Ah, February! The month of hearts, flowers and all things love related. It makes one think of Disney’s Lady and the Tramp, delicately nibbling the same spaghetti noodle until their little doggy lips meet. Songs of ardor flow through our minds, each distinct yet melding into the same message: love is all you need. This is the month that is either met with eager creativity or grumbling disdain, depending on one’s romantic status. As a Christ-follower, however, I find a much deeper meaning and a piercing conviction when I contemplate this complex thing called love.
Scripture commands that we love. (Jn. 13:34, 1 Cor. 16:14, Gal. 5:13-14) Romantic love is easy for me with all of its fire and passion. Motherly love is also a cinch. After all, in some mysterious way, my children are an extension of my heart existing outside of my body. Indeed, loving my family hardly requires any effort on my part.
It’s the rest of you all that I struggle with.
There, I said it. I don’t love people. In fact, I don’t even really like most people most of the time. I do not cry when I hear of tragedies halfway across the globe. I do not grieve for the lost as the ‘weeping prophet’ Jeremiah did. In my fleshly state, I would just as soon exist in my own private bubble without the messy distractions of others. Now, I might say or do something nice for some of you. I may even care about you in a tidy and sanitized sort of way. But the raw truth is that I am often too self-absorbed to exercise that true down-in-the-trenches loving that I believe Christ is asking of us.
So how do I get past this tendency of my narcissic self to gaze unendingly at my own visage in life’s pool and instead, tear my eyes away and see those who are silently drowning just outside of my own reflection? How do I get past this cold lump of flesh beating in my chest and actually care about others?
I believe I found at least a partial answer to this dilemma one morning in Jon Courson’s Commentary Bible, Vol. 1
“Paul says to esteem others as better than ourselves. (Phil. 2:3) Why? Because it’s true. Every person you meet is better than you at something. He might pray with more intensity. He might be more artistic. He might have a greater understanding of certain spiritual principles. He might be able to fix a car.”
“All men are created in the image of God. The rabbis teach that the reason for the billions of people that inhabit the earth is that it takes billions of people to portray God properly. Every one of us has a little piece to contribute. Our job, therefore, is to look for the piece that speaks of God in the life of another.”
I find myself going back to this again and again, turning it and examining it like a priceless gemstone. And for those of us who were not born gifted with an abundance of brotherly love, I believe it is exactly that. A precious pearl of wisdom to help lead us on a path of loving others. So what does this mean for me? Well, first of all, the reminder that I am NOT God’s gift to humanity is a necessary truth that I must contemplate and embrace before I can get past my little ol’ self. Then, it requires a conscious seeking for that ‘God piece’ in another to bring me to that place of truly loving. Not just in words, but in action, from the depths of my being.
Now, having said all this, I must now interject that the most important piece of all is not intellectual or mental, but spiritual. I must ask the Holy Spirit to fill me and give me clear vision. Daily. Sometimes moment by moment, depending on who I’m dealing with! If I do not ask for the Lord to fill me with the Holy Spirit, then all of my good intentions will fail miserably. Thankfully, Luke 11:13 says that our gracious Abba Father will gift us with the Holy Spirit if we will but ask. Awesome news for the relationally challenged!
So to my friends who do weep for the tragedies and triumphs of others: You are blessed indeed to have the gift of compassion. Use it liberally and may those of us who are more selfish be humbled and inspired by it. To my fellow grinches: May we allow our Lord Jesus to so fill us with His Spirit that our hearts toward others would melt and the choice to love them actively would cease to be difficult. Let us allow Christ’s love to be a sweet fragrance that flows from our lives and that those around us will marvel at it.
*First published in BACH Co-Op newsletter, Feb. 2011. Revised 2013.