Monday, March 07, 2011

Love is...

I have a quote running through my head that I'm almost positive is C. S. Lewis, but I can't track down the source. "Just because I have to love someone," Lewis states, "doesn't mean I have to like him." I can't tell you how many times I've referred to that quote, or appreciated it, when faced with very unlikeable people or situations. But it's not an excuse, because we do have to love....

In Bible study we've been working our way through 1 Peter, and this week we finally got to dig into chapter 1, verses 22 & 23:
22 Since you have in obedience to the truth purified your souls for a sincere love of the brethren, fervently love one another from the heart, 23 for you have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and enduring word of God.
I've been wanting to delve into this because it's something I've been dealing with a lot recently. How do I truly love "the brethren," that is, other Christ-followers, particularly when I'm not thrilled with what they are doing?

We had to check out the root words for the two "loves" used in verse 22. Not surprisingly, "sincere love of the brethren" is from the Greek word "philadelphia" aka "brotherly love" (or a city in Pennsylvania :) ). So in a nutshell, our "sincere love of the brethren" is a result of being born again "through the living and enduring word of God," an act of obedience on our part. We love one another because God desires us to. But it's not just a nod of "Okay, I love you, brother!" It's not a matter of liking or feeling warm-fuzzies for other believers. It's a lot stronger. We're to "fervently love one another from the heart." "Love" here is the hard, strong "agapao," the love that God has for us--unconditional, engulfing, encompassing. It is a love that delights in someone or something by an act of the will, a choice, not an emotion that fades or a passion that fizzles. It's not something we can question, "Do I really love that person?" It's a matter of choosing to love. To use a quote I did find from C. S. Lewis: "Do not waste time bothering whether you 'love' your neighbor; act as if you did. As soon as we do this we find one of the great secrets. When you are behaving as if you loved someone you will presently come to love him."

So after digging into these words, the follow up in my study was, "List some practical ways you can love one another from the heart."

And that's where the rubber meets the road. Instead of practical, active deeds of love that would reveal that great secret of love, my mind was filled with questions:
How do I love the person who seems to deliberately ignore me when I am in her presence? 
How do I love the person who refuses to be humble; who will not take suggestions because if incorporated they might indicate the person giving suggestions was "right," while he was "wrong"?
How do I love the friend who is struggling to feel accepted, no matter how much acceptance is extended? 
How do I love my kids when I'm completely frustrated with their stubbornness? 
I know on the one hand that I can't love them in and of myself. It is only in my obeying the truth that I can love, and the truth is that Christ saved me and chose to love me when I was unloveable and I couldn't do a thing about that. In the same way I must choose to love these people in my life, to delight in them even when I don't particularly like them....

How can I demonstrate this love? Last week one of the women in my study shared a situation where a friend who had hurt her was suddenly in need and asked her for help. She didn't feel like helping at all, but she prayed about it, and God filled her with compassion for this hurtful friend. She said it was amazing, because it wasn't her own feelings at all--it was all Him. And I think that's the key. And while it sounds simple, it's so hard to let go of my hurt, my frustration, my anxiety, and bow to Him and say, "Okay, Father, take away my pettiness and replace it with your agape love."

That's the starting point. I think I still have to think through some practical outworkings. I know God can provide the love, but I'm not sure how to show it. Does He give that answer, too? I'm praying about that.   
 4 Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous ; love does not brag and is not arrogant, 5 does not act unbecomingly ; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, 6 does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; 7 bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 8 Love never fails.... (1 Corinthians 13:4-8)