This is part three of our “To Be Known By Love” blog series. To catch up on the previous two posts, please click here
The last two weeks we’ve been exploring this idea that as Christians we should be known by our love. In Part One we found that it would be near impossible for a person to claim to be a follower of Christ but not have love for others. Jesus commanded us to love our God with all our heart, soul, and mind but also that we should love our neighbors as ourselves. These are the two greatest commandments. He takes it one step further and says [paraphrasing] that we’ll be known as one of disciples by the love we have for one another.
In Part Two we took this knowledge, that we must love others, and then asked the tough question, “Am I loving?” Before you can act on this knowledge you must, first, be aware that you’re lacking in this area. It’s only then can you do the hard work of changing.
And that is the subject of today’s post: Change.
“And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires “ Ephesians 4:24
Love, faith, joy, peace, kindness, gentleness, self control, and goodness. These should be the personality traits of a Christian. (Galatians 5:22-24) But what if they aren’t? Instead of gentleness we are stern and heavy handed. We are not peaceful but easily excitable and impatient. We neither have love for others or self control over sin. We realize after our self check that our personality traits look more like the desires of the flesh and not fruit of the Spirit.
Scientist say that by your mid 20’s or early 30’s your brain has stopped developing (mostly). This means by the time we’re 28(ish) most of our personality traits are well defined. By this time we’ll know if you’re a happy person or by nature more somber. Are you bubbly or melancholy? Do you have great patience or do things easily frustrate you? Do you struggle with a short temper or are you cool and collected in all situations? Quiet or loud. Meek or brave.
Our personality traits make up who we are and how people see us, but what if one of those traits is unbecoming or in fact is something the Bible says we should avoid? Can we change and how?
To answer the first question quickly, yes a person can absolutely change.
The mark of a believer is someone who is maturing in their faith while dying to themself by crucifying their flesh with “its passions and desires. This is how we change. We do the hard, laborious work of putting to death the things that are of our flesh.
Paul says in Ephesians 4:22-24
“To put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.”
In 2 Corinthians chapter 5 Paul says that in Christ we are a New Creation. Even the act of baptism is a reflection of the death of our old self and then new life in Christ. John the Baptist spoke of this need for change when we proclaimed “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Repentance is the physical act of turning away from sin (desires of the flesh) and towards Christ (new life/fruits of the spirit) .
This means we don’t get a pass for a personality trait. Yes, God made us, each and every part, but we don’t then get to say, “Well since God made me and I’m impatient, then that means he wants me to be impatient”. This would be embracing the flesh instead of crucifying it (killing it). He is the potter, we are the clay, and we don’t get to ask the potter why did you make us this way? As Paul so eloquently states, “But who are you, O man, to answer back to God?”
We also don’t get a pass due to our season of life. This is a tough one because we want to believe that we are the way we are due to some external influence that was outside of our control.
I lost my faith after a family member died.
I’m going through fits of anger and rage (towards family and friends) because my spouse cheated on me.
I’m sick, so I’ve lost the ability to be kind to others.
I just want to have a good time or God wants me to be happy (no self control).
You’d be hard pressed to find examples in the Bible where these reactions to life’s circumstances (either fair or unfair) are acceptable and pleasing to God. In fact, we are told to stand firm in persecution and sickness. To turn the other cheek. That we should not be anxious about anything and we should not lose heart. Jesus tells us to love our enemies. To have faith and be steadfast when all around us seems lost.
This doesn’t mean we can’t be sad or angry when horrible, unspeakable things happen in our lives. Paul says “be angry and do not sin”. So it is not the anger that is sinful but how you react in the moment. Jesus says, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted” and “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
The idea here is to acknowledge our weaknesses and not blame a personality trait as the reason for immaturity or sin. As followers of Jesus we should desire to be imitators of Christ. If we aren’t joyful, we should fall on our knees in repentance and ask the Holy Spirit to change us. If we aren’t gentle, Lord soften our hearts and gives us compassion for others. If we lack self control or faith, Spirit test us. If we are angry, break us. Ruin us, if need be.
Lord, if we are not loving, bring us to the place where all we have left is your love for us. The only love the surpasses all knowledge. The greatest of all love. The love that was willing to meet us at the cross and strong enough to defeat death.
Let us be known by this love.