Focus on You
Here’s the truth …
“This is my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you. There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:12-13 NLT).
Ever hear the adage, “You’ve got to give love to gather love,” and become inspired to give love? It seems like the motivation to love should automatically be there because there will be a payoff at the end with some love coming back to you in return. What happens, though, when you know you should give love but you just don’t want to? I spoke with some family members recently as I attempted to “play Switzerland.” Both sides seem to know that they need to be the bigger person and give love to the other, yet they just don’t feel like doing it.
And here is where I think the adage is flawed. You should not have to give love to others if you expect to have love given back to you. Yes, you heard me correctly. I know … I’m sure you are thinking about Scrooge right now as well as countless other misers who were so stingy with their love that they ended up alone until they finally had a change of heart. But my point is this: we are called to love others, warts and all, no matter how much they do not deserve it. Our focus should be on our actions, not on the other person’s actions. If people choose not to love back, that is between them and God.
Allow me to explain further. My mother was a wonderful mother during my growing-up years. She doted on our family and ran a tight ship at home. She made her home and her children her most important priorities. After I moved out on my own in my twenties, I saw a change in her. I’m sure people could attribute that change to countless things, but my belief is that she lost her purpose when my brother and I became adults and no longer needed her in the same ways we once did. She became a different person, and not in a good way. We were at odds with each other for much of my adult life, because she had an opinion about everything I did and it was not usually an affirming one. Throughout these discouraging years of tension, I still loved her the best I could. When she became very ill, I was by her hospital bed in the early mornings before work and in the evenings, practically daily for eleven weeks. And I can tell you that she was not a nice patient. She was not giving out much love to anyone. But she gathered love from me regardless, because that is what I saw as my main role as her daughter.
We all have roles to play in our lives. Ever think about the roles you’ve been given: spouse, child, parent, boss, employee, cousin, neighbor, friend, etc.? If God has you in that role, you need to recognize that His commandment to love applies to the people with whom you interact in that role.
Although it might be very easy to point out the flaws of those who don’t seem to love us the way we need to be loved, we should only look at how we do the loving. Are we supportive? Do we encourage or assist when needed? Are we available? Do we call, even when we’d rather just text and move through our busy day? Do we put people first; or do we, instead, put tasks to complete or places to go ahead of a person in need? Granted, people should want to love us similarly if we are putting forth all of that effort. But even if they don’t, does that give us a license to stop loving them that way any longer? No.
Jesus said, “This is my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you. There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:12-13 NLT). Notice, He didn’t say, “But only do this if your friends plan to do this for you,” because Jesus died for both His friends and His enemies, not just for people who truly loved Him back. You need to be prepared to love others with that kind of intensity, even if you don’t ever get a likewise commitment back from them.
We hear similar sentiments offered later in God’s Word: “Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love…. If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen” (1 John 4:8, 20 ESV). Love is simply that important to God.
Ravi Zacharias tells the story of a woman whose husband left her and their children for another woman in Japan. He built a new life with this woman and then, years later, found out he was dying of Cancer. He didn’t have enough money to leave to his new family upon his death, so he asked his former wife if she would assist them in his absence. Some would say that he had a lot of nerve. But she invited his new family to come to America, taught them English, and got them the assistance they needed so that they could start a life here. She created a foundation for them, even when the foundation she once had with her former husband crumbled because of this mistress. That is the kind of love I’m talking about.
In a video posted on Twitter recently, Joyce Meyer said, “If you’re mad at anybody, get over it. If you’re not believing the best about people, change your mind. If you need to forgive somebody, forgive them. If you’re offended, get over it.” In response to the “unfairness” of those simple answers, she offered: “The thing that’s not fair is that Jesus had to go to the cross and die for a bunch of people like us.” Indeed.
Love others. Truly love them. It just needs to be a decision. No excuses. That’s it.
… and that’s the truth as I know it.
Meyer, J. (2019, July 7). Are you mad at anyone? [Twitter moment]. Retrieved from: https://twitter.com/JoyceMeyer/status/1147964599712591872/video/1
Zacharias, R. RZIM: Let My People Think Broadcasts. (2019, July 5). Jesus Among Other Gods, Part 1. [Audio podcast]. Retrieved from: https://podcasts.google.com