The past year has been a lot of meditating on, growing, being challenged in, and learning from the realm of relationships. When you move across seas, you will always be challenged with this in some aspect. I have felt my highest highs and lowest lows due to the state of my relationships (with God, family, friends, etc.) so it is safe to say that they affect me more than anything in my life. But the sweetest thing I have experienced is relationship with God. He invites me to be who I truly am in his presence and he continues to grow me through showing me more of who he is daily.
It was a month or two ago when I was having a time of sitting alone with God, talking to him and asking him questions that I was longing to know the answer to. I was more or less spilling my feelings and thoughts on a struggle in my personal life. Asking him to search my heart and give me wisdom and what not. But it was in this night that God surprised me by showing me something of himself instead.
He started to show me what it feels like for his children not to love him. I felt his heart. He showed me the pain he knows from loving someone so much and them not loving him back. And I guarantee you that he only showed me a drop of this because I wouldn’t be able to handle the fullness. It wrecked me. I bawled for a few moments, feeling the immense love and immense struggle at the same time. Billions of people rejecting him over and over. But what made me sit in awe is that he still loves us. Despite history, despite all the times we run from us, he still pours out all his love on us and pursues our hearts. Still. And it’s because he knows that his love is the best thing for us. Wow.
From seeing and feeling how God acts in love in relationships, I started thinking about my own life. A few days later he challenged me with a question: How can I glorify God in my friendships? Through thinking and praying about this question a lot, I was then challenged with more:
1. How often do I love with expectation of being loved back?
I think expectation in all of us, deep down. We want that person to fill a place in our hearts as a result of us pouring our time into filling theirs. I’m pretty sure we start seeing this more in our closest friendships. It’s easy for us to go out on a mission trip to “love on” the people there or give money to a homeless man or spend time comforting a crying girl on the metro — without any expectation of reciprocated love from these people.
But what about our closest relationships? What if they hurt you? What if they aren’t loving you well? We get angry, sad, frustrated, etc. I think that’s because we have given so much of our deepest love to these people and have received love back from them in the past. I think to act in love is more difficult in these times, than those mentioned in the former. The risk of our love is greater because the hurt can be stronger. So as far as my closest relationships go, the answer is, um, probably 90% of the time, honestly. So I realized: Hi, I’m selfish.
2. How did Jesus love?
He’s the only one who can teach us how to truly love. So, let’s see what he taught us. It’s pretty clear in scripture that he exemplified something important: unreserved love. There are times over and over again in the life of Jesus where he poured out his love to people who rejected him. Judas, for example. Jesus chose him to be one of the 12 people that he would spend all his time with, teach constantly, and live with for 3 years in close proximity. And at the last moment, Judas betrays him. Jesus knew he would betray him, and yet, he loved him all the same. Jesus heals 10 lepers and only one comes back to thank him and praise God for changing his life. Peter denied their friendship 3 times, yet Jesus comes back to cook him breakfast, publicly restores him, and commissions him to follow him once again.
Jesus never loved to gain anything from us. He loved so that sin would be broken and we would have our relationship with the Father restored. He loved so that we would know true love. He loved for our sake.
3. What if I loved others for the sake of them being loved?
I just recently was hit with something that we are told all of our life. What if I loved how Jesus loved? What if I loved people in order for them to experience His love through me? What if that was my only motive? How would I live my life?
1 Peter 4:8 “Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.”
Earnestly meaning intentionally. Dang, that’s powerful. Love covers sins. Let’s think about that. Say someone in your group of friends does something in complete disobedience to God and they know it and feel awful and ashamed. The news of this could easily spread throughout the group and people could be analyzing the situation and gossiping about that person. The other friends could even distance themselves from that person for a while. You know how it goes. But what if all of them chose to not disgrace the person through what they say to each other? What if instead they chose to shower him or her with affirmation or gifts or spending more time with him? What if that person felt more loved by his friends in this time? In this way, people are able to see the love and grace of God more clearly. The love that is shown will break walls of shame, fear, and guilt because that love is a display of the forgiveness that the person has received through Jesus Christ. Love covers sin. Love breaks down walls.
John 13:34-35 “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
Our act of love gives people a glimpse of God’s love for them. So if I start to change my mindset to thats which thinks I want the people around me to experience Jesus’ love, then it all starts with how I treat them in our friendship. Not so that I can gain anything from them, but to love them so that they will know love. What is the best way to love these people in this moment?
“There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” John 15:13
Just some thoughts. I’m not saying ‘this is the way you must do relationship all the time’, but more of ‘oh hey, let’s all think about this aspect for a second’. We will never be perfect at this, but maybe it will change you in some way as well. Thoughts?