For a portion of my life, a portion that is still the majority of my life, I didn’t care about loving others. In fact I was seething with anger and hatred. I hurt people - physically and emotionally. I remember one guy that I worked with commenting to me, “You don’t give a f*** about anybody do you?” Ouch. I winced at that but not enough to make any changes.
Oh sure, there was a time where I wanted to be loved. And I could manage lust which I mistook for real love. Anybody can do that. But love? - For others? - Other love? Nope. Selfishness reigned. Annoyance when others weren’t thinking about my happiness was front and centre. People who cut in front of me; people who were late for appointments; people who were too loud, too ugly, too stupid; people whose mistakes or laziness cost me money just drove me crazy angry. I felt confined and smothered by society’s rules. And don’t even get me started on my attitude back then as it applied to God.
And then something weird happened. Not only did I become aware of Jesus’ 24/7 love for me, I decided to follow Jesus. I hung out with Him every day. I read about Him. I talked with Him. I learned from Him and I learned about Him. Slowly but surely my behaviours and thoughts began to change. I grew patient with others. I actually experienced happiness that wasn’t derived from some mood-altering chemical. I began to give of my time, my money, myself. I no longer cared if people purposely jerked me around. Rules no longer bothered me. I was free - really, really free.
And then it dawned on me. I was loving other people. I had compassion and kindness and caring and peace and goodness - actual goodness. If I had looked at someone else whose behaviours were like mine I would have to say, “That person seems to love others.”
So what’s the big deal? Why bother to write down what sounds like bragging? Well first of all it isn’t bragging. It isn’t bragging because I did nothing to bring about this change. I’ve made no effort to improve. No effort was expended on my part to change my character. Watching all this happen to me is kinda like an out-of-body-experience. All I’ve done is hang out with Jesus. I’ve trusted Him. I’ve followed His instructions. I’ve given Him my heart and soul. From my perspective I still can’t love others. It seems to be a fact that nothing good is inherent in me. But Jesus, His love, His mercy, His grace is slowly but surely infusing my every pore with His character. I am possessed by the Holy Spirit of the living God.
And that is what Jesus’ brother James meant when he wrote, “I’ll show you my faith by what I do.” It is Jesus and our relationship with Him that changes our soul which then changes our behaviours. What we do proves or demonstrates what we believe.
Worldly love, the type of love demonstrated for our children by those in the entertainment industry is obsessive, possessive, manipulative and controlling. It’s about what can YOU do for me. What can you do to make ME feel good, look good, help me, support me. Worldly love is about what can you do to make ME happy. If you make me feel good then I’m drawn to you and I call it love. Even when people’s behaviours seem altruistic, their comments show that at least part of what they’re doing is because doing good to others makes them feel good about themselves. Of course that's better than nothing, but still . . .
God’s love, on the other hand, is totally self giving. It gives without any thought of return or recognition or duty or even an awareness that something out of the ordinary is taking place. Good people naturally do good things. God’s love gives.
Does this mean that I’m better than other people? Absolutely not! Many people, even many non believers might be “better” people than I am. At best all I am is better than I was before Jesus came into my life. The thing is, that improvement was so very, very necessary. Until I became a follower of Jesus, I was making the world a worse place in which to live. It was bad for my kids, my wife, my employees, my community. I needed God to change me because I am weak and selfish and self-absorbed.
Has any improvement in my character been by my effort or power? Again, absolutely not. All that I am, all that I’m to be and all that is good in me is from Jesus. Like a poster that I used to have in my office says, “I’m not who I should be. And I’m not who I’m going to be. But thanks to God alone, I’m not who I used to be.”
Praise God from whom all blessings flow.