Sunday, December 23, 2012

Day 23: You Call that Love???

Have you ever had anyone tell you, "You don't have to like the person, but you do have to love them"?

I know what the intent behind that statement is.  It is to remind someone that even if you don't particularly care for a person's personality, you still need to show them love and Christ loved us.  Or even deeper, that we need to love each person on earth simply because they exist.

But when we take this attitude, is what we are showing to people really love?

Especially during this time of treacherous family get-togethers and the casting of ourselves into a sea of crazy last minute Christmas shoppers, we need to be honest about what it is we are really showing other people.

When we say we "love" someone, what does that me?  If most people are really honest, they have no idea what love is.  Is it warm, fuzzy feelings?  Is it fondness?  Is it tolerance or acceptance?  Is it being nice to someone, even if we have to force ourselves to be?  Is it feelings of respect and esteem?  Does it have to be unconditional?  Can you show it if you don't exactly know what it is?  Can you show it if you don't love yourself?  And is it really possible to love every single person in the whole world, from some stranger in Zimbabwe to the family member that has been obnoxious since the day they were born?

The Bible sheds much light on the topic of love.  In 1 Corinthians 13:4-7, Paul gives us a checklist of the characteristics of love:

-Love is patient.
-Love is kind.
-Love does not envy.
-Love does not boast.
-Love is not proud.
-Love does not dishonor others.
-Love is not self-seeking.
-Love is not easily angered.
-Love keeps no record of wrongs.
-Love does not delight in evil.
-Love rejoices with the truth.
-Love always protects.
-Love always trusts.
-Love always hopes.
-Love always perseveres.

If you have any question about whether or not something is a loving action, check it against this list.  Is the way you treated the crazy lady in the store showing love?  Check it against this list.  What about the way you avoid the one family member that gets under your skin every year?  It may or may not conform to this list.  You have to check your heart to see that your heart is in line with the characteristics of love.

Why is this list of characteristics so important?  It is because 1 John 4:8 tells us, "Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love."  In other words, God has those same characteristics as those listed above, and if you aren't showing them, you are not striving to follow God and thus, you don't know who He is.

The way to ensure that you really love every person you come into contact with is to make the characteristics of love listed above is to make that same checklist a list of your own characteristics.  To borrow a tactic from many others who have talked about this, go through the list above and put your own name in each time you say the word love.  Which ones apply to you?  Which ones made you wince as you said them, because you knew it simply isn't true about you?

Don't allow yourself to mistake real, Godly love for artificial or shallow love.  You are a vessel of the Living God.  You have the power to show His love to every person you come in contact with.  Put on an attitude of love before you get out of bed every morning, especially during the holidays, and see what the love of God can do to the world around you.

Activity:  Take one of the characteristics of love that you didn't feel characterized you and spend the next three days working on that one characteristic.  If you are like most people, you will be seeing many people over these next few days, so you will have plenty of opportunity for practice.  See if anything changes in your interaction with others.

Prayer:  Pray that God continually reveals to you a more detailed and more accurate view of what love is.  Praise Him for His perfect love and for the love Jesus showed us on the Cross.  Thank Him for continuing to love you even when you are most unlovable.

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