Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Love one another... Advent of Joy #16

Over and over in the bible we are called to love one another.

In the short book of 1 John, the phrase “love one another” is used 5 different times.
Loving one another, having compassion on our brothers (and sisters), doesn’t just mean feelings.

“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. Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.”
1 John 3:16,18

If we truly love one another, our love is personified with action. Jesus love for us was personified with action. He died for us while we were still sinners. His sacrificial love for us is our example of what love looks like.

You know what it is like. Someone comes into your life, and they say they love you. But everything about them grates on you. They seem to be more interested in what you can give them. They point out your faults. Even if they don’t out right say anything negative to you, you can feel it. You know when they aren’t really truly loving you.

I have been in that type of situation before. When someone has professed to love me, to be my friend, but really they were more interested in correcting me, “fixing” me, and being the “superior” model to follow. When I didn’t follow their lead, eventually they left me alone because they weren’t successful at “changing” me. Sometimes I did change to please people, and try to be what they thought I should be. But I eventually learned that there was no way to please them, their standards were higher than God’s.

I have been in that type of situation before. When I have professed to love someone. But in the end I realized that though I said that I loved them, in reality, I wanted to “fix” them.
That’s not true love. Not the kind of love God wants.

When you are the recipient of true, honest, godly love you know it. You know it because it brings you pure joy. As I have been truly loved by people the past few years, it has given me joy deep inside. At first I didn’t believe it was real. I thought at first it was just a show. But as these people stuck with me, were patient with me, were consistent in showing love and not trying to change me, I started to believe that they really loved me.

As I believed that they really loved me, and grew more secure in it, that’s when I started to experience joy. As I started to experience joy, slowly my capacity to experience deeper and deeper joy grew. It all grew out of knowing and believing that they really loved me.

“We have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.”
1 John 4:16 (NASB)

When we have come to know and believe, both in our heads and our hearts that God loves us, we are able to love one another. When we are secure in His love, we start experiencing joy to a deeper and deeper level. We end up truly abiding in, living in, love. As God is love, we live more deeply in Him. Our understanding of His love for us grows, our joy grows, and we become more deeply connected with Him every day.

Out of that understanding, those experiences of being closer to Him and more connected to Him, experiencing the JOY of His love; out of THAT flows our love for one another.

“Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for your brothers, love one another deeply, from the heart.“
1 Peter 1:22 (NIV)

Our love for one another is to be a deep love, from our very hearts.

If our hearts aren’t changed by God’s love, how can we deeply, authentically love one another?
If we don’t allow our hearts to be changed by God’s love; if we don’t begin to grasp the depth of His love for us; if we don’t start to experience that joy of a love relationship with Him; how in the world will we be able to love one another?

As I started to be changed by the love of my friends and family these past years, it slowly led me to realize how much God loved me. I started to get more connected with God, recognize His love for me, accept His love for me, know and believe His love for me. I finally started experiencing joy, not condemnation in my relationship with my Father.

Now filled with that JOY that I have been given by God, I am finding myself becoming filled with love and compassion for other people in my church, in my life. I want them to experience the same love and JOY that I have. That would increase my JOY as well.

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