Jesus Commands Us to Love One Another. But Do We Do It?
Jesus commands us to love one another. “I give you a new commandment: that you love one another, just as I have loved you, so you too should love one another. By this shall everyone know that you are My disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34-35) Jesus instructs us to love our fellow Christians and our friends, but He also commands us to love our enemies! (Matthew 5:44)
The words of an old Christian hymn come to my mind: “And they’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love, yes they’ll know we are Christians by our love.” It all sounds so nice – Christians loving everybody. But the real question is, do we do it? Do we really love everybody? Do we love the difficult people in our lives, the people that dislike us, and the people that harm us and act like our enemies?
I don’t have any problems loving nice people, warm friendly people, or people that love me back. It’s just those problem people that treat me badly, criticize me and dislike me, and people that I disapprove of that I have a hard time loving. Actually there are several people in my life right now that I don’t love but feel guilty about my lack of love for them. I keep trying to love these ones and I keep asking God to just drop His love for them onto me. But so far it isn’t happening. Instead I keep thinking about all of the faults these people have and how bad they are. And guess what? I still don’t love them even though I know I should! Why isn’t God answering my prayers and pouring love for these people down on me?
Recently I read Joyce Meyer’s book, “Reduce Me to Love,” and chapter 5 “Loving with Thoughts” p. 43-53 helped me see why my prayer wasn’t being answered. I had been waiting for God to “drop” love for these folks onto me while I continued criticizing them. Was I not doing my part?
Joyce Meyer quotes Scripture that tells us that God has work that we need to do in this “love walk”. While we are on this earth Scripture tells us that we are fighting a spiritual battle. I was waiting for God to do all of the work of loving but now I see that there is work for me (us) to do too– a fight for me (us) to fight when it comes to loving those difficult folks.
2 Corinthians 10:4-5 reads: “For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.” Hey, did I read that right? I (we) are supposed to bring every thought we have into captivity to the obedience of Christ? I had been busy thinking my negative judgmental thoughts about my two problem people. Was God asking me to replace my hateful thoughts with kind, positive thoughts about these folks?
Joyce Meyer on p.45 suggests that our thoughts can minister death or life. “For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.” (Romans 8:6) This scripture seems to be saying that the mind of the flesh is death, but the mind of the Spirit is life. Negative thoughts minister death to us and to others, but positive loving thoughts minister life. Joyce Meyer writes on p.47: “If you and I allow our thoughts about a person to be negative, our attitude toward that individual will also be negative. If we want to love people, we must make a decision to think good thoughts about them.” Proverbs 23:7 says: “For as a person thinks in his heart, so is he…”
Joyce Meyer continues: “When I notice my attitude toward a person or a situation going in the wrong direction, I always find that the problem began with wrong thinking. I have learned that in order to avoid thinking negatively, I must keep my thoughts renewed daily.” Ephesians 4:23 reads: “And be constantly renewed in the spirit of your mind.” In other words, when Jesus commands us to love, there will be work for us to do in our thought life. Love is something we need to do- (with our thoughts) on purpose. We can’t wait to feel loving – have God drop love onto us – but we have to choose to love – to work at it.
Philippians 4:8 reads: Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.” So here we are instructed to think about the good in people and in situations. Maybe if I thought about the good qualities my problem people have instead of criticizing them, then my negative attitudes toward them would change.
Joyce Meyer writes on p.48: “Take a moment and try this experiment. Just sit and think some good thoughts on purpose about someone you know and see how much better you feel yourself. If you keep it up, you will begin to notice changes in that person’s attitude toward you. One reason that individual will change is because you will have changed. Thinking good thoughts opens the door for God to work.”
We have been given the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:16) but we have to learn to let Christ lead us in our thought life. We have to break old negative habits and form new ones and that takes effort and persistence. Scripture instructs us to pray for our enemies, (Matt. 5:44) - give them to God. When we pray that God will work in their lives we can think about how God is blessing them and leading them to Himself. God can deal with the people who cause us big problems. And God can take care of us too.
Joyce Meyer writes on p. 52: Thinking right thoughts will often resemble warfare. The mind is the battlefield on which Satan tries to defeat us. In the Bible we are told to “cast down” wrong thoughts, but what does that mean? It means once wrong thoughts present themselves to us, we are to refuse to receive them and turn them over and over in our mind. We are not to give them strength by meditating on them. The real key to victory is not only to cast down wrong thoughts, but to replace them with right ones…”
Scripture does say: “Be not overcome with evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Romans 12:21) It’s true; we get rid of the darkness by turning on the light. And we get rid of wrong thoughts by thinking right thoughts.
I am going to pray for the two people I have had a hard time loving. I am going to deliberately think about their good qualities and ask God to bless them. First Corinthians 10:5 says that I should “bring every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.” So I have some work to do- some thoughts to change out of obedience to Christ. It will be an experiment and I wonder how it will turn out. Do you have people you have trouble loving? Would you like to join me in this grand experiment?