|Posted on September 17, 2020 at 11:05 AM|
The more I study what it means to love another person like Christ, the more I realize how difficult that may be. Our romantic idea of love is glamorized by books and movies to be something that is exciting for both the person doing the loving and the one receiving that love. But when the excitement wanes or obstacles get in our way romantic love soon disappears. The relationship which follows will often degenerate into a painful experience of defensive maneuvering leading to a subtle but very real hatred. The only way to prevent such a downward spiral is to understand and engage in divine rather than romantic love.
Faith in our new identity in Christ gives us the personal hope we need to begin to love others like Christ. Knowing that our own personal needs for love and respect are fully met in Christ allows us the freedom to love and respect others just like Jesus without expecting anything in return. That kind of unconditional and sacrificial love is what is necessary to minister to rather than manipulate others. It is the “high calling of God in Christ Jesus” for all believers and is the core purpose of our lives on earth. Fulfilling that calling brings eternal satisfaction to the soul that nothing on earth can begin to match.
But what happens when our efforts to love others are rejected, misunderstood, or somehow blocked by external circumstances over which we have no control? We cannot pretend it does not bother us when this happens but must be honest about our feelings when we are unable to share our love with others. Most likely we will feel hurt and angry because we have not reached a true goal of ministry in that situation. It must have been the way Jesus felt as he wept over Jerusalem prior to the cross. Such feelings are normal but need to be dealt with quickly lest they degenerate into feelings of self-pity and hatred.
Coping with the frustration we feel when our goal of loving others is not reached may be referred to as “spiritual trials” in which our faith in our true identity is tested. Such “tests of faith” are not for God to see how much faith we have, but rather to purify and intensify the faith we do have. The end result of such testing is always the increase of love, joy, and peace. The writer of Hebrews calls it “chastening”, or the discipline and training God gives us to prepare us to fulfill his calling. God trains all his children as proof of his love for us as our heavenly Father.
Although loving others like Christ is the most satisfying experience a believer can have in the world, it is not without problems and real sacrifice on our part. The author of Hebrews encourages us to “run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross…” That joy or hope is what gave Jesus the strength to endure his sacrifice on the cross and will likewise give us the strength to keep on loving others like Christ despite the obstacles and cost. “Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Spirit.”