Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Love =/= Self

The only way to love is to give your self – Phil Wickham (Coming Alive, Heaven and Earth)

So many of us tend to throw the word around to describe pretty much everything. I can love anything from a hot dog to a car to a person. I obviously don't love a hot dog nearly as much as I do a person (I would hope so, else you might have an eating problem), but the word used is the same and I think that in today's society we have lost sight of what it means to really love.

For me, most my life love was that funny feeling you got when someone said something that made your insides “tingle” as they say. “Actions speak louder than words” was the common phrase (and still is the common phrase) repeated by many who look to action to fill in what love us. Want my honest opinion? Now I am no expert on love, but from what I have read it is both.

Words and actions have to line up, but it is only the beginning. Words are important because as Jesus states in Matthew 15, it is what comes out of your mouth that defiles you, because from the overflow over your heart, the mouth will speak. Given the wicked state of our hearts on their own (Jer 17:9), it is no wonder that in order to love the way we are called to, our first step is to do so with the everlasting love in us through Christ.

Actions are important because we act out on how we feel. Even more so, Christ calls us to be doers of the word and not just hearers (James 1:22). Faith without works is dead and the same applies for love. I can profess love all day and night, but it isn’t until the love is manifested into action that we truly know.

Here is the kicker to all of this, even with both things shining bright, there still can be no love. What drives us is key to whether or not it is love. This last thing isn’t the easiest to develop, in fact this is the hardest part about love. This is the part that so many marriages and relationships have failed to truly grasp, and as a result this is why so many have failed. Self. Self is the biggest weight love must bear, and in order to have true love, one must die to self. True love comes in letting go. Letting go of your self.

When Christ spoke of love in the bible, it was in reference to a specific kind of love. A love found in few places. Agape, an unconditional love. When Christ tells us to love our enemies, He is telling us to agape our enemies, agape those who hate us, agape those people that bother us. In order to do that though, we must die to self. We must place our every quirk, every preference, every prejudice, every self-fulfilling desire on the shelf and pursue the well being of another. It is what Christ did for us (Phil 2:6-8) and it is this kind of love that we are called to have for everyone, it is the greatest kind.

John 15:13 – Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friend.

The word life here in the greek is a word that means just that, life. To us, our lives are the most important thing to us, but to take that and place it to the side for the sake of someone else, that is true love. Love therefore, is a choice. We choose to, in every situation, to love despite how we feel. We choose to want the best for another person, despite what that may mean for us. I am not condoning self-mutilation, nor am I advocating for torture of ones self. What I am saying is to mutilate your desire to lash out, destroy your desire to answer hatefully, get rid of those things in you that might cause you to taint the love Christ calls us to have.

It is no easy thing, this whole thing of love. But I will say this much, with time and great care, it can blossom into the most beautiful of trees, and the fruit from it be sweet to the lips of any person who picks from your branches. The important part of all this is to be sure we are rooted with the True Vine. This is the only place this love can come from. Once you have that Vine, take heart, He’ll begin the work in you.

“The world is not impressed by our stopping something. What does impress them is seeing us do something they cannot do. That is love. That is why John says that the third mark of a genuine Christian is that he begins to love—not those who love them but beginning to love those who are unlovable…to return evil for good” – Ray Stedman

For me, learning love has been difficult. It has pushed me to admit my faults, it has forced me to question my motives, it has caused me to really jab at my heart in an effort to determine where it truly stands. The crazy part about the whole process is that what drives me to do it is love, because if I didn’t love, then I wouldn’t care.

Choosing to love is doing so everyday, even the days you don’t feel like much of a Christian, those days you don’t feel so lovely, those days you feel empty, those days you doubt your self, those days you fear won’t end, those days you lack courage, those days you feel weighted, choose to love on those days. It is hard work, but God tells us the end result is beautiful.

Lord, enlarge our hearts for Your love. Teach us how we ought to love. Show us those people in our lives that need more of it and show us those people in our lives that deserve a better kind of love. Father, perfect the quality of our love Lord and increase its quantity that we may be broken bread, fresh out of the oven of your consuming fire. Show us how to love one another. Be with us we pray, in Your name, Amen.

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