by Margaret D. Mitchell
Week of June 29, 2014
"Sanctify them through Thy truth: Thy word is truth." -John 17:17 (KJB)
One day I attended a high school graduation party for a young friend. In a conversation with the child’s father—a longtime church-going Christian—about the gathering, he confessed that he doesn’t like people.
I was a bit taken aback and thought, “Well, so much for the Greatest Commandments and the Great Commission!”
Later, I pondered what this man said and how he seemed to get along well with people socially. And then I wondered…
- Do any of us in our carnal flesh really like others?
- Or have we just learned to do what’s socially required—get along topically—smile and nod, make small talk and pretend to be interested.
- Do we make an authentic effort to love others?
- And if so, what does that look like?
- Where does it come from?
If there is anything authentic in us, it comes from our Helper, The Holy Spirit, who illuminates the truth of God’s Word (Jesus) and reveals God’s wisdom to us—beyond our own thoughts and imaginings.
Is it possible for us to love others God’s way but not like them initially? I believe so…when we actively do it by faith, believing His word, asking God to purify our hearts to catch up with His will.
Ezekiel 36:26-27 (NIV) tells us…
"I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow My decrees and be careful to keep my laws."
And David reminds us in Psalm 51:10 (NLT) to pray…
"Create in me a clean heart, O God. Renew a loyal spirit within me."
The Spirit of The Lord impressed upon me one day that not all believers are followers. And not all followers follow Christ in every area of their lives.
Loving others God’s way requires an intentional choice of our humble submission to God’s will; and it has been my experience that when there’s full yieldingness, it doesn’t take long for a bumper crop of love. God can cleanse a heart and renew a spirit in an instant.
When you meet someone you don’t like, do you submit your whole heart to God and sincerely ask Him to put more of His love in your heart so you can see them and love them His way?
Loving others isn’t an option. It’s God’s second greatest commandment: “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Matt 22:39). God knew it was easy for us to love ourselves and our children and to live in our own little worlds; but when it came to neighbors, He had to remind us in the format and priority of a great commandment.
Jesus laid it out in John 15:9-17 (NLT)…
“I have loved you even as the Father has loved Me. Remain in My love. When you obey My commandments, you remain in My love, just as I obey My Father’s commandments and remain in His love. I have told you these things so that you will be filled with My joy. Yes, your joy will overflow! This is my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you. There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are My friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you slaves, because a master doesn’t confide in his slaves. Now you are my friends, since I have told you everything the Father told me. You didn’t choose Me. I chose you. I appointed you to go and produce lasting fruit, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask for, using My Name. This is My command: Love each other."
One of the purposes of loving others is to draw them nearer to Jesus. Another purpose is to do a work of sanctification in us. Sometimes, we have to be reminded that God often works in parallels. And sometimes, we have to be reminded to live holy lives, to be awakened to more humility and dependence on God as our source. Remember God exalts the humble, and He can use an “unlovable” neighbor to cause us to humble ourselves before His throne and press into Him for a cleaner heart.
If you invite Jesus into your heart, He will do works of grace in you. His love will fill your heart to overflowing so you can love others His way.
Paul reminds us in Phil 2:12-13 (NASB)... "So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure."
- Envy… We may also want to ask ourselves why we don’t like someone. Is envy involved? That can be a big hindrance and even an enemy attack to try to get you off focus, off course and entangled in a stranglehold that can rob you of your blessings while cannibalizing someone else with words or actions.
- Lust… The idol of sinful lust, as in David’s case, can cause us to turn from loving other’s God’s way to seeing them in a perverted fashion. When we give way to carnal pleasures over God’s will, we can hinder God in our lives until we authentically repent.
- Insecurity… We must know who we are in Christ so we don’t perceive ourselves as unloved or unworthy. We cannot share what we do not realize Christ died to give us. It’s not easy to be happy for someone else when our wounded, deceived hearts perceive lack in our own lives.
- Indifference/Impatience… Do we really desire to spend the time that’s required to get to know someone and understand more about them, to lift them up, to disciple them? Do we perceive their value as God does?
- Hatred… Hatred is a soulful reaction that can be rooted in ignorance and fear, and it usually reacts in judgment and rejection. It’s important to remember that Jesus loves sinners and is merciful.
It’s all about pleasing God, and loving others pleases God. He is big enough to deal with our hard hearts and to love others through us.
"Don't just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good" (Rom 12:9, NLT).
This devotional was adapted from Margaret's forthcoming book, "Enduring Grace." All rights reserved. Copyright 2014.