Love will Always be God's Standard
"I have found the paradox, that if you love until it hurts, there can be no more hurt, only more love."—Mother Theresa A friend recently sent this quote to me and it encouraged me to love beyond the measure that I have been. Relationships can be the most wonderful blessings in our lives, while at the same time they can be the hardest challenges that we will ever face. Why? It is because we are all people whose human nature has been affected by sin. Although we were created in the image of Christ, we daily have the limitations of dealing with our fallen nature that still causes us to stumble in the areas of love. Since love is the key element in all relationships, our stumbling in this area can bring great pain to others as well as ourselves. The ability to love is both our greatest gift as well as our greatest area of shortcoming. Don't Let Your Love Become Offended We have all been hurt when we were not loved well. We all have also hurt others when we did not love well. I cannot think of too many times in my life when I was having relational conflict that it was all one-sided. Usually I find that both parties have stumbled in the area of pure love and both have experienced pain. If you experience pain in a relationship, it is very important to quickly share your heart with that person so that they can either have the chance to apologize, or in turn explain how you may have misunderstood their words or actions (intentions). If you do not, pain can quickly become offense, which can turn into anger.
Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the LORD.—Leviticus 19:18 Do not "bear a grudge" because it will begin to create a "filter" of offense that you view that person through from that point onward. If you continue in your offense (grudge) you will begin to view even the most pure and innocent things as defiled. What began as a possible misunderstanding, or insensitive act, morphs into a breach of love and relationship. This is one of the enemy's favorite tactics within relationships. We must love others as we love ourselves; how we desire to be loved is how we have to love others. I wish that I could say that I have "loved well" in most of the relationships in my life, but it has been one of my biggest failures. Though it is my greatest desire, it is also my greatest challenge. Will I love beyond my own hurt or will I abandon love at the point of hurt? We must all make a choice to love beyond our own point of pain or we will never have lasting relationships. Be quick to love and slow to take offense. Offense will become the "fence" in your relationship, causing improper boundaries beginning at the point of pain or misunderstanding. Love in the midst of hurt will cause you to risk being honest with the person who caused you pain. Of course, there are times that we risk and are disappointed because the person does not respond to our love, but even if that happens, it is better to choose the path of love than the path of offense. If your gesture of love is rejected, know that Jesus will be right there with His unlimited love to heal your wound. You can still pray for and bless the one who has hurt you. Love Hurts and Love Heals I once had a friend who was considering joining our ministry team say to me: "I just need to know that you will not hurt me." My response was: "If you walk closely with me, I can assure you that I will hurt you – not on purpose, but because I am still learning how to love." If we love, we will be hurt. But if we are hurt we have to love all the more. Have you ever heard a wedding vow that promised never to hurt the other? It is a sure thing that if you get married and live day after day with another person, at some point one of you will fall short of perfect love and hurt the other. In fact, it will most likely happen sooner than later! My husband is preparing to perform two weddings this year: one for our niece this summer and one for our daughter in the fall. I was looking through different wedding vows and I really liked the one that included these words: I promise to love you in strength and weakness, to share the good times and the hard times with you, to love you in your achievements and your failures, to celebrate life with you forevermore. Will we love one another in our strengths and weaknesses, our good times and hard times, our achievements and failures, and celebrate the fullness of life together?
If we are to succeed at anything in life it must be this. First Corinthians 13 is our road map to pure love, but before telling us "what love is," it first says this: "If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing." (1 Corinthians 13:1-3). Believe me, I am writing this article to myself as well as to anyone who reads it! It is far easier for me to react in my pain than to respond in love when someone hurts me or acts unjustly. I have always wanted to be one of those people who filters life's situations through "reason" first and then emotion, but for me this takes great discipline. Emotion is my first filter! I always want to add to the verse in Isaiah 1:18 that says, "Come now, and let us reason together." It would be easier for me if it said, "Come again later and we can reason together after I have had a good cry!" Some of you can probably relate to this. Even if we fail at first and react in our pain, we must then go back and respond in love. Love Changes Us My husband and I are in the process of preparing to open homes for troubled teens. Whenever we have ministered to teens, the Lord always tells us the same thing, "Love well!" This has been the theme of our lives and ministry. When we were the directors of a house of prayer for a number of years, we would go before the Lord at the beginning of each new year and ask Him for wisdom and strategy for that coming year. We hoped for some great revelation or teaching of how to pray or how to teach on prayer or even on how to grow the ministry...but each year we only heard two simple words, "Love well!" Simple words? These are the hardest words, the most difficult strategy ever given to us. It has been a great challenge for mankind since the beginning of time. A new teaching or new way to organize teams would have been easy compared to this directive. God knew that this is what we needed to learn more than anything else. The goal was love – not growing a ministry or being able to achieve 24-hour prayer teams...the one thing on God's heart was love. It has been the same with the teens we work with. The kids that we are looking at bringing into our home are not teens with church backgrounds and loving families.
They are kids that have seen things that would break your heart; kids who are more familiar with darkness than with light; kids that know how to hate and don't trust love. But God's strategy is "Love well!" He has not told us to first give them strict rules, force them to listen to Christian music, stop cursing...He tells us to love them. The amazing thing is that it has worked. When people experience nurturing love they begin to change and want more love and more light. Their behaviors change because love drives out darkness. Jesus did not avoid being with those in darkness; He brought love into the darkness which created light. We can hate the darkness and love the one stumbling about in it. Remember, a small amount of darkness exposed to great light merely disappears, but a small amount of light in the midst of great darkness still gives sight. Rather than spending all our time confronting the darkness, we simply bring in light. I remember one instance where a young man in our home became very angry and began cursing and saying vile things to the other members of our household. My husband and I paused long enough to silently ask the Holy Spirit to lead us in dealing with this, and the Lord's instruction to me was: "Go and hold him." I went over to him and put my arms around him and began to tell him who he really is. I began to speak the truth of who God created him to be in the midst of his anger. I never even entertained or addressed all of the vile things that he was saying (he knew deep inside that they were wrong). Within moments this young man collapsed into our arms weeping and repenting. He had never had anyone love him beyond the pain he was hurling at them; nor had anyone loved him beyond his own pain. Love changed him! You have heard that it was said, 'YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in Heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others?
Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.—Matthew 5:43-48 It is easy to love those who love you but to love those who are persecuting you or causing you pain is far more difficult. Whether it is within the church walls or outside of the church walls, within the family or in front of a mere acquaintance, with a spouse or with a co-worker – love will always be God's standard. Some will respond to your love and some will reject your love, but if you continue in love the Bible says that "love never fails." As the old song goes, "What the world needs now is love, sweet love...it's the only thing that there's just too little of..." Let us love as God loves. Let us encourage one another to love. Pray for me to love well and I will pray for you.