Lovers. That’s what we are deeply wired to be. God, whose very essence is love (1 John 4:8), created mankind in His image. While there are various dimensions to reflecting His image, ultimately, we are designed to give and receive love. Vessels of love is what we are created to be. Because of that, it seems that love should be easy. The reality, perhaps for many of us, is quite different. Love is hard.
The older I get, the more I see how much of a struggle it is to love well much of the time. This is true even in the best of times. The reason is that love means putting the interests of others ahead of our own. That regular practice of prioritizing others instead of self can be a massive challenge because it involves dying to self. One writer says this about love: “We are repeatedly disappointed in love. We realize that we are hopelessly inadequate in love” (Eugene Peterson, Practice Resurrection).
Loving well becomes even more challenging in times of difficulty such as a pandemic in which the rhythms of life are radically altered. Perspectives on how to respond and move forward are wildly different. What one person deems appropriate may be viewed as threatening or harmful to another.
Add to the mix nationwide protests resulting from hatred and injustice and the command to love can feel especially burdensome. Remembering to love can easily be relegated to a lesser place when interacting with others, especially those with whom we disagree. In that case, our primary interest may be proving a point and correcting an opposing argument.
It feels like the comfort of our routine in life has been turned upside-down and shaken the last few months. Nerves are frayed. Perspectives are varied. Tension is high. While we need to be people who think and reason well, to be sure, may we also remember what ultimately defines us is more than just intellectual capacity. It’s love. Here’s how one author/theologian puts it: “It is not our reason or emotion or volition that defines our personhood. Ultimately, it is our love…” (Robert Saucy, Minding the Heart).
The reality that we are ultimately defined by our love can be a painful truth. I am far more cognizant of my failures to love well than my successes. As a fellow ‘love struggler,’ let me close by suggesting that this matter of love become an extended conversation with the One who knows our hearts. Prayerfully ask the Lord to search your heart (Ps. 139:23-24) with regard to love. Some questions to consider are:
- When you think about the last few months, with the virus restrictions and protests, what sort of reactions do you notice in your heart?
- To those with whom you disagree, can you still view them as those who bear the image of God and deserve to be loved?
- To those who may mock or malign, can you respond in grace, truth and love instead of with vitriol?
- In what ways have you done well over the last few months, loving sacrificially and selflessly?
- In what ways is there needed room for growth in love?
- What is hindering a freer flow of love to others (understood as sacrificial love, putting the needs of others ahead of our own)?
As you prayerfully consider these questions, may you first remember that you are passionately loved by the Lord (see Eph. 3:14-19). May you rest in His love and acceptance of you. May His love fill you and flow through you on an increasing basis.