It's a new year. A brand new clean slate of days, weeks and months fresh and ready for life to happen in. Isn't that sort of exciting? I always get really energetic and pumped in January because it's the beginning of "who knows what!" A lot can happen in 365 days! Like last year for example, January 2014...Bill and I had no idea that in a matter of months our comfy world around us would drastically change. And now, here we are just weeks before it's about to change again. That's the beauty of the New Year.
That being said, I always try and check myself at the beginning of each year. Check my heart, more specifically. Of course I also try and do this throughout the year as well, but after the "Craziness" of the holidays, I seem to stumble out of the previous year in a crazed daze. January is just the perfect time to sit back, reflect on the year behind me, and make plans for any head and heart changes for the new upcoming year.
Last year I really got convicted by my heart and how I "loved" people. While I was going through an amazing book (HIGHLY RECOMMEND IT) called, Self Confrontation, A Manual for In-Depth Biblical Discipleship, with a very dear woman and sister in Christ, it came to my attention that my heart stunk. Plain and simple. I was selfish. Even my loveliest intentions were rooted somehow in myself and totally lame in comparison to how I was supposed to love biblically. I rarely had the other person's best interest in mind and often did things to "look good" or "make them feel good and think highly of me". Rarely did I do things sacrificially or in ways that put them above myself and pointed them to the beauty of Christ.
I was so blown away by how Biblical Love was broken down in that particular book that I couldn't not strive to change. It helped me see myself through real clear eyes and showed me my real need for Jesus and His mercies and help! Plus shoot- I really did want to love others!
Knowing this isn't a quick fix, I'm going to continue to work on this area of my heart in this new year as well (and probably for the rest of my life, if I'm honest).
“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself."
So what does it mean to biblically love one another? What is expected of us and how do we go about doing it? The following is slightly adapted from Self Confrontation, A Manual for In-Depth Biblical Discipleship by The Biblical Counseling Foundation and John C. Broger.
This means even when you feel like really explaining or expressing yourself, even when it's welling up inside of you, ready to burst, you are patient. Love bears all pain, trials, and hurts without complaint and shows others self control, even when severely annoyed. Love is continual even when times are proving difficult.
Even when someone has demonstrated unkindness towards you, even when they have hurt you in some way, you love them biblically. Love doesn't retaliate back. It doesn't "get even". Rather, love is compassionate, considerate, and gentle.
Even when you notice others getting more attention than you, even when you feel like you deserve what they have...love proves unenvious. Love does not become hostile towards those who are receiving the attention or praise, but rather works for the good of others and is genuinely happy for them.
This means that even when you want to climb to the mountaintops and scream to everyone around you about your accomplishments, you refrain. Love does not flaunt nor brag. Love does not engage in self-glorification, but rather focuses on lifting and building up others.
Even when you think you are right, when you are certain you are right, love isn't arrogant. Love does not assert itself or become domineering when dealing with others.
When temptation arrises and you feel like being boastful, rude, or overbearing will get you your own way, love conforms to what is right and appropriate to the situation in order to honor the Lord and serve others.
Even when you feel like grabbing it all OR feel you have the right to do so, love does not try to fulfill it's own desires. Love does not try to acquire gain for itself. Love seeks to serve others and the Lord, instead of oneself.
This means even when others are attempting to get a rise out of you, are indeed acting in a way that is rude or inconsiderate, love isn't aroused or striking out in outbursts of anger. Love continues gently to train others in righteousness, even when they fail. Which they will.
Even when people are openly attacking you, when everyone and everything seems to be against you, love doesn't hold a grudge. Love forgives, chooses not to bring up past wrong doings in accusation or retaliation, nor does it return evil for evil. Love doesn't give into self pity, but takes the focus off of self and places it back where it belongs- the Lord. Love covers a multitude of sins.
Even when it seems like a person is getting "exactly what they deserved", love is saddened over the sin and it's effects, as well as the pain which results from living in a fallen world. Love always seeks reconciliation with those around us, reconciliation with the Lord, and seeks to help others reconcile with others and the Lord as well.
Even when it is easier to lie, love is joyful and truthful, always. Love is happy when truth is proclaimed and truth is known, even if it leads to unfavorable circumstances or persecution.
Even when disappointments seem overwhelming, love is tolerant. Love endures with others around who are difficult to deal with and has a heavenly eternal perspective in difficult situations. Love always remembers that God uses all things for our good and develops spiritual maturity through difficult circumstances.
Even when you have been hurt before and you feel like not trusting anyone, love accepts trustfully and does not judge other people's motives. Love sees the good in people and gives them the benefit of the doubt. Love believes others until facts prove otherwise, even when others' actions seem fishy. Then, if the person's actions do prove untrustworthy, love seeks to help restore the person to trustworthiness.
Even when you feel like nothing is going right, love sees God's goodness and mercy, and expects fulfillment of His plan. Love anticipates the best for others and confidently entrusts others to the Lord to do His sovereign and perfect will in their lives.
Especially when you're at your breaking point and you feel like you just can't go on or endure the people or circumstances in your life anymore, love remains loyal under every suffering or hardship. Love remains steadfast without yielding and returns a blessing while undergoing each trial.
Even when you feel completely overwhelmed and your situation seems hopeless, love proves to not crumble under pressure or difficulty. Love always, always remains selfless and faithful, even to the point of death.
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. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away.
1 Corinthians 13:4-9
This is also a great reminder of how much we need Jesus, am I right? Because let's be honest- after looking at this list and it's break downs, we can't do this all on our own accord, no matter how "hard we try". We'll tire, get too irritated, fail, give up, get discouraged, etc. BUT, Jesus did live this way (perfectly) and can help us do the same, if we let Him in and let Him help us. Plus, He knows we'll fail which is why He is also there to help pick us up, dust ourselves off and start over again. That's the beauty of the Gospel.
Will you join me?