Have you ever prayed this prayer..
“Father, help me to love like you do”
In fact, it is a prayer that I utter quite frequently. It is not only that I need help in this area of my daily living, but that, without this help, the potential for me to be a mean-spirited, ugly person becomes all too real.
So, I find myself praying this very prayer whenever my flesh rises up and want to respond unkindly. On the days when someone tries my patience a little too much or really wound my heart, I am tempted to respond in very unChrist-like ways.
“A new commandment I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” John 13:34
Every day I am discovering that loving like Christ is not an easy feat. It stretches me and requires more from me than I sometimes would want to give.
If I do not allow Christ to be my inspiration and my example to love as he commands, and if I do not accept the help of Holy Spirit, then I am bound to fail. And in these instances, I am not allowing God to transform me from my self-centred nature and into his likeness. Yet, this is a level of maturity in my relationship with the Father for which I should aim.
What does it mean to love like Christ loves?
No matter how badly we behave and no matter what we do, Christ will always love us. There are no boundaries or limitations to his love. This is because He is Love and it is his nature to love us as such. His love comes with no strings attached, completely unconditional.
However, for us, this kind of love does not come easy. In fact, without the empowering work of Holy Spirit, it is impossible. To set aside our desires, needs, feelings and expectations and put that of others ahead of our own is quite unnatural. We love with the condition that we should get something in return.
“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” Galatians 2:20
Many times we ask God to make us more like him, yet we do not always fully comprehend the ramifications of such a request.
To love as Christ loves mean we have to die to self.
It involves a daily and deliberate choice to surrender and sacrifice our will and ways for the will and ways of God. Emptying our self of anything that would keep us from doing what he ask of us. In this, we embrace a life of servanthood, willing to do for others, though they may not merit our efforts or our sacrifice. Still we ought to allow our self to be “poured out” for them despite the cost because we do it as unto God.
We are to practice grace. I say practice because receiving grace requires nothing of us except its acceptance. However, offering grace can be difficult and, at times, challenging.
God works in us as he answers our prayers
God has revealed to me several areas where he has been answering this prayer in my own life. They are practical, every day occurrences that are meant to shift me from a life of selfishness to one of servitude. Most of us can relate to the following.
Loving others when they behave at their worst.
“If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” Romans 12:18
Nothing irate me more than when I am treated unfairly by someone. This is an area where it is easy to respond in the flesh especially when it is a repeat offence or the person I am dealing with proves to be difficult. In my reaction to this unkind treatment, my pride tends to rise to the surface and I feel I need to avenge the injustice done to me.
Expressing love on these occasions is usually the last thing I want to do. That’s how I felt at the gas station when the attendant was insistent that I had done something wrong why the pump wasn’t working. I knew what he was accusing me of wasn’t true but he was quite adamant, even as I defended myself.
What I wanted more than the need to be right was to have the heart of God.
I was starting to feel the heat spread up my neck. It was then I realized I had a choice. So I smiled, paid my gas bill and wished him a good night. I sat for a few minutes in my car to decompress and pray because the response I gave was not the one I wanted to. Though I made the right decision this time, there is no guarantee for the next, hence my constant need of Holy Spirit.
Second, I am learning….
To forgive when wrong is done against me.
“Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” Colossians 3:13
Forgiving others is not easy. This is especially true when there doesn’t appear to be any regret or remorse from the offender. Yet, forgiveness is necessary, not only for our personal spiritual growth but for the freedom that leads to our healing. When we hold on to anger and resentment, these emotions block peace in our life and clogs the communication line between us and our heavenly Father. Thus it is true, unforgiveness does not hurt others, it hurts us.
This is something I have proven recently. Carrying around offense and refusing to forgive, taints my perception of others and even myself. I opt to become judgmental and critical, most times thinking the worst of those I come in contact with. Though my hurts may be genuine, I cannot allow them to harden my heart beyond forgiveness.
“Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” Ephesians 4:32
When we suffer hurt due to the wrong done to us, it is easy to feel justified in expressing haughtiness or indignation. In these times Holy Spirit is quick to remind us, we are also sinners, in need of grace and forgiveness from God on a daily basis. We cannot afford to withhold from others what we, too, desperately need from God.
Learning to demonstrate love, kindness and forgiveness towards others allows them to see Christ’s love reflected in us.
So come on dear friends, let us journey together by faith today. God bless you!