You’re Not Jesus
The Bible says much about loving people:
Love your enemies (Matthew 5:44), Love your neighbor (Mark 12:31) and there’s no end to the number of times we’re told to Love one another (John 13:34; 15:12, 17; Romans 13:8; 1 Thessalonians 4:9; 1 Peter 1:22, 3:8; 1 John 3:11, 23, 4:7, 11-12 and more).
The thread is so prominent in the New Testament you can’t miss it.
And it is so prevailing that we usually extrapolate the meaning to,
Christians are to love everybody!
That’s a mouthful! In fact, it’s a little too much.
I wouldn’t say the idea is entirely wrong but it might be overstating the point. There is a big gap between loving the people we know and loving all the ones we don’t know.
But forget the magnitude of everydoby. We don’t do a very good job of loving the few with whom we make contact.
We spend an inordinate amount of time distrusting, not believing and not liking the people with whom we have proximity: the ones next door, down the street, in the next work cubicle, in the cars on the road and on the TV screen.
And those are just the people we see. If we struggle with those few, how could we ever love everybody, the whole world.
To clear the air and reiterate the reality:
You’re Not Going To Love Everyone
Relax! If the world was an apple, your part would only be a nibble for several reasons.
You’re limited by ability. You can only express so much love. You only have so much to give. In fact, it’s a struggle to love the people in arm’s reach. The Bible implies this:
If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men. (Romans 12:18 KJV)
Before you set your sites on every single person in the world, remember that you’re not Jesus. You will fail on the odd occasion with whoever happens to be in your face.
Your limited by time. Love one another is not a call to express love 24/7. You need to take time to sleep, eat, work, manage your personal affairs and those legitimate, necessary activities are focused on self not others.
Remember too that love can’t be hurried. It takes time to love another person. For some it might take a lifetime. You just don’t have enough time to include the whole world.
You’re limited by logistics. You might be concerned about every single person but the number you will hear or be heard by are only a few. That’s true if you packed your bags and intentionally made an effort to go everywhere and contact every person.
Understanding these limitations relieves the pressure. But there’s more.
Love Has Nothing To Do With Feeling
Love doesn’t run parallel to the way you feel. Loving a person and feeling good about that person are two very different things. You must keep the two separated.
If you are a parent, you can understand this. Parents love their kids. All their kids. All the time, but do they always feel the same about their kids? No!
Kids have a way of frustrating us and parental feelings get caught up in the moment. Some days kids get it. Some days they don’t. Feelings change with the situation: hurt one day, encouraged the next. Love never flags!
Love Is Not The Opposite Of Authenticity
Love is always civil but never at the expense of authenticity.
Two things you want to avoid. One is saying what you’re supposed to say only because you’re supposed to say it even though it grates against everything you’re feeling and thinking at the moment.
The second thing is failing to be honest.
I’m not saying don’t be civil. Please do! Expressing cultural pleasantries at least levels the emotional playing field. You don’t want to start off with aggro.
But don’t avoid being authentic. Don’t walk away leaving the other person thinking you understand, or worse, agree with them when you don’t.
Learn to ask questions:
I’m not sure what you mean?
Were you saying this?
Can you give me more information?
There’s a big difference between loving someone and misleading them. Find a way to share what you really think or feel without barbs.
If you need something, say it. If you don’t understand, say it. If you disagree, carefully express yourself.
Obviously, this goes both ways but that is what you want.
Love Isn’t Something You Do Only For Others
If your love for another person doesn’t draw love from them, at least eventually, what you’re doing to love them isn’t love. Love compels an appropriate response.
You might have pacified them, dismissed them, shut them up or processed them, but you didn’t love them. If what you do doesn’t create connection, it isn’t love.
Don’t Confuse Love With Intimacy
Loving people does not mean you want them to be your best friend. Love does not require or invite an extremely close friendship.
It’s possible to love animals without making all of them your personal pets. Distance doesn’t mitigate against love.
Don’t Confuse Love With Material Superiority
Those on the lowest level are capable of loving those on the highest.
The person who loves is better off for having loved, but this has nothing to do with status.
Love Is Evidence Of Security
One quality of love is it doesn’t keep records of wrongs. Sometimes it doesn’t even recognize them.
Love is securing. Secure people know better than to believe the insult. They don’t rise above, they stay above.
Love Makes An Impact
For some reason, spite and vengeance come easily. No teaching is required and once expressed the impact often lasts forever.
A brother offended is harder to be won than a strong city. (Proverbs 18:19)
Love doesn’t happen so naturally, but it carries the same impact if not greater. Learning to love can make a difference.
Love Is Not Self Sacrifice
Self sacrifice is something we do occasionally and should be done strategically. It’s not an everyday exercise. We sacrifice self strategically.
It’s possible to sacrifice self and accomplish nothing good. There is no value in that.
It isn’t wrong to have more than others. It isn’t wrong to have more than you really need. It is wrong to have more at the expense of everyone else.
The rationale behind self sacrifice is that the sacrifice in one person’s life enables a benefit in another person’s life. If there is no benefit to others there’s no reason to sacrifice self.
Jesus didn’t just die. He died for a reason. A good one. He died so we could be forgiven. He wasn’t trying to be a better person. He was already perfect.
His self sacrifice – death – was focused on a greater good.
There is no justification for self sacrifice if no one else benefits from it.