Rumour has it I’m pretty much a failure when it comes to loving the brethren. If you like your dollops of Christian love handed over with bear hugs, chatty phone calls and affectionate enquiries about every tiny corner of your life, I may as well warn you now I’m not the one you’re looking for. Pass me by and move on to those with the gift of “genial and demonstrative” who’ll be waiting for you with open arms. I’m simply not one of them. Call me aloof and antisocial (as some have done, not always out loud), those kind of outward expressions of affection don’t come naturally to me. I’m one of those solitary people who prefer to sit hidden away unobtrusively in the corner of a crowded room, quietly observing.
I think The Supremes were on to something in their nineteen sixties hit You Can’t Hurry Love: “You can’t hurry love, you just have to wait, love don’t come easy, it’s a game of give and take; You can’t hurry love, no you just have to wait, you got to trust, give it time, no matter how long it takes.” It’s a little known fact the song actually was based on an earlier gospel song by Dorothy Love Coates in which the words were: “You can’t hurry God, you just have to wait, trust and give Him time, no matter how long it takes”.
And while we’re on the subject I don’t think I can bear hearing one more time: “we just have to love each other more to be more like Jesus”; or “love’s not optional you know”; or how about this gem: “love’s what we do, not feel”.
But the undisputed fact is Christ called us to be lovers of each other and humanity in general. He apparently had so much confidence in us He said the world would recognise Him by our love for one another (Jn. 13:35). Hmmm…did you get that? The world will recognise HIM by something that’s in us. Somehow we’ve changed that to “the world will recognise us as Christians when we love like Jesus. Therefore we should work really hard at loving each other so we can prove Jesus was telling the truth about us and maybe then others will want to follow us into following Him.”
Huh? Seems to me we’ve done our usual trick of placing ourselves centre stage when it comes to walking out this love thing.
I tried hard to fit into that ‘work hard at loving to prove Jesus knew what He was talking about’ scene for a long time…..really, a l-o-n-g time. The revelation that I simply could not love at will, or love enough, or love like He loves, didn’t come with thunder and lightning. But it did come, softly, gradually, with the still small Voice of the Spirit whispering, ‘when will you wake up to the truth that you can’t love others like Jesus, no matter how hard you work at it, because it’s not in you to do so?’
That was Love Lesson Number One. Human love, as beautiful and encompassing as it may be, is limited. It is limited because we are, in our natural state, corrupted beings. And what we are inadvertently trying to do by proving that we can love like Jesus is, well, prove that we can love like Jesus. It becomes not about Him, but us. It becomes law.
Love Lesson Number Two began to unfold one day when the Lord asked me with His usual directness: “Why don’t you receive My love?”
“What do You mean? You know I love You Lord.”
“That’s not what I asked you. Why don’t you receive My love?”
“But I do believe You love me. After all, You died for me.”
“Yes, you believe it. But you don’t know it. You don’t know it because You refuse to receive it. You don’t allow Me to love you as I wish to.” (1 John 4:16).
Christian tradition had taught me to ask the wrong question and come up with the wrong answer. In the face of a religion that said I should strive to love others more, one conversation with Jesus turned my love theology on its head. He wasn’t concerned about how much I loved others. He was concerned about how much I didn’t know He loved me.
We each arrive at the truth of the gospel hauling the image of ourselves the world has stamped on us. We sit beneath the cross and drink from the cup of salvation, thankful to have found respite and rescue. We love Jesus, who first loved us, and we set out to follow Him faithfully. But we still carry that image in our mind’s eye with which the world has branded us: we are too fat, too thin, too dumb, too tarnished, too bad, too ugly, too unacceptable, too sinful, too damaged, too whatever, to ever be lovable. Then religion steps in with its long arm of the law, telling us God loves us but will find us infinitely more lovable if we just get better at this, that or the other thing. And so the pattern is set.
The truth is Jesus never ever loved us because we were good at anything. He loves us because He is so good at loving.
I’m still in Love School. I’m still on my LL (Lover in Learning) plates when it comes to fulfilling Jesus words in John 13:35. I’m learning I don’t have to prove I’m a Christ follower by loving you, but Christ in me will love you. I’m discovering I don’t have to work at loving, but as I abide in Love Himself the love that pours into me flows naturally outward. It may not look the way you, caught up in your religion, think it should look. But hey, that’s OK, I’ll love you anyway and maybe one day you’ll catch on.
I’m learning that loving like Jesus means the love of Christ compels me (2 Cor. 5:14)….. in everything. I’m learning to walk in love by walking continually in the presence of the One who is Love. I’m learning that the key to this love dilemma is allowing Him to love me because, regardless of how I or others see me, He finds me exceedingly lovable. He finds me lovable not in a cute, warm and fuzzy sense, but in a strong, fervent, impassioned sense that leaves me unable to resist loving Him back with all my wondering being.
So you want to be a lover? You will never be a lover after Christ’s heart without first being a receiver of Christ’s heart for you. You will never give love until you know Love. You will never radiate love until you have surrendered to Love and allowed Him to possess you. You will never be able to Love without limitation until you yourself have been healed of your own ‘unlovableness’. You have to take ownership of Love before it can flow unhindered from you.
The awakening bride of Christ is a company of lovers who love just because they are loved; a company learning to dance their love dance like unashamed children in the delighted presence of Him whose Name is Love.
No, love don’t come easy…..but it’s free for the taking. Oh, and by the way, did I mention He’s simply mad about me?
First published on Bread for the Bride 14 October, 2014.
© Cheryl McGrath, Bread for the Bride, 2014, all rights reserved. Copyright Notice: Permission is granted to freely reproduce any Bread for the Bride articles in emails or internet blogs, unaltered, and providing this copyright notice is included. To permanently display an article on any static website please contact me for permission.