There is a question that has been rambling around inside my head for a while now, so I thought I would blog about it, and see if I can get some input from all of you. I warn you, this may be fairly long, but I encourage you to read through, and please leave your thoughts.
The question is … How do we love? What does the word love mean to you?
Obviously, I am not speaking of romantic love, but instead I am speaking about Agape love, God’s love. Loving another person, truly and sincerely.
Loving our friends and family is usually quite easy. What do we do though, when we have people in our lives that make it very difficult to love them?
Maybe you have an acquaintance from a social circle you are in, that drives you absolutely crazy. Maybe it is co-worker, a boss, or a neighbor who makes you want to run screaming in the other direction. Perhaps you have a former friend, an ex-spouse, or even a relative of some sort that you simply have a hard time dealing with. What do you do then? How do you love them?
What does it mean to love someone, when you have a hard time even liking them?
Does God expect us to interact with them in order to love them, or can we do it from afar through prayer, as long as we are genuinely trying to intercede for them?
God gives us many scripture references about loving others.
Galatians 5:13-15 (NIV) says:
You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.
In other words, we cannot be selfish, we need to love others, and we need to quit all the bickering so that we do not destroy each other.
In James 2:8-10 (NIV) it says:
If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing right. But if you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers. For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it.
This says to me that we are to love everyone the same; we cannot hold one person above another, or say, “That person is too hard to love”, or “That person is the bane of my existence, how am I supposed to love them?” … otherwise we are in sin.
John 13:34 (NIV) says:
A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.
God loves us, so we are called to love others. We are called to love everyone.
But …. how do you love the people you are in contact with, especially when it is difficult? Where do you draw the line between loving someone, and becoming an enabler for irresponsible behavior? How do you determine if you are doing your best to love someone, or you are now becoming a doormat?
When, or is, it o.k. to walk away from that person who is always taking, and never giving back? What about the person who uses or abuses other people, but never takes responsibility for themselves?
I get conflicted about this sometimes, because while I know that we are to show love to everyone, is there a point where you can’t do anything more, and you simply walk away?
For example, I know someone who has a co-worker who loves drama. This person always has a complaint about something, and uses the “system” for everything it is worth. This obviously drives the people in their office crazy, stirs up resentment, and makes it very hard for them to like (much less love) this person. Biblically speaking, how should they handle this person?
All I know for sure is this – when asked which commandment was the greatest, Jesus replied with this:
Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.
(Mark 12:30-31 – NIV)
I also know that God does not force His love on us, so we certainly cannot force our love on someone else. He gives us the option of free will; we have the power to choose to love Him, or to choose to turn our backs on Him. If He, as God, does not force us to love Him, we certainly should not try to force our love on others.
So, if we try to love someone through kindness, compassion, forgiveness, etc., and yet they choose not to reciprocate or take that kindness and try to abuse it, do we continue trying, or do we wash our hands of the situation and simply pray for them?
Is it o.k. to hold people who always rub us the wrong way at arm’s length, to keep anger or bitterness from building up inside our own soul?
What does “Love your neighbor as yourself” mean to you?
I would love to hear your thoughts, so please leave a comment here on this post!