Let’s start by looking at who these “others” are.
I think most of us would be delighted if others meant those outside our families, outside our circle of friends and coworkers and outside our marriages and close relationships!But we are to love everyone....
Let’s start with our physical neighbors –Well, haven’t we all had that annoying neighbor who is too noisy, borrows things and never returns them or is just a negative Nancy on any given day. Maybe you had a neighbor who was a good friend at some point, but after time a neighborhood situation ended your friendship. Good or bad, our geographical neighbors need to see the love of Christ in you and me. We need to be patient, kind, compassionate and peaceful. And above all, forgiving, pointing them to Jesus.
But even beyond our street, our neighbor is the server in the restaurant who seems frazzled and incompetent. The clerk at the grocery who gave you incorrect change, the mom in Walmart with the 3 screaming children, and even the guy flipping you off from his car in the other lane. What do all of us have in common? LIFE!
The waitress, and I have been here, may be going through a divorce and had to leave her kids for the first time in her life. She is hurting. The clerk may be working a second job and is only going on 2 hours of sleep, just to make ends meet. She is hurting. That frustrated mom pushing her little ones aisle to aisle, trying to keep them from tantrums is struggling with loads of laundry, no sleep and cranky kids every day and she just needs a break. She is hurting. Even the mean guy who is flipping you off. Ya, he’s got issues, but he needs love, too. He is hurting. We are responsible to show the love of Christ in every situation, not just when we feel like it.
Ok, so what about our brothers and sisters in Christ, our church family? Are they our neighbors? Are you my neighbor? In Leviticus 19:18, God says “You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.”
This is a tough one for a lot of us. As believers, we sometimes think we know better how a fellow church member should behave, right? Well, we may have a knack at analyzing others in such a way as to bring their sins to the forefront, but this is not necessarily loving them
Love flows from a genuinely repentant heart. We are all broken in one way or another. Sometimes as new believers we make the mistake of putting folks on a pedestal and then we are disappointed to find out that they too are sinners and fall short of our expectations. And sometimes as regular church attenders, we can become impatient when it takes someone too long to accept Jesus and fall in. Our preconceived notions about others dangerously get in the way of loving them.
Psalm 51:10 is my go to verse when I am feeling cynical or the temptation to be critical of others rises. “Create in me a clean heart oh God and renew a right spirit within me. “
For those of us who are married or are about to be, yes others includes our spouses and spouses to be. Sometimes the expectations we have for them are just over the top. We are tempted to make them our gods…We expect them to meet our every need, to lift our spirits when we’re down, to understand our emotions read our minds and to be tuned in 24/7. But God and God alone can fulfill our deep needs.
Love looks a lot less like give and take and a lot more like give and give some more. Trust God to sustain you. .
I expected so much from my husband. I thought he would make me happy and heal my past hurts. I knew he had issues, but was sure that my presence in his life would cure him of all his ails and we should ride off together into the sunset!
But instead of expecting performance, I need to extend love. I no longer wait with bated breath for the perfect response in a conversation. He is not going to read my mind, he is not going to meet my every need, and he is not going to save me! But Jesus already has! He empowers me to love my husband through our disagreements, through our language barrier and through the selfish tendencies that we both have.
My husband is not my God, my kids are not my God and my career or lack thereof is not my god…God is God. The great I Am. My all in all. When I feel his love and am secure in it, I will love others better. Not perfectly, but better!