Amazing Grace: How Everyone Can Stop Pretending And Actually Love Others
My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. – John 15:12-13
Love is a buzzword today. It looks good on a T-shirt. Politicians say it enough about people groups one could make a drinking game of it. And as Christians we should aspire toward it. But according to Jesus’ quote in John we should watch our lips, because that’s a pretty lofty standard. I have certainly fallen far short.
It’s hard hearing everyone saying the word “love” tossed around so much when we watch the news and see all the food wasted while millions starve or people sleeping in the streets when there are viable, proven solutions. But in our day in age everyone points blame at everyone else but themselves. There is a poignant saying about this, that when we point our finger at someone else we have four pointing back at us. Like, sometimes I want to rail against offenders yet we have a spare bedroom no one’s living in, I have clothes I haven’t worn in five years, and today I got some Chinese food and threw half of it away.
I don’t love others. Not as I should. I don’t love my wife as Jesus told me to. I’m too caught up in the rat race to visit with my elderly neighbor as he sits outside waiting for someone to talk to. I don’t love the impoverished people in our community. In fact, I don’t even know who they are. I don’t, don’t, don’t.
So I mustn’t forget I am also part of the problem. Please understand that you are, too, because then we can move past identifying problems and actually work to solve them. Then God’s grace can be activated, which is like the turn of a car ignition to drive us places we couldn’t go otherwise.
Jesus set the standard that we must follow for loving others – dying an excruciatingly painful death.
Okay, so we aren’t likely actually being called to be martyrs, though current world events might make us wonder. But we still need to try and understand what this instruction must mean. To bring another voice into the discussion, the Oxford Dictionary defines love as “an intense feeling of deep affection.” But that’s the end goal and I’ve learned the hard way this doesn’t just happen. It starts with sacrifice.
Referencing a few excerpts from scripture, we can see some directions for our love – husbands are to lay down their lives for their wives and wives are to be fully devoted their husbands (Eph. 5), we are to train up children in the way they should go (Prov. 22), and outside of this we are to care for “the least of these,” or poor people (Matthew 25). And that references money, but that isn’t all it refers to.
Still, everyone likes black and white answers, so what should our love look like? Unfortunately it will be small and quiet and most often nobody can see it, not even ourselves. Left-hand-not-knowing-what-the-right-hand-is-doing sort of stuff.
The Love List
A couple years ago I felt I wasn’t doing enough good in the world or wasn’t living up to the standard God desired, so I started writing a list of good deeds I could do and even wrote “Love List” at the top. Then I patted myself on the back and let out a long sigh.
I filled a page with ideas of big idea things I could do for others. I don’t think I maintained it for even a week because every time I sat down with a pen to write it felt like I was writing a love note to myself. I was ignoring all the small needs of those around me to conjure ideas that would reap warm fuzzies.
God was surely shaking his head at me, wanting me to simply knock on my neighbor’s door or call the first five people on my phone contact list.
There are so many needs to be met in this world that none of us need to sit down with a pad and paper, we just need to open our eyes, prepare our hearts and be willing to sacrifice.