For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself”. – Galatians 5:14
A while ago, after a self-assessment of my christian life, I realized that I had one major problem: I wasn’t able to love people as God wanted me to. It is not that I hated people, but I was indifferent. If you think about it, indifference is the real opposite of love, not hatred.
If someone I cared about was in trouble or needed my help, I would jump in to help immediately. But if it wasn’t, I would think “poor him” or “poor her” and a few minutes later I would have dismissed any worries from my mind without even noticing.
But what about this commandment that Jesus gave us:
You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. – Matthew 5:43-45
I felt that I was not even close to loving the way Jesus meant, so I started praying that He would help me love people.
I didn’t expect the answer I got to my prayer, tough…
For some reason, I expected Him to change how I feel about people, as if there was a magic switch inside of me labeled “love”, that could be turned on and suddenly I would feel all warm and cozy inside and then I would be able to love everyone as Jesus did.
I know it sounds silly, but when I think about it, that’s sort of what I was expecting, a magical transformation. Well, that’s not how it works tough.
One of the reasons I think I have a hard time truly caring about people is that I am too rational. It seems that I’ve always needed a reason to love someone. My brain needed to process it first, then when it was convinced, the rest of the body acted accordingly. So I’ve been able to love my family, friends, etc, but when it comes to people that I don’t have a relationship with… well, “love” was never the first word that my brain would think of.
The amazing thing is that God used rationality to get to me. After I started praying about this, I stumbled upon lots of reading material about godly love. I would come across writings from C. S. Lewis, Philip Yancey, Donald Miller, even a few sermons from my pastor about how this love is supposed to be. My brain needed to understand it.
I found out that it is not a feeling at all. When God talks about love, he means action. He himself didn’t just send messages telling us that He loved us. He sent his own Son to die for us.
I understood that God didn’t just want me to feel something for someone, that doesn’t help them at all. He wants me to act as if I loved them, no matter what. By showing love I would eventually actually love.
C. S. Lewis described it very well:
Do not waste time bothering whether you ‘love’ your neighbor; act as if you did. As soon as we do this we find one of the great secrets. When you are behaving as if you loved someone, you will presently come to love him.
So that’s what I’ve been trying to do.
And I’ve been overwhelmed by this urge to help people. I’ve never felt like this before. I believe it comes from changing my attitude. It’s just a beginning, I still have a long way to go. But I feel that I’m headed the right direction…
God never had any reason to love me, yet He did. Why should I need a reason to love someone else?