Messy: Loving Others Isn’t Easy
We all know at least one person who is just difficult to love.
Additionally, when we do invest in, and open ourselves up to, relationship … those relationships can get messy.
Why is it sometimes difficult to love other people well?
But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him,
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. — Matthew 22:34-39, ESV
By the time the Pharisees put Jesus to this test, there are more than 600 laws in the Jewish tradition. Jesus sums it up in two pieces, and declares that everything else hinges on these:
- Love God — This is what we’re created for.
- Love your neighbor — This one is sometimes harder.
Everything in our lives should come back to this. Difficult decisions, live choices, etc. should all come back to, “Am I loving God and loving my neighbor?”
And the second hinges on the first. The secret to healthy relationships in marriage, parenting, friends, etc., are built on our healthy relationship with our Creator.
The Third Relationship
There’s a third relationship in Jesus’ answer that we sometimes don’t see: your relationship with yourself. “… love your neighbor as yourself.”
You spend more time with yourself than anyone else on earth. You probably talk to yourself more than you talk to anyone else, and most of what you believe about yourself comes from what you tell you about yourself.
The degree to which you love yourself, is the degree to which you’re going to love your neighbor, and the degree to which you love yourself depends on the degree to which you are intimate with God.
It’s not about self-help philosophies and feeling good about yourself. It’s about coming into agreement about what God says about you, so you can build a healthy relationship with God and self, so you can love others. We can’t give the love of God freely until we’ve received the love of God.
Some worry that believing “too highly” of themselves comes across as prideful or arrogant. We sometimes think that refusing the love of God, and insisting on our status as lowly sinners, is humility. But that’s not humility: that’s pride. It’s pride that sets its own opinion above God’s opinion. If God says we are loved and made holy in Christ, and we argue, we position our opinions above God’s.
What does God think about you?
- Loved – “so loved”
- Chosen – 1 Thessalonians 1:4
- Accepted – Romans 15:7
- God’s masterpiece – Ephesians 2:10
- Given a special calling
- Being cheered on by God
It is incredibly important that we come to terms with whether or not we believe Psalm 103. We can say we believe it, but the truth comes out in how we related to God and how we related to people around us.
God Uses a Shovel, Not a Spoon
But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, — Ephesians 2:4, ESV
God is generous in every way: in love, in mercy, in compassion, in kindness, in praise. He dishes it out as with a shovel, not a spoon.
And we claim to know it. We come to church and sing and shout and dance about God’s shovel. And we should. But when it’s our turn to dispense love, mercy, compassion, kindness, and praise, do we shovel it out or do we ration it out with a spoon? The clue to whether or not we really believe what we’re singing is how we relate to the people in our lives.
When I dish out what people need with a spoon, I make it about me. Dispensing forgiveness or love or mercy with a spoon says that person is not worth more, but the truth is I have not received via the shovel so I’m afraid to dish it out by the shovel.
Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times. — Matthew 18:21-22, ESV
Jesus isn’t really specifying a number. He’s telling Peter to use a shovel. Don’t leave the house in the morning without spending some time in the presence of God and his shovel.
Dear friends, since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other. No one has ever seen God. But if we love each other, God lives in us, and his love is brought to full expression in us. — 1 John 4:11-12, NLT