As Christians being led by the Holy Spirit, we are called to further God’s kingdom here on earth and be a light for those around us. Wow! That’s a tall order! How can we accomplish that on a daily basis? Believe me when I say that I don’t think God is resting the full weight of this on our shoulders. What if we were able to change our mindset and open our hearts to allow God to do His life-saving work THROUGH us? What if all of this can be accomplished through LOVE?
Love as a feeling is nothing new. I admit that I am drawn to those AMAZING big-hair band love songs and I often get nostalgic for some of my favorite romantic-comedy, sappy 80’s movies. As we mature, we learn that there are many different kinds of love…the love we feel for our children, parents, spouse, friends etc. Not a surprise, but we all strive to experience the feeling of love. Why? Because we are HUMAN and, guess what, God created us to share our lives and be in relationship with others. He created in us the need for love. God has placed so much importance on love that he commanded it many times in scripture. In Matthew 22: 27-39 (NIV) we read:
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.”
We also read in the book of John that love is so essential that we represent God in the WAY that we love here on earth.
“By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
John 13:35 (NIV)
Because we should be recognized as Christians by the life of love that we live, we have to consider that love is not just a feeling, but an ACTION. That’s a bit daunting. But then, like me, you may think, “I can handle this, by ‘neighbor’ God must mean those close to me… like family and friends. No problem.” Loving just those that are easy to love though, can’t anyone do that?? … even non-Christians? Let’s broaden our vantage point. Jesus provided some extra clarification for us:
“But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you,“
Luke 6:27 (NIV)
Make note, God didn’t say to just love those who are easy to love, or to just love those who are like us, or to just love those who are kind. He said to love everyone, even our enemies. I often ask myself how in the world can I do this? “How” is the key word here. HOW can we show our love to others, essentially put love in action, especially when it’s REALLY hard?? Not just loved ones we are struggling to get along or connect with in the moment, but also to acquaintances and strangers that we come across.
When talking with my friend Meredith one day she offered some genius advice that I often pass along to others, who are also stunned by it’s effectiveness. Meredith’s advice…offering service in response to negativity. When experiencing a challenging interaction with someone, respond with the words, “How can I help you?”
Five words- that’s it. Don’t believe me? Try it out first with those you’re closest to; when you’re arguing with your spouse, when you’re having a disagreement with your kids, when you’re not seeing eye-to-eye with a friend. Next, give it a try with those that it’s not so easy to love… the coworker who snaps at you, the complaining neighbor, or the unhappy cashier. You’ll see, it immediately diffuses the situation and communicates to the other person that you see their hurt and you recognize that their anger probably isn’t all about you. When someone is upset and lashing out, don’t forget – hurting people hurt others. Arguing back will only feed into or reinforce their anger. Use this as an opportunity to reflect Jesus’ love to deflate the situation and love them well through your words and actions. This one spoken phrase communicates that you can see past your own feelings of hurt and anger and love them anyway. Enough to reach out and want to help.
You may be thinking, “There is absolutely no way I can pull that off…selflessly putting my own anger to the side for a moment to say those 5 words without gritting my teeth or coming off as condescending??!” Well, I thought the same thing! And, to tell you the truth, I actually couldn’t pull it off, not on my own that is. I truly think that the power for this kind of love is not within our realm. It comes straight from above. I found that I need to say a short prayer and then draw from HIS grace and HIS love in order to be able to extend those five words to another and follow through in action.
Thanks to Mereidth’s advice, we can begin allowing God to work through us and put love into action TODAY. Don’t stall or postpone your obedience to God’s commandment. Prayerfully learn how to share God’s love with those within your relational reach by DOING and EXPERIENCING. Intentionally take the first step with 5 simple words, “How can I help you?”