When Lovin’ Someone Ain’t Easy
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“Let us stop just saying we love people; let us really love them, and show it by our actions.”—1 John 3:181
Love is a choice
The Bible says in 1 Corinthians 14:1, “Go after a life of love as if your life depended on it—because it does.”2 If you “go after” something, that means you make a choice. Love is a choice. We choose to love or not to love. …
Acting in love when you don’t feel like it is actually a higher level of love than when you do feel like it. It’s one thing to love when the flowers are in bloom, but the real test of love is in the winter, when things are not going great in your life. You choose to love in spite of how you feel and give the other person what she needs, not what she deserves. You choose to love others like God loves us.—Rick Warren3
When you’re not “feeling it”
In any relationship, there will be frightening spells in which your feelings of love dry up. … So what do you do? You do the acts of love, despite your lack of feeling. You may not feel tender, sympathetic, and eager to please, but in your actions you must BE tender, understanding, forgiving, and helpful. And, if you do that, as time goes on you will not only get through the dry spells, but they will become less frequent and deep, and you will become more constant in your feelings. This is what can happen if you decide to love.—Tim Keller
Accentuate the positive
One of the worst things you can do is pick on every little fault, always belittling, nagging, finding fault, beating somebody down, henpecking. The danger is when you dwell on the negative traits. The Lord says, “Choose the good and eschew the evil.”4 Try to remind yourself constantly of people’s good qualities, the good things, and try not to think about the bad things. The Bible says, “Whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.”5—David Brandt Berg
Forgive others 70 × 7 times
In Psalm 103, David writes: “The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love. He will not always accuse, nor will he harbor his anger forever; he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.”6
An elderly woman was celebrating her 50th anniversary, and a younger woman asked her how she’d made her marriage work so well for so long. She answered that at the beginning of her married life, she decided to make a list of ten mistakes that she would always forgive her husband for. The young lady was curious and asked if she could see that list. “Well, I never did get around to writing it down,” she said, “but anytime he would do something that would make me boiling mad, I’d take a deep breath and say, ‘Lucky for him, that was one of the ten!’”
I think that’s what Jesus meant when He said we should forgive others “seventy times seven” times.7 True forgiveness doesn’t keep count.—Nina Kole
Why is loving others often so difficult?
Loving others can be extremely difficult at times. A common phrase to refer to those people that we consistently find ourselves challenged to love is “extra grace required” people. But even people we generally like can sometimes be difficult to love. The main reason we run into difficulties in loving others is sin, both ours and that of those we try to love. Humans are fallen creatures. Apart from God and His power, we are selfish, and loving ourselves comes much more naturally than loving others. But love is not selfish; it seeks the best for others.8 Battling both our own selfishness and sin tendencies and dealing with the selfishness and sin tendencies of others can make love a chore.
Another reason it can be difficult for us to love others is that we sometimes misunderstand what true love is. We tend to think of love as primarily an emotional response. The problem is that we cannot always control our emotions. We can certainly control what we do because of the emotions, but too often the emotions themselves just happen. But the kind of love God calls us to have for others is the same kind that He has for us. It is agape love, the essence of which is sacrifice. God’s love for us is a sacrificial love, the kind that sent Him to the cross for our sins. He didn’t save us because we were lovable; He saved us because His love caused Him to sacrifice Himself for us. Do we love others enough to sacrifice for them, even when they are not lovable? Loving others is a matter of the will and the volition, not the emotions.
God died for us at our worst, in the midst of our sin, when we were totally unlovable.9 When we make sacrifices in order to love someone, we get a glimpse of the depth of God’s love for us, and we also reflect Him to the world. Jesus told His disciples, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”10 Notice He didn’t say, “Feel loving toward one another.” He said, “Love one another.” He commanded an action, not a feeling.
Part of the difficulty of loving others is that we often try to do it on our own, whipping up feelings of love where none exist. This can lead to hypocrisy and “play acting” the part of the loving person, when our hearts are really cold toward him or her. We must understand that we cannot love apart from God. It is when we remain in Jesus11 and the Holy Spirit remains in us that we are able to bear the fruit of love.12 We are told that God is love and that our love for one another is both enabled by God and a response to His love in us.13 It can be difficult for us to rely on God and to give ourselves to Him, but He also allows this difficulty so that His glory can be seen all the more. When we love difficult people or choose to love even when we do not feel like it, we demonstrate our reliance on God and allow His power to be displayed in and through us.
Loving others is difficult because they are human and we are human. But in this difficulty we come to better appreciate the quality of God’s love for us. And when we love others in spite of their lack of lovability, God’s Spirit shines through, He is glorified, others are edified, and the world sees Christ in us.—From qotquestions.org14
Published on Anchor April 2018. Read by Simon Peterson. Music by John Listen.
2 The Message.
4 1 Peter 3:11 KJV.
5 Philippians 4:8 KJV.
6 Psalm 103:8–12 NIV.
7 See Matthew 18:21–22.
8 1 Corinthians 13:5; Philippians 2:3.
9 Romans 5:8; John 15:13.
10 John 13:34–35.
11 John 15.
12 Galatians 5:22–23.
13 1 John 4:7–12.