Love One Another

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It is very compelling to me that in all the Gospels, there is only one time that Jesus declared a commandment: “This is my command: Love each other” (John 15:17). A command means it’s not up for debate. Ah, but we do debate it, don’t we? “Who are the ‘others’?” “Did Jesus just mean fellow Christians?” “Did He mean everyone everywhere?” “And what did He mean by ‘love’?” We are much like the lawyer who asked Jesus “And who is my neighbor?” And Jesus told Him the story of the Good Samaritan. You know this parable from Luke 10: 25-37.

A man was beaten and robbed and left for dead on the side of the road where two very religious men passed him by on the way to do their religious duties. But a Samaritan, whom the Jews despised, stopped and helped the man, took him to an inn, and paid for his care.  When the lawyer asked the question, “Who is my neighbor?” he wanted to know whom he was “required” to love. Jesus turned his question around by defining the neighbor as the one who gave love, not the one who received it. The one giving love is living out the second great commandment: “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Lev. 19:18).

So love your neighbor. But God doesn’t allow us to pick and choose our neighbors. He commands us to love the person He places in front of us. Sometimes that’s a hard love because they are prickly and unpleasant and downright hateful. They take and never give. They growl and complain. Does that mean we are excused from the love command? I think they are the very ones Jesus had in mind.

Several years ago I read something in “Reader’s Digest” that has stuck with me ever since: “Don’t be afraid to be the one who loves the most.” I think sometimes we withhold love because are afraid we will be “cheated” – giving more love than we receive. But the very act of loving others fills the one who gives it all away. Here’s how John said it: “If we love one another, God lives in us and His love is made complete in us” (1 Jn 4:12).  Beloved, the more love you give away the more of God’s love you have to give. Love each other – all the others – the way Jesus loves you (John 15:12).

Holy Sandpaper

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“. . . to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” (Luke 1:17).

One summer my mom asked me to repaint the porch swing so I grabbed some paint and brushes from the shed and headed toward the porch. She stopped me and said, “You have to prep it before you can paint.” We went back into the shed and she pulled out the electric sander and said, “You have to sand off the old paint and get the wood smooth.” And so I set to work, day after day sanding every inch of that swing. The wood had to be as smooth as glass before she pronounced it ready for primer and paint. That was more work than I bargained for, but in the end, that swing looked awesome!

When God wants to make a person ready for Himself, He also uses divine sandpaper to take off the layers of sin and worldliness and to smooth off our jagged edges. Sometimes He uses circumstances and situations that are rough – an illness, a job loss, a financial setback, sudden losses, unexpected responsibilities. But most of the time He uses people – at least it’s been true for me.

God has used “sandpaper people” to scrape off judgment and arrogance, to rub off selfishness, and strip away my “victim mentality.”  He used some of them to sand out my attitude of self-righteousness, to teach me humility, kindness, generosity, compassion, patience, and forgiveness.  But most of all, He exploded my understanding about His unconditional love when He called me to be a conduit of love into others’ lives.  Every person left an indelible mark on my life – some imprints of grace and forgiveness, some scars of wisdom, and some cracks in the wall I had built around my heart.

Beloved, who has God brought into your life that rubs you the wrong way? Maybe they are the very ones He is using to prepare you.  Maybe they are there to teach you some valuable lessons about grace, compassion, forgiveness, or discernment.  Ask God what He’s up to in your life and theirs.  Not every relationship is going to be sunshine and roses – some people will bring on the rain.  But rain makes the roses grow and their fragrance is a sweet aroma.  Above all remember – every person is a soul God loves and Jesus died to save.  That’s reason enough to love them.

Sandpaper People

“I will do this to recapture the hearts of the people of Israel” (Ezekiel 14:5).

As I pray each day for my granddaughter, I also pray for the people that will touch her life.    I pray for her future friends, caregivers, teachers, beaus, bosses and coworkers, and the man that she will one day marry.  I pray that they will be people who love the Lord, have a passion for His will and will help her achieve God’s purpose in her life.  I always ask Him to surround her with godly people.  But I know that there will be people who will come into her life that will not be godly.  They are what I call “sandpaper people” – gritty and abrasive people who rub us the wrong way.  I’ve had more than a few of them cross my path and I image you have too.  They are the people who frustrate and annoy us, who take advantage of us, fail to keep their word, who lie and who take more than they give.  They hurt us, mistreat us, abandon us and yes, even abuse us.  They make life hard and painful.  But they are there for a purpose.  For what does sandpaper do?  It smooths the rough surface.  Likewise sandpaper people are God’s tool for smoothing off our rough edges.

God used some of those sandpaper people to scrape off judgment and arrogance.  He placed some of them in my life to rub off selfishness and to remove my “victim mentality.”  He used some of them to sand out my attitude of self-righteousness. And He used them to teach me humility, kindness, generosity, compassion, patience, and forgiveness.  Through them He opened a tiny window into His amazing grace.  He taught me about prayer – oh how I learned to pray about some of these abrasive and hurtful people – for me and for them.  He also taught me about discernment and wisdom, for some of those people were there because I foolishly invited them in.  He exploded my understanding about His unconditional love, then asked me to be a conduit of that love into other’s lives.  Let me tell you, when God uses you to love someone to Christ, you will never consider another soul as a “hopeless mess.”  I confess that I complained – a lot and loudly – about some of the people who rubbed me the wrong way – but every one of them taught me something God wanted me to know and each one left an indelible mark on my life – some imprints of grace and forgiveness, some scars of wisdom, and some cracks in the wall I had built around my heart.

Beloved, who has God brought into your life that you sometimes wish wasn’t there?  Can you look at them through His eyes?  Maybe they are the very ones He is using to remove something that keeps you from fulfilling His purpose for your life.  Maybe they are there to teach you some valuable lessons about grace, compassion, forgiveness or discernment.  They may be in your life so that you can love them to Jesus—or so that you can become more like Jesus.  Ask God what He’s up to in your life and in theirs.  Not every relationship is going to be sunshine and roses – some people will bring on the rain.  But rain makes the roses grow and their fragrance is a sweet aroma.  Above all remember – every person – even the one who rubs you the wrong way – is a soul God loves and Jesus died to save.  That’s reason enough to love them.