Most of my recent writings have begun with lamenting how wildly eventful the year 2020 was, as its intensity is ever before me. Though not affected to the extent of many others, the presence of pain and turmoil are close realities because they are immediate realities for those around me. 2021 decided that it would not let up, bringing with its happenings that weren’t features of my previous years. Like 2020, none directly happening to me but having significant heart impact because these are situations close to me, particularly surrounding issues offence and interpersonal tension.
Exhorted to love
A common theme throughout Scripture is the idea of loving God and loving others. It is what I believe underpins the Law and the Prophets and finds complete fulfillment in the life of Christ. We cannot read the Word of God and miss the exhortation to love. Bible teacher, Tim Mackie says that “loving acts should be the hallmark of Jesus followers, by this the world will know Jesus.” Before Dr. Mackie said that, Jesus, in John chapter 13 verse 35 said this “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” The exhortation to love well is a distinguishing feature of our walk and this is riddled throughout Scripture. The issue is not that we don’t know that we are commanded to love but it is that it seems to go against our nature to do so.
Loving when it's hard
In this very sensitive and self-aware era that we live in, legitimate conversations are frequently had about boundaries, toxicity and other buzzwords. I am in no way trivializing these conversations, I believe as humans we have become significantly more aware of the importance of emotional intelligence. I do believe all this was very much factored into Jesus’ command for us to love each other. In an account in the book of Matthew Jesus shares how unimpressive it is for us to love those who love us; that is easy. He then challenged us to try loving those who hate us (doesn’t this sound like Jesus’ life?) that is when we begin to look like our Father. We can all go ahead and say in unison “that is easier said than done.” and funnily enough I believe those insufficiencies were also factored into the command to love. So now we are left with a command to do something that seems to defy our very nature. But Jesus did not leave us there, He exemplified what it means to love those who hated Him, and He sent the Holy Spirit to bear His fruit of love in the life of the believer. These might seem like very obvious truths, but these are what prove to be the greatest anchors in times of love deficiency. The fact that our Saviour did what He did, for us, His enemies and the truth that He has sent His Spirit to make us more like Him, are two very empowering facts that we must arm ourselves with.
I just felt it important to remind us of some very fundamental truths and hopefully to put some of our current issues into the context of the work of Christ. I will be the first to admit though that conflict and I walk on completely opposite streets. I have a quick no on my lips for everything that feels like expending too much emotional energy. Confrontation and I are not friends in any way and in the infamous words of Rodney King my heart cries “Can’t we all just get along?” Recently I have had more conflict in my life than in all my years, again not directly related to me but they made very real impressions on my heart. Through them I saw how resistant I was to have difficult conversations, how much I sided with what was wrong for the sake of defending “rights.” I believe God just took the opportunity through these very vicarious situations to show me the state of my heart and how immature I am in love. A definition a close friend of mine uses for love is “having the person’s best interest at heart” and that can often look like confrontation and hard conversations. Love is reconciliatory in nature, it denies itself, it gives up its rights and it is willing to go the uncomfortable route because it is not myopic, it sees the bigger picture.
Lessons along the way
Loving is a supernatural outworking of the Spirit in our lives, that calls for us choosing the harder way. We must, as God’s children live lives that are marked by the Great command "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself." (Matthew chapter 22 verse 37-39.)
This is a cursory glance at what the Lord has been teaching me about loving like He does. In my other submissions I will share some gems I have gathered from very wise people in my life about the role of being a peacemaker, the power of the gospel in reconciliation, dealing with conflict in the church and the true meaning of forgiveness.
Jhonelle is a Jesus enthusiast and Christian youth leader. She’s a lover of all things related to discipleship and a freelance writer.