As followers of Jesus Christ, you and I are called to be different. Not odd. But different. In fact, we’re called to be excellent and notable. Clearly, not in a prideful way. But instead in a way that people notice because our attitudes and actions transmit messages of love, hope and joy to the hearts of others . . . even when they may not be able to describe it.
One of the ways we are called to be different is how we love others. At first this difference may seem slight, but believe me, it’s powerful. The love we are called to give and demonstrate is fashioned after God’s kind of love. And as we learn more about Him and as we become more mature in our Christian walk, we get better at sharing Christ-centered love with others. Let me explain:
In the world, love is so often based on how we feel about the other person, whether it’s a friend, a family member, or even a co-worker or associate. For example, many of us have a friend who is kind, funny and smart. She’s pleasant to be around and you share a lot of the same interests. And you love her for the person she is and the character she exhibits. You might even have a friend in mind that reminds you of this kind of relationship.
Feeling love for another person like that is okay . . . but it’s not the different kind of love – the deeper and purer kind of love – you and I are called to give. As disciples of Jesus we want to love as God loves.
In 1 John 4 we learn more of God’s kind of love. Verse 16 says, “And we have known and believed the love that God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him.”
Later in the chapter we learn this powerful truth, “We love God because He first loved us.” 1 John 4:19
There is the difference. God is love. God loves first. And God’s love for us isn’t dependent on who we are to Him, but rather only dependent on who He is! He is love.
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Loving this way is a change in our hearts. We don’t love like the world loves. We want to love like God loves.
Last week I had an experience where I needed to check the way I was loving a friend of mine. This person was being kind of prickly. Does that ever happen to you? A person you know and care about is acting out and hard to get along with or even challenging your relationship. Or maybe you’ve called or tried to get in touch with a friend and you get no response. You feel ignored or not cared about.
The natural or worldly reaction is to bristle inside and pull back. To even withdraw love because of the way she is behaving. We’ve all done that. We learned this kind of love on the playground in elementary school. Or maybe even saw it modeled in our families.
On this particular day my friend wasn’t being very friendly! She wasn’t attacking me or being rude. But she was being very self-centered and sharp. And I needed to decide how to respond. I had a choice. I could be offended. I could be hurt. I could reflect right back to her what she was showing me. Or I could choose a different response.
That’s when I turned to God’s way of loving and I made a decision to love her anyway. To love because of who I am and the powerful love of God that lives in and through me. And not react to her by who she was “being” at the time.
That’s a HUGE difference! Loving anyway . . . coming from a place of love . . . being love. That is when the love of God is flowing through you to the others. And when that happens, you are demonstrating what Jesus says to you and to me, “Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.” John 13:35
Do you see the shift? Can you see that you love because of who you are and what’s in your heart, and not because a person is deserving of your love. Your love isn’t dependent on who the other person is, but instead your love for others depends on who you are. And when your heart is aligned by God and His truth, then you’re free to love and to care for others “anyway.”
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Loving God’s way is good for others, plus it’s good for us, also! Loving this way is solid and secure. We are grounded in truth. And instead of taking on resentment, hurt or bitterness, we can remain in love. In love we can care. We can pray. We can shed the light of God into the lives of those who need Him and His care.
Loving God’s way is a big deal! The shift from the world’s way to His way is at the very heart of our life with Him. We see the importance of love in 1 John 4:20-21 – “If someone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen? And this commandment we have from Him: that he who loves God must love his brother also.”
Learning to love this different way is a process and requires each of us to examine our own hearts and allow the Holy Spirit to work in us to perfect (mature) the love. We examine our hearts by “looking” at our feelings, our reactions, our emotions (the soul part of us). And then making a choice to change . . . to align our way of being with God and His ways. Bit by bit and little by little we are transformed. And then the light of Christ comes from you into the world that so desperately needs His love.
Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.