This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters,~1 John 3:16.
The greatest commandment given to us is to love. The first post covered first receiving love from God, forgiving others, and how we learn to love. Jesus is our role model and example for love. He perfectly represented the Father.
I’ve noticed that love is one of the most misrepresented aspects of God’s character. Love defined by our terms does not equal love from God’s perspective. What does it mean to love your enemies? Does love mean you do everything that’s asked of you? Is love about feelings or choice? Does loving a person mean you need to be their best friend? Does love mean you never speak up if someone or something is wrong?
Loving Your “Enemies”:
First I will say, though people may oppose, harass, torment, or abuse others, the real enemy is not people.
For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms,~Ephesians 6:12.
The first step in loving “enemies” is to recognize people are not the enemy. Jesus prayed for His persecutors, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.” You may say, “Some people know exactly what they are doing!” This may be true, but God’s heart is for repentance. We, too, want to see people right with God. There will be a final judgement of people, everyone will not go to heaven. And some who claim Him, will not either (Matthew 7:21).
We love our “enemies” by forgiving, praying, and blessing. It does not profit us as Jesus said in Luke 6:32 to only love and bless those who love and bless us; even sinners do that.
Doing Whatever is Asked of You:
There are many scriptures that talk about being generous. Does this mean if someone walks up to you on the street and asks you to empty your accounts you should just do it? No. If God prompts you to, then yes. God blesses people who are generous, and He loves a cheerful giver.
Jesus did only what He saw the Father doing, not everything people asked of Him. When Lazarus was sick, Jesus stayed where He was until he died. There was a purpose for Jesus remaining where He was. He had a miracle planned.
There are people who believe they should not do anything unless they want to. They only give, help, serve, or sacrifice when they want to. This isn’t scriptural. Jesus encourages and asks us to be a blessing.
If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person?~1 John 3:17.
It’s wonderful to serve. Serving (doing for others) can become our identity. God doesn’t love us for what we do. Our identity is child of God. Even God rested after creating the world. Jesus retreated to be alone with the Father. We can’t be all things to all people. Only God can meet everyone’s needs. When serving replaces caring for our families, health, or time alone with God, it’s taken a wrong place in our lives.
Feeling or Choice:
I truly believe love is both a feeling and choice. We can feel loving or unloving towards someone, yet choose to demonstrate love in our actions. If we base love only on feelings, then love will not be constant. It’s not natural to selflessly love. It doesn’t feel good to our flesh. The Holy Spirit in a believer always wants to love. God is love.
Best Friends with Everyone:
We don’t have the time, energy, emotional capability, or ability to be everyone’s best friend or friend. We can be friendly and kind to everyone. However, offering ourselves up to be friends with everyone leads to burnout and sometimes heartache. Trust me on this one. Jesus had 12 disciples and spent a considerable amount of time with 3. He entrusted His mother Mary to 1, John.
I’ve learned to be friendly to everyone, yet reserve the closest parts of life and heart to a very, select few. Not every person can be your friend, and that doesn’t mean you don’t love them. You give different people different levels of access and intimacy. Love sets boundaries.
Love does not go along with what’s wrong. God corrects those He loves. Unconditional love is not the same as unconditional approval. I had someone I was friends with years ago tell me, “I don’t want anyone telling me if I’m doing something wrong.”
Proverbs 15:5 says, “a fool despises correction.” It seems harsh. We don’t like to be wrong. The person who refuses any correction is unwise. We grow from feedback. The person unwilling to allow anyone to speak into their life does not understand love.
This does not mean we become the sin police. We are to check ourselves first, then gently correct others.
Lastly, but most importantly, we rely on God. It’s His love and strength that helps us in our weakness.
Father, help us to rely on You to love as You love.