After four years of married life, my husband and I moved from the college scene into a new chapter. Ron was now equipped to enter the professional world. Just in time! Our first child was due in three months. I, on the other hand, felt ill-equipped for my new role. How would I learn the basics of childbirth and baby care? A deeper fear surfaced. Where would I find the love I needed to nurture this new little human being?
Am I the only mom who feels like this? I wondered. Would joining a young moms’ group help? Yes! Not only did the leader of the group have five healthy kids, but her family seemed to love each other! She obviously knew the secret about motherly love that I needed to hear.
An Even Greater Secret
In time, my friend taught me an even greater secret about love. She said God loved me. She told me that He created me to be in a relationship with Himself. The Bible tells us that our relationship with God is broken because of sin, that only God can fix our brokenness. He loved us so much that He sent His only Son, Jesus, to pay the penalty for our sin. And that’s not all: my friend told me of God’s great promise, that when we put our trust in Jesus, God forgives us of our sin. Through Jesus, God opens the way to have a relationship with Him as our heavenly Father forever.
That day, I talked to God for the first time. I thanked Him for Jesus and asked Him to help me know and love Him more. With fresh hope, I thought, “God will help me love my new baby.”
My story may seem crazy to you. Who can’t love a baby? Yet sometimes we find it hard to love anyone, even the most loveable. We may think that God’s greatest command, to love Him with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, is also His hardest command. But honestly, the second great command often feels even more impossible. How can we truly love others as we love ourselves (Matt. 22:37–40)?
Every Relation an Invitation
We all have lots of relationships—family, friends, work associates, church family, and neighbors. Some are messy, some seem perfect, most are not what we hope they will be. Regardless of how random it may seem, no relationship is an accident. God purposely put every person you relate to in your life. Every relationship is God’s invitation to show the power of the gospel—to you, to the other person, and to the world.
1. Every relationship is God’s invitation to show you the power of the gospel.
1 John 4:7–8 says, “Dear friends, let us love one another, because love is from God, and everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, because God is love.”
We all love ourselves. We want the best for ourselves—respect for our expertise, recognition for our experience and regard for our viewpoint. How can our love for our brother, sister, or someone in our church family who takes a different political view, look like the love we have for ourselves?
God didn’t love us because we were easy to love. He is merciful to love us even when we do not deserve it. While we were God’s enemies, Jesus laid down His life for us (Rom. 5:10). God’s love transforms enemies into family. His love for us frees us to love others. Since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another (1 John 4:11).
Instead of always wanting the best for ourselves, love gets us excited about helping others get what is best. Can we really love our sister-in-Christ this way? Yes! Love is like fruit that grows in the hearts of God’s children (Gal. 5:22–23). Through love and obedience to God, our love for God and for others gets sweeter and sweeter (1 John 4:19–21). God’s love, lived out through us, shows us the power of the gospel.
2. Every relationship is God’s invitation to show others the power of the gospel.
Can anyone say, “All my relationships are perfect and loving”? In every relationship we can expect conflict. Mommy wars can divide a group fast. Grandmommy comparisons stir up pride and envy.
How can we love people the way God loves us? We can ask for His help! When we trust in Jesus Christ, God gives us His Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit brings to our attention the hard feelings, bitterness, grudges, and prejudices we hold on to. He helps us see that our sarcastic comments and gossip are sin. “Oh, that’s just the way I am.” “It’s his fault!” “I had a bad day.” With the Holy Spirit, our excuses won’t work anymore.
As we confess our struggle to love the unlovable person in our home or church, we can trust God to do in us what we cannot do. He gives us courage to let go of having to be right. He enables us to step forward into the hard conversations with family, friends, church brothers and sisters, work colleagues, and neighbors and ask forgiveness. Instead of arguing, we ask what is wrong and how we can help. Instead of always talking, we listen. Imagine ways the Holy Spirit might help you if you take the risk of loving someone who is hard to love.
Where does love for others come from? God gives His children new hearts of love (1 Pet. 1:22–23). Love for others starts with asking God to help you love others as He loves you (1 John 3:16–18)! God’s love, lived out through us, shows others the power of the gospel.
3. Every relationship is God’s invitation to show the world the power of the gospel.
When the world looks at our relationships, what does it see? Do others see the power of the gospel, as Jesus gives us love for one another? If not, what needs to change? God is committed to teaching us to love as He loves. His love, lived out through us, transforms the world around us. On the heels of Jesus’ seemingly impossible command to love others as we love ourselves, the gospel encourages us:
Dear friends, if our hearts don’t condemn us, we have confidence before God and receive whatever we ask from him because we keep his commands and do what is pleasing in his sight. Now this is his command: that we believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and love one another as he commanded us. (1 John 3:21–23)
What if a relationship seems broken beyond hope? You prayed and worked at reaching out, but still your friend left. Or you have been slandered by a church member who betrayed your trust. We live in a world broken by sin. Some things will not be made right in this life. Here’s the good news: Jesus’s life, death and resurrection prove that God uses even the broken places for the good of His children.
God fills us with His Holy Spirit and helps us love Him more than our sin. And God’s love, lived out through us, transforms the world around us. Through His Spirit, we show God’s mercy to the lost, lonely, hurting, and needy. As God came to us, we go to others with the good news of Jesus’ plan to rescue and restore everyone who repents and turns to Him in faith.
Who Do You Need to Love?
You may not think loving a newborn is the impossible task that it was for me. But what about that person who chooses to be your religious or political enemy? The same holds true: Every relationship is God’s invitation to depend on Him. Instead of avoiding people who take us to the edge, or trying to hold your tongue, ask God for help. Depend on Him to give you grace to pray for and to love your fiercest foe.
When you are tempted to avoid conflicts, will you ask God for the grace and power to reconcile? Every wound, every rejection, every temptation to pride is also an opportunity from God to love as He loves you. Every relationship is God’s invitation to show us, others, and the world the power of the gospel.