Time for some more honesty: I sometimes find it hard to love everyone, all the time. Bad drivers, slow walkers, incompetent shoppers, etc. Seriously, it’s the things that seem like they should be the simplest, things that just require common sense. Even with my kids – my daughter refusing to eat at meal times, my son spending longer complaining about his chores than it would take to do them… I still love them (and will no matter what), but at times like this it is sometimes hard to be loving in my attempts to get them on the program.
Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.
We see in 1 John 4:8 that “God is love.” Therefore, Paul (in my humble opinion) is giving a description of some of the many attributes of God in 1 Corinthians 13 (4-7 NLT quoted above).
If I am to truly be loving to the idiot in the loud, jacked-up truck on my bumper I can’t just not flip him off, I must also not harbor any sort of ill will toward him in my heart. Jesus even said that if I hate someone in my heart, I’ve as good as murdered them (my paraphrase, of course, since He said it in ancient Greek).
Another list of Godly attributes to remind me of what should be in my heart can be found in Galatians 5 (22-23 NLT):
But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
I really need to forget myself in times of frustration, for I have come to realize that the source of it seems to be my perception of others’ intentions – most specifically assuming they have intentionally done me wrong.
The lady stopping her cart in the middle of the aisle at Walmart so that no one can get around her has not done so to cause my frustration, she honestly wasn’t thinking of anyone but herself. (I don’t mean that in a vile way, rather just stating a fact.) Of course, if I’m upset because of this, I, likewise, am only focusing on myself.
When my kids are, frankly, being kids, and I get upset, it’s typically because I perceive their behavior to be malicious toward me – which it rarely is. I can’t force myself to be loving, patient and kind in these moments… I can only lean on God to help me through and help me to do better next time.
Notice in the quote above, “the Holy Spirit produces” these attributes (or fruit) in me. I (if you’ll permit me) grow this fruit by (as the old hymn goes) abiding in the vine. If I am disconnected from Jesus, I cannot possibly bear His fruit. It was He who said that they would know us by our fruit (and our love for each other).
So, when we do lose it, when we get frustrated by the actions of others, when we act in contrary to the characteristics of God, it is simply the old us showing through, giving us evidence that there is still work to be done – His work in me, through His power and grace as I give Him opportunity and allow Him to lead me and mold me in His image.
That, my friends, is the only way I will ever be able to love as He loves.