23 Aug Love Is Easy?
The reason that we often have struggles in our relationship with people comes from two things. The first thing is that we lack in our love for others, and the second is because we do not know how to love.
Firstly, when we do not love enough, we tend to judge from our own perspectives and standards. For example, “I can do this, why can’t the other person do it?” The opposite of loving others is to love ourselves, to care only about what we think and feel. When this happens, it may cause a lot of tension and pressure with others, because we may seem oppressing and critical. Frankly speaking, many of us may fall in this area. I, too, have struggled and is still struggling with this. Secondly, the other reason is that we do not know how to love. We may truly care for another, but we do not know how to give words of understanding and assurance. The bible says “we should rejoice with those who rejoice, and grieve with those who grieve.” This means we should empathise with the needs of those around us and help them. So we really need to reexamine ourselves, if not, our love will only become lip service or our love might turn into worry and fear instead. That is why, for a parent, they might feel it is their love for the child, to ask for their whereabouts or always worrying about their homework and results. But for a child, it can be frustrating, sensing a lack of trust and not given enough personal space. The truth is, because we are all sinners, it is easy for us to distort love into other forms that could seem suffocating to others, spoiling another person, overly dependent, and more. So we must really be more aware of the way we define love and love through the wisdom of the Holy Spirit instead. It may be to know how to give other time and space to grow, or to convey love through the right words and practical actions. Especially when we see someone in need, we really need to pray for the heart and burden to sincerely give the help they need. It cannot just be about us accomplishing our roles but also looking out for those around us, in our family, our friends, colleagues, church brethren. The more we do it, the more we are sensitive towards the emotions, issues, expressions of others. You know, for the longest time, I have been struggling with socialising with people because I find it exhausting and requires commitment. It took me a long while to realise that even though I may be comfortably in my own space, but the capacity of my heart to love and empathise for another slowly grow colder, my relationships with people around me also become very one-dimensional. Now brothers and sisters, the more we are in touch with people, the more we grow in the lessons of love and that is the truth. It may be jarring when we think about how we might get into friction and conflicts, but it is also in such cases where we are able to understand others more. Now today, let us first understand the principles of love.
Love must not be fake.
Let us read the bible. <Romans 12: 9> “Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.” The verse here says that love must be sincere, must be real. Why did God first talk about sincerity of love? Because ever since the fall of men, we have always lived as if we are “covering ourselves with leaves” like Adam and Eve did. We may know our weaknesses or be accused, yet we do not want people to judge us. We always want to present our best selves, as someone smart, capable, loving and helpful. So in the course, we may make comments or react in ways that are fake, to please others or look a certain way. In other words, we over-speak or over-react in niceness. Our appearance no longer match our hearts. And in this case, when we become less “real”, we also cut down in our capacity to love. We can put on a facade but you will also realise that it makes you exhausted and frustrated at the end of the day. So how can our love be real? Only through the truth of the gospel. This is because, it tells us that we are all sinners, we are imperfect and there is nothing to hide. Therefore, we can say and respond in honesty. The truth of the gospel also helps us to discern what is good and what is not. It convicts us to draw near to what is life-giving, hopeful and steadfast in Christ, rather than the noises and influences of the world. Therefore, when our hearts and minds are constantly able to weigh out what is spirit-lifting and what isn’t, we will naturally become more real in our faith living and more real in our love for others.
We must live out the love.
Also, we have to be practical about our love. The way we respect, ask about and care for someone. Sometimes we try to rush things or make quick changes, and in the process we may say or do something too harsh or impulsive to another. But it is when others feel our sincerity to care and help practically, then will they be willing to listen and accept our prayers or words for them. Then in <Romans 12:11>, it says “Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.” Here, it talks about serving the Lord, but it is in this process that we actually edify God’s people. When we use our individual talents to serve God, we will find that it is also a channel where we show our love for God’s people. For example, sharing a message, arranging chairs for the congregation, leading worship, conducting a Sunday school class, maintaining the cleanliness of the church vicinity. Whichever areas we serve with what we have, it serves God’s people, it is an act of love to exemplify God’s glory. Let us not merely use our mere words or texts to show our concern, but really seek practical ways that we can show love. It can be having a meal with a troubled friend, or helping a tired parent with her children and many other ways.
Love must grow to a point that we can even love our enemies.
In <Romans 12: 17-18>, it goes on to say “Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” This is difficult, isn’t it? Especially when there is animosity or someone is provoking us, saying something hurtful to us, it is hard to keep our cool or remain calm. But God has a reason in asking us to live at peace and keep the harmony first. It is when we quiet down our hearts that the Holy Spirit can work in us. If we choose to retaliate, defend and prove our point, even if we win, many times we may realise that that satisfaction does not last long. We may still have unhappiness because the other person’s heart is still unconvinced, or we develop deep-seated resentment or accusations. <Romans 12: 19-21> “Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” God knows that in this world, we will definitely have differences, tensions and even fights with others. But the Lord advices us to overcome it with good, treating even our enemies with love and mercy. Why? Because at times, when we respond anger with gentleness, we see how it puts out the “fire” in the person’s heart. And also, the Lord Himself, will work in His time, to either cause the person to repent or be disciplined. God is righteous and all-knowing, thus we have to trust in Him to serve justice. For us, we only need to confirm in our hearts that we are all sinners to begin with. Thus, we do not keep justifying how we are right or rationalising how the person is at fault but to simply do what is right in God. And that is to overcome evil with good and let God work.
May the Lord continue to anoint and bless us in this lesson of love. Let this be our prayer topic, that we may grow in our capacity to love those God has placed around us.