January 30, 2016 – Jill Ninke
“How do I love them differently than I am?”
That’s the question that literally came out of my mouth while sitting at my desk at work. Honestly, I was surprised by the question because I wasn’t feeling so “loving” in the moment. Let me back up for a second to explain the situation.
I had been sitting at work, thinking (more like stressing) about a friend of mine’s life decisions and feeling super frustrated and angry. The questions in my head were along the lines of: “What is wrong with them?” “Will they ever get their life together?”, etc. The Lord obviously wanted me to think about it differently than I was, because it wasn’t 30 seconds into those thoughts that out of my mouth came, “How do I love them differently than I am?”. What does that even mean? The sinful part of me would’ve rather gone down the list of all the things that person had done and let myself get really high and mighty, feeling entitled to my frustrations. Jesus had different plans that day. He likes to do that. Right when you’re thinking about how frustrating someone else is, he turns the conversation back to you and your sinful tendencies. Well, at least he likes to do that to ME. So there I sat, listening to my own voice ask that question. And the answer was: I had no idea. What was obvious to me in that moment was that I was not currently loving that person the way I should be.
Every person is so different. Every one of us has different experiences, different family backgrounds, different personalities, different love languages, and different needs. That means there’s a way to love one person that may not look the same for the next person. What we do know and what the Bible is very clear about is that we have to love each other (1 John 4:7-8). It goes even further to say, “Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.” (1 Peter 4:8). Love covers a multitude of sins…hmmm…sounds relevant to this situation huh? I looked up the word earnest(ly) to get a better understanding of what’s expected of us. Earnest: Fervent, purposeful, determined. I think that God is being very clear with his expectations. Love is not lazy. Love does not get frustrated and call it quits. We are called to be fervent, purposeful and determined in our love for one another. This can be applied to any relationship; be it our spouse, our friends, our children, or any family member.
When we are dealing with our loved ones who have pushed us to our limit, who have maybe disappointed us more times than we can count, and who could potentially continue to do so…how do we love them the way that we are called to? We start with earnest love. And like I mentioned earlier, that’s going to look different for each person. Sometimes that will even look different for the same person in a different season of their life. You might need to be gentle and patient in your love, you may need to be firm and confrontational, or even just present and available. That’s the part of earnest love that is purposeful and determined. We may have to work hard to figure out how to best love the people in our lives. So instead of making mental lists of all the dumb stuff they’ve done lately (don’t forget how many dumb things YOU’VE done) or how many times they’ve frustrated us this week… we should be purposeful in our prayers, determined in our listening, earnest in our love, and always full of grace. Let’s not forget, we are all far from perfect and we have been forgiven of much.