This is the final post in four-part blog series entitled “To Be Known By Love”. To catch up on the other three parts, click here.
To be known by love. What a legacy. It’s taken some time to get here, but this is how I want to be remembered. At my funeral, I don’t want people talking about my wealth (that I don’t have) or my love for Alabama football or my red beard or how much I enjoyed working in my yard. No, I want to be remembered by how much I loved others.
The reason it has taken a while to get here is because I had to walk through what we talked about in Parts 1-3. First, I had to come to the understanding that a Christian should not only be known by their love for God but also others. Then I had to analyze my own heart to determine if I operated out of love. Finally, I had to begin the difficult process of actually changing my behavior. How’s the rhyme go? “First came love, then came marriage”? Well, for the Christian it’s, “First came love, then came the ability to love others as Christ loved us”.
Ok, I know it doesn’t have the same ring to it, but I think you get my point. Before we can act, we must first have love in our hearts.
Love In Actions
"Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor." -Romans 12:9-10
Loving others is hard. It takes time, effort, but most of all, an incredible amount of grace. To love others as Christ loved others forces us to completely change not only our actions but our eyes too. We have to see people how Christ sees people. We have to see beyond the outward image and sin to see the fellow image bearer. We have to see them, not as one of the 99, but the one that Jesus left the 99 to go find.
Rick Warren said about loving others, “God teaches us to love by putting some unlovely people around us. It takes no character to love people who are lovely and loving to you.
It’s easy to love my family because they are my flesh and blood. Even when one of my kids causes my blood to boil, the next minute they melt my heart by a simple hug or a smile. But a random person, who I have no connection with, that just cut me off in traffic or some guy, that just from his appearance, looks to be a potential danger to my family? How about the homeless who seem to be a drain on society? Refugees who we are told could be terrorists. Drug addicts and drug dealers. Those who love evil. These people I have to force my heart and mind to love, yet they are the exact people Jesus tells us we are called to love.
It’s hard. This will be an exhaustive, yet incredibly fruitful, process.
The Fruit of Love
A few years back I began to work with those affected by addiction and seeking recovery. This was my first time ever dealing one-on-one with people who’ve been addicted to opioids, crack, cocaine, and meth. Some of their stories will turn your stomach and break your heart, but after spending just a few sessions talking with these men, I noticed how deeply they desired to be loved. They just wanted for someone to accept them as a fellow human who was struggling with an unbelievable sickness and to not be seen as a failure who wasn’t worth anyone’s time or effort. They didn’t know how to express it, but you could tell they were looking for someone to show them the physical, genuine, tangible, real life love of Christ. Why? (meaning why couldn’t they express it) Because they had never received it and on some level they didn’t know it existed.
At first, I probably thought how much my words were going to change their lives. How I’d motivate them by my speech or bible study, and that these actions would result in their lives being changed. Nope, what I’ve found is actions do speak a thousand words. Simply being Jesus and embracing the two greatest commandments is all they needed from me.
Do we realize how much it means to a person to be loved? If not, oh how we have missed the point of Ephesians 2:1-10! We forget that, “God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved.” (vs 4-5)
Our call to love others shouldn’t be to fulfill a desire in our heart or to check off a “good deeds” box at the end of the day. No! Our desire to love others should be based on the understanding that God, who being rich in mercy, loved us first even when we were dead in our trespasses!
Sometimes we forget we were once the addict and God still showed us grace.
Over the years I’ve learned how precious the gift (act) of love can be to others. By working with addicts who may be here one day and gone tomorrow, it’s been made very clear to me that I may only get one shot to show a person, any person, the love of Jesus. But the “ah ha!” moment for me was when I started to use this thinking in all parts of my life. It could be in the grocery store, the ordering line at Chipotle, the meet and greet time at church, or just walking my dog. All these tiny moments are just opportunities to “be Jesus” and Christians, as messengers of the Gospel, shouldn’t take these moments for-granted. We should be embracing them, actively looking for these moments to give a person just a little bit of Jesus.
Imagine what the world would look like if we, every last one of us, embraced the idea of being known by our love. How quickly would wars, racism, sexism, and needless death end? How many broken marriages would be healed and the pain of abuse be removed? How many government programs would end simply because we loved the needy out of the abundance of love in our heart? How many people, who previously rejected him, would come to know Jesus, not by our words, but by our love? How many hearts would be changed?
So, are we known by our love? Will people look back at our lives and say, “Man, [insert person’s name] really loved like Jesus.” Or will they be turned off by our selfishness, our RBF, and harsh words? How we stood against the oppressed and not with them? Will we turn people away from Jesus because of our actions?
The ultimate question is will we be known by our love?