11 July 2011

How do I love?

Have you noticed how many books are out there that tell us the best way to love people? Just in the Christian realm, there are books that tell us of different "languages" we use to love our spouse and to feel loved. They tell us that providing security, routine, and quality time communicate love to our children. And I must say these books have been helpful. But do they really explain the essence of love? They tell us how to make people "feel" loved, but does that mean there is real love present? The other day while studying through 2 John, I read a verse that brought much clarity to a question I've asked myself many times. How do I love people?

I know love is not a feeling. I've been married long enough to know that the mushy-gushy feeling waxes and wanes. But I still love my husband very much. I've had kids long enough to know that sometimes I just don't "feel" very loving toward them - such as when I'm exhausted and they keep asking questions and making big messes. But I know I still love them and would give my life for them if need be.

Sometimes I feel very loving toward other people, and it's easy to act loving toward them. But what about when I don't "feel" loving? How do I love people?

2 John 3:18 first tells us what "fake" love is, and what real love is. "My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth." Telling my husband, my children, and others that I love them are words that fall flat if there is no deed, no pillar of truth to hold them up. So then, how do I love people?

"By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and keep His commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome."

It all rests on loving God. When we truly believe God, we seek to follow Him and His Way. When you begin seeking his Way, it's not long before you find that His Way is one that conforms you to Christ. And when you start becoming Christ-like, you start putting others before yourself, as He did. You become less irritated, and more patient. You become less critical, and more merciful. You become less concerned about your image, and more concerned about his Image. And as we become more like Him, we then become more capable of truly loving others. Love becomes a lifestyle, not simply a "flash" of love here and there.

It can all start to sound very theoretical. But when we seek Him daily, through His Word and through prayer, He is faithful to convict us and show us how to follow His ways. And how freeing it is to know that "His commandments are not burdensome"! With others, "If you love me" can be followed by demands, guilt trips, or manipulations. But God's commands have our best interests at heart.

So when we choose to follow God's ways (and rely on the Holy Spirit to empower us!), we will start to act in ways that convey love. And as I heard a godly lady say a long time ago, "Right actions bring right feelings." But even if our emotions are not always what we wish they were, it helps to remember that feelings can be fleeting and and are influenced by so many things. Our actions, on the other hand, speak volumes and have long-lasting impact.

Studying the Word shows me what true love looks like. And the more I study, the more the Holy Spirit can convict me and change me into someone who loves as I should. So as good as it is to read books on how to love my husband, how to love my children, and how to be a more loving friend, only one Book (and the relationship I have with its Author) will bring about the supernatural change that I so desperately need. And in that truth, there is beautiful freedom.

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