There are three things that seriously terrify me in life.
Depth. Deep water, to be specific. The technical term is bathophobia, but I promise you it’s just the fear of depth, not of bath tubs.
My own mess. This one is complicated. It’s a fear of many things. Not being good enough, for anyone or anything; being ruled by my depression and anxiety; letting my past control the decisions I make in the present; not being able to view myself as anything but broken, even though I am fully aware that Christ has redeemed me. And the list goes on…
Love. This one is even more complicated. I’m sure you can agree with me that love is a scary thing. Whether it’s loving someone romantically, or just as a friend, or a stranger. It’s absolutely terrifying. Why? Because to love is to put every inch of yourself, every bit of your heart, on the line. To love is to sacrifice, in ordinary and extraordinary ways. To love is to say, “Here I am. All of me. Every weakness and every strength. I am going to give you the power to break me, and I am going to trust that you will not.”
If that were all that love is, we would crumble under the weight. But that isn’t all. Love is infinitely more than that. It is more than a moral urge to be kind to people; it is more than a seemingly mandatory feeling you must have towards your family; it is more than our simple, human brains could ever truly understand. Yet, God calls us to love despite our flesh, and He calls us to do so with a love like no other.
1 Corinthians 13 is the most famous passage on love in the Bible, and rightfully so. It is a powerful piece of scripture. In verses 4-8a, it says:
“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.” (ESV)
Easy, right? Just always be kind, patient, honest, trustworthy, hopeful; never be prideful, arrogant, rude, resentful; always endure, always love. Piece of cake, right? Listen, between you and me, I just had a piece of cake and that scripture passage, my friends, is not cake.
Guys, love was never supposed to be easy. If loving people were easy, then it wouldn’t be love. Christ died on the cross because he loved us – do you think that was easy for him to do? He knew exactly what awaited Him. He knew the pain He would have to endure, yet He chose to endure despite knowing. That is an insane kind of love, and God is asking us to love the same way.
And that, is what terrifies me. How am I supposed to love anyone like that? How am I supposed to love with utter selflessness? How am I supposed to abandon what I want, for the sake of others? It’s a scary thing to do that for people you are close to, but people who have wronged you or hurt you? People who you don’t even know? People who have no relationship with Christ whatsoever? How are we supposed to love people like that?
I’m asking a lot of questions, I know. I’m sure you’ve already asked those yourself, and maybe you’re hoping I’ll have some answers for you. I guess that depends on the answers you want.
I am not perfect – I think my three fears were enough to prove that – but I am going to give you a few tips, along with some scripture, to hopefully help you out.
It’s hard to love, but it’s even harder to love without motivation or a reason why. As a Christian, the root of my love is Jesus Christ.
1 John 3: 16-18 says, “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. If anyone has material possessions or sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.” (ESV)
My motivation is Christ. My reason why, is Christ. And if you have a personal relationship with Jesus, then He should be your motivation, your reason why, too.
Christ is my motivation, because He saved me. He saved me from an eternity in hell. That is just how much He loves me. If I were perfect, this would make sense. But again, I am not. I am so broken, so messed up. I have weaknesses, flaws, scars. I have made mistakes, too many times to count.
Jesus still loves me. Therefore, I cannot simply let the world pass by. I must show them that same love; I must sacrifice, because Christ sacrificed so much for me. I love, because Christ loved me.
I urge you to remember Christ. Remember exactly what He did for you, and exactly what He is calling you to do to others: to love. Remember His sacrifice. Let it be your motivation.
Not only did Jesus love you despite your sin – enough to die for you – He also forgave you. When He died on that cross, He atoned you. He bore your sin, so you wouldn’t have to. And He calls us to forgive, just as He did.
Matthew 18: 21-22 says, “Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times.” (ESV)
Forgive, forgive, forgive. When someone is not loving towards us, we do not want to be loving towards them. Why should we, right? But God has called us to a higher standard. Love anyways. And when you do not love, ask for forgiveness. And when someone does not love you, forgive them. It’s not always easy to forgive, but just keep in mind how much God forgave you of. He has forgiven you of a lifetime of sin. Do as He has done, as best you can. Forgive.
You will not always love. I can guarantee you this, that you will not always love. You will mess up, and make more mistakes. You will find yourself being impatient, rude, prideful, deceptive, and so much more. You are not perfect. But Christ is.
You must persevere for His sake. You must persevere throughout the hardship, because that’s what He did for you. Christ persevered. For YOUR sake. Find a way to love when no one else can.
I don’t have all the answers you want. I don’t know how to love well, all the time. But that’s okay. Because I have been redeemed by a beautiful Savior who is love, who has shown me what love is, and who has loved me despite all my failings. This is the love I strive after. Will you strive with me?