My focus for this post was originally going to be about texting too much. But I soon realized that isn’t the issue here. The issue is how to talk to friends of the other gender without becoming self-conscience about it. The problem, then, is really about friendship.
~All throughout the New Testament, there are two common themes: loving God and loving others. I've focused on loving God a lot in the past year and a half. But I haven't really given my brothers and sisters in Christ a whole lot of love. I've adopted the attitude of Pharisees: "Lord, bless me, for I am not like those sinners." Instead of trying to spread God's love and instead of being unashamed, I ignore my Godless peers. I don't want to sit with them or talk to them. I spend so much time with other Christians that I'm not sowing seeds among those who really need it. Jesus came for the sick and lame, not the healthy, but it seems that the healthy people are all I care about. When was the last time I helped a helpless friend? When was the last time I told a lost friend about how much Jesus meant to me? When was the last time I spent time with the lowlifes, the rebels, the sinners, just because I loved them? 1 John 4:19 says, "We love because He first loved us." A few verses previous, John wrote, "Dear friends, let us love another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love... This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another... if we love one another, God lives in us and His love is made complete in us."
Jesus said simply, "As I have loved you, so you must love one another." It's amazing how eleven simple words can so greatly change everything. We have to love each other just like God loves us. Wow. Is it just me or is Christ's definition of friendship quite different than how we live out our friendships? I certainly don't love my friends in the way God wants me too. But I'm trying to.
My problem is I want to pick and choose who to love. I don't want to love those really weird people; who does? I also find it hard to love homeless people, not because I have a grudge against them or think lowly of them, but because I have no idea how to relate to them. And I have the same problem with ghetto people, particularly some black kids who sometimes come to church. Their lives are nothing like mine and they speak (literally) almost a different language. I also have trouble loving those who have betrayed me. Or those who hate me. But then again, who doesn't struggle with that? Jesus didn't say, "Love who you want to" or "Only love those who can love you back." He said, "Love others..." By not explaining further, He was including ALL people. We can't pick and choose. God wants us to love everyone as He loves us.
There's a young college girl at church. She and I hit it off and were good friends for a few months, but for some reason, our friendship got cold. Since we were two of twelve students at church, we didn't stop talking, but the friendly love was gone, assuming it was ever there. My spite and bitterness caused me to think little of her and to wrongfully judge her. In my mind, she was a silly, immature girl who didn't have a clue about anything. But a week ago, God laid it on my heart to be her friend again. It was totally unexpected, but suddenly, I wanted to be her friend, talk to her, encourage her in her new faith. It was as if I was seeing a whole new her. She's maturing, learning, growing; sort of like I was this time a year ago. I see so much of myself in her. I remember my "growth period" like it was yesterday, when I grew into my new identity as a child of God. It was such a time of intimacy, freshness, and wonder! It was like seeing a whole new world. And now she's growing in her faith and changing so much! As I listened to her talk about her new desires, her new hopes in life, her new standards, I was impressed. She has changed completely since first visiting my church last August. I want to get to know her all over again.
But I was also mad at myself. For months, my new sister in Christ was growing and flowering into a lovely young lady. But I was blind and arrogant, and I judged her for months. That is not the love God wants us to have for each other. The love God wants us to share is patient. It's kind. It isn't envious, or boastful, or prideful. It isn't rude or self-seeking, nor is it easily-angered. It keeps no record of wrongs. It doesn't delight in evil but rejoices in the truth. Our love should always protect, always trust, always hope, always persevere. It should never fail.
All we have to do is love. We should love by thinking of others first. Love by holding our tongues, when necessary. Love by being patient. Love by not holding grudges. Love by being polite, not rude. Love by using encouraging and uplifting words, not sarcasm. Love by letting others have their way. Love has to be our core. We have to value love more highly than anything else. "But these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love."
Jesus challenged us to not only love others more than ourselves, but to love others as He loves us. Will you rise to His challenge?