We use the word frequently and without discretion. We use it to describe people, places, experiences, and possessions. We use it to express a variety of emotions in response to the moment.
But God is specific when He says love people. Jesus commanded it, and His disciples quoted it repeatedly:
- John 13:34 – A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another.
- Matthew 5:44 – But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you
- Matthew 22:39 – And the second [great commandment] is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’
- Mark 12:33 – And to love Him with all the heart, with all the understanding, with all the soul, and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself, is more than all the whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.
- Romans 13:8-10 – 8 Owe no one anything except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law. 9 For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not bear false witness,” “You shall not covet,” and if there is any other commandment, are all summed up in this saying, namely, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.
- Galatians 5:14 – For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
- 1 John 4:7-8 – 7 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. 8 He who does not love does not know God, for God is love.
- 1 John 4:11-12 – 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has seen God at any time. If we love one another, God abides in us, and His love has been perfected in us.
- 1 John 4:20-21 – 20 If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen? 21 And this commandment we have from Him: that he who loves God must love his brother also.
What does this mean? We have to love people at all times, in all places, through all difficulties. We have to love people as God loves them. Which means at all times. In all circumstances. When they are angry and obnoxious. When they are wrong. When they are abusive.
Because everyone is a son or daughter of God, whether they acknowledge Him or not.
Because everyone matters to Him, whether He matters to them or not.
Because God sees the heart He lovingly formed (1 Samuel 16:7, Psalm 139:14), not the hurt they have caused.
To love. To forgive. To reconcile. To be at peace. With all people. Jesus says it is the second most important thing we are called to do.
But it is hard. I struggle with this. DAILY.
Because I want to repay people wrong for wrong, hard word for hard word, sneak for sneak, and bad attitude for bad attitude. I want to lash out and slap back. I want to yell and fight. In my head I have numerous conversations where I do all these things and come up with a lot of put-you-in-your-place retorts.
And my problem is that I don’t let is go quickly or easily. I allow it to take over my thoughts and emotions. I allow it to speak a harsh diatribe in my head whenver I see the person. I allow it to invade my peace and steal my ability to forgive.
I know it. I recognize this dysfunction in myself. I hear its footsteps in my thoughts. I taste its bitter feel on my tongue. I feel the stone wall being erected in my heart. I know my ability to love languishes. My capacity to forgive fades away. My ability to be compassionate is chased away.
I am currently going through this now with someone in my life but not close to my heart. Every time I see this person, I feel myself change into someone I don’t want to be. I feel myself tense up at the thought of expelling my frustration. I feel myself skirting toward the edge of temptation to lash out in retaliation. I feel myself sticking out my tongue and making obnoxious gestures after the person walks by.
This makes me human. And it points to my need for the Savior to continue His work on my heart. Because I need an attitude adjustment. Without a heart transplant – where Jesus fills up my holes, waters my dry places, and mends my broken spots – I cannot live up to my spiritual obligation to love. To love people as much as, if not more, than I love myself.
So I will continue to pray that I can live above my emotions and beyond the moment to be someone who can love her neighbor. At all times. In all circumstances. No matter how my feelings are trying to guide me in the wrong direction.
Because my goal is to be a Romans 13:10 girl, a person who lives by this guiding force: “Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law”.
Because harsh thoughts cause harm.
Because harsh words cause hurt.
Because harsh feelings cause hatred.
And these things don’t allow us the opportunity to think beyond the emotion. To consider anything (positive) beyond the moment. To offer grace instead of growling back. To extend forgiveness and forfeit revenge.
It is hard. Again, I struggle. DAILY. But thank God I am a work in progress and each day I get a new opportunity to love. To love my neighbor – anyone I come in contact with – as much as, if not more than, I love myself. To love. At all times. In all circumstances. No matter what someone throws at me, right or wrong.
And daily I pray I take advantage of every opportunity He gives me. So my heart softens, my heart opens, and my heart loves. Willingly.
Because every day I will have the chance to love my neighbors. And I want to be ready!
Help me, Father, to see people the way You see them. Help me to see them through Love’s eyes, which see the heart and not the behavior. Help me to see the potential, the poetry, and the possibilities You have embedded in each person. I pray You continue to soften my heart against anger, retribution, and harsh words. Help me to replace my negative reactions with Your influence of love and grace. It is hard, since I am human, but thank You Father that You are not – and so You walk with me to help me. Replace my words with Your love, my reactions with Your grace, and my anger with Your forgiveness. For to truly love my neighbors, I need to be an extension of Your love … which means replacing all my human frailties with Your divine sureties. Fill my human holes, my human emotions, and my human limitations with Your divine power, divine insight, and divine grace. In Jesus’ almighty name. AMEN!
Marie Fremin. 4/17, 4/18, and 4/24/16