love of a father became a distant memory. That love had found its end.
It took me a long time to learn to love again. I was a feisty child who was quick to point out other’s flaws. I was a professional at hesitant love. Slow to share who I was with others and lashing out from the anger I had buried somewhere deep inside.
I first met Jesus in The Loft of Warren Baptist Church. I hesitantly came with a friend each week looking for something I didn’t know I desperately needed. After finding myself repeating worship songs in my head in our lonely two story home, I suddenly knew the reason for coming in the doors each Wednesday—God’s love knew no end. My heavenly Father’s love, that kind of love, knew no end. I didn’t have to hold onto the pain of the world anymore or at least not let it define who I was. In time, God revealed to me that not only was I worthy enough to be loved but as His child, I was called to love others. I stopped seeing family backgrounds, race, past sin, struggles, and offenses against me as reasons to not love them. I hate to break it to you, but love is not just a feeling that just musters itself up, it’s an action. It’s a choice.
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. —John 3:16
We’ve heard it a million times, but we all need to hear it again. God sent His son to die for us out of pure, endless love. He knows every bruised and broken part of us yet, He still says, “I love you”. In return, He commands us to love Him with our all. Yet, He also commands us to fiercely love others.
Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does no love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have seen. —1 John 4:20
When are we going to lay down our books of right and wrong that we keep scribbling notes in every time the news comes on? When are we going to start answering the phone calls of the one that hurt us? When are we going to start looking our loved one in the eye again? When are going to lay down the bitterness, the shame, the judgment, and all of the devil’s schemes so that we can wildly love others?
If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. 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. —1 Corinthians 13:1-7
It’s going to be hard. It’s always hard. But if God can see the darkest parts of our souls and tell us that we are white as snow, I think it’s worth it to return that same kind of love to our brothers and sisters. It’s not always going to look like hugs and kisses or warm pies to our new neighbors. It might simply be a look in their eye, or leaning into forgiveness. Fight for love. There is victory in store for those who don’t lose hope in love.
And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. —1 Corinthians 13:13