Virginia Beach First Church, or VB1, graciously hosted one of our Zone Gatherings. The food was filling and delicious, the fellowship included playing dress-up with lots of laughter, and the devotion shared by Angie McAlister was engaging and ordained by God.
What she shared pointed right at where we have felt our focus should be. I have asked her to share it again, in this written format, in the hopes that ALL women will catch the vision and theme of our Gatherings…
Do You Love People?
Virginia Beach First Church of the Nazarene
In January 2019, I started working on a presentation for our Women’s Ministry Luncheon. Regarding the title, the first idea that came to me was, “Do You Love People?” and out beside it I put… “Working Title.” I thought, I’ll get back to that. However, every time I got back to that, I continued to say, “I’ll get back to that.”
Now, as you can see, it ended up being the title. I guess that’s okay. On the surface, it sounds kind of silly because you might think, Geez, can’t you think of anything else to talk about other than “Love?” Really, don’t we kind of over-do that?
So, yes, we hit that topic from every angle, but my question remains, “Do You Love People?”
This is an interesting question for me because having been a teacher for forever, I’ve tended to look at things academically. I’ve studied the Bible, read the Bible, run references on scriptures, read commentaries, sat through this and that class, and lead my share of discussions over the years. Of course I loved God, but I looked at things academically.
We’re all wired a little differently, and that’s okay, so I have an affinity for the academic side of things and not the “feelings” side of things. We all say that God has a sense of humor, and we laugh……because well……he does. But the truth is that he does take us out of our comfort zones. He asks us to share things we wouldn’t share, or feel things we wouldn’t want to feel. He wants to bring out of us the things that he can use, so that it’s not about us and what we want to say. So, I guess it is fitting that the last person in the world who would characteristically be writing to a group of women, talking about feelings……..is writing to a group of women………talking about feelings.
I don’t want to go any further without referring to some scriptures that God put on my heart weeks before I came to realize that I was going to be addressing all of you.
We’ll begin with:
James 2:14-18– Faith Without Works Is Dead- 14. What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that save him? 15. If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, 16. And one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? 17. So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. 18. But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.
Matthew Henry’s Commentary says that James is talking about works done in obedience. What is charity if it exists in mere words? Just words? Only words? How does that help you or the poor?
The same is true with love. You might pretend to love, but how will it stand the test of time without acts of mercy and obedience? We are too quick to make a profession of faith and rest there…….. or a profession of love and rest there. Fake faith is as helpful as fake charity or fake love. In verse 18, he says that he doesn’t boast about having professions of faith, but he says that his works will demonstrate his faith. So we can say it or not say it, but our deeds should demonstrate it.
If people are in need, and you give them nothing, it is just as meaningful as professing faith without demonstrating it. Faith that does not produce charity and mercy is empty. There’s no love. Without the works of charity and mercy, you are only pretending to have faith because faith has demonstrations that produce fruit. James is saying that people will know he has faith because of his acts of love and mercy that are all representations of his love of God.
I John 3:16-18- By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. 17 But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? 18 Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.
Matthew Henry says this is an expression of divine love. God redeems the church with his blood. Of course then, we should love those people who God loves, and we certainly would do so if we love God. We know that there are always going to be poor and needy among us. And we also know that being needy doesn’t always mean a financial need. At different times in our lives, people have different types of needs and those allow us to reach out to each other. We can keep each other lifted up and give each other hope.
It’s telling us that we should be willing to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters, but how in the world would that be possible if we can’t perform smaller acts of love and kindness in our daily lives? John is saying that we are pretending to love, and that we make our profession of love a lie. Hard-heartedness and God’s love are not living in the same person. If we love in words only, then the gesture dies as soon as the words are spoken, but if we love in kindness and mercy, then the love continues to live.
A well-known scripture is Mark 12:28-31. 28 And one of the scribes came up and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, asked him,
“Which commandment is the most important of all?” 29 Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”
We talk about how hard it is to love people, but that is really just the surface of the issue.
It goes much deeper than that. It is difficult to love people because we don’t always feel loved.
I read an article online on The Journey Church blog. It mentioned something that was really interesting. It said, “ a key to this verse, yet often overlooked, are the words ‘love yourself.’” So if we look at the scripture in Mark, it is saying, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” So then, loving other people is predicated upon the understanding that you love yourself. And when we really think about it, that’s not a very high standard for some of us!! So in another way, I can say, I love each of you as I love myself. Well, that sounds pretty good. I love you as much as I love me. But again, for some of us, that’s not a very high standard.
None of us deserve God’s love, but he loves us anyway. We need to accept God’s love even though we don’t deserve it. Then, we need to give it away in the same manner, not based on merit. When you accept the reality of God’s love for you, you will be able to focus on others instead of yourself. God’s love will create a new sense of security and confidence in you. No one is expected to be perfect. As I receive grace from God for my imperfections, I can then pass that Grace on to others.
Let’s talk about that in a different way for a minute. Rationalization is a skill most of us have mastered. For example, some of us mIght find ourselves saying, “ But I don’t feel loved, or I don’t feel very lovable. I can’t be expected to extend love to others when no one loves me.”
So then, if this is how we feel, how are we going to love other people?? How are we supposed to muster up the ability to love others when we are not feeling loved? Other than lip service………..and we just said that lip service doesn’t do anything. Right? As soon as the words are spoken, they die. If there’s not fruit produced, they die. So if we’re honest with ourselves, and we ask that question again: How are we supposed to muster up the ability to love others when we are not feeling loved????? The answer is… we probably aren’t. We might fight through it and fake it fairly well, but loving others as a demonstration of our faith is not very likely.
Let’s take this one step further. So, we’ve said that some people are hard to love, and we’ve said that it is hard to love others because we don’t always feel very loved, or worse, we don’t feel loved at all. But at the heart of this issue is the fact that we can never feel loved until we learn to accept God’s love for us. We say we know that God loves us, but we don’t act like we know it.
When people say they love me, my responses can show their love for me is not received. I don’t feel lovable, so therefore there’s no way that they can truly love me. They’re saying it because it’s the right thing to say, or everyone else is saying it, or maybe because they feel compelled as a Christian to try to love. If I don’t receive it, it doesn’t do me any good. In order to benefit from their love, I have to receive it. I have to take it in. I have to believe that they meant it and that I have the right to receive it and make it mine.
We won’t be able to receive others’ love unless we can accept God’s love. How do we do that?
One thing I recommend is that when you pray. Pray that you will be able to fully embrace God’s love, even when you’re not quite as perfect as you would like to be. Receive God’s love when you ask for forgiveness. Accept his love and forgiveness. Move on in your walk without equating God’s love for you to your level of perfection. Of course, do your best to walk in obedience. Of course, ask forgiveness earnestly when you have disobeyed God, but receive his forgiveness and his love and keep walking.
If we truly believe that God loves us, we will be able to accept the love of others.
Now that we can receive love and let our hearts be full, we can benefit from others’ love. We’ll be blessed by their love, and they will be blessed by giving their love.
Now, let’s look back at the scriptures. —————————In I John it says,
“Let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.” In Mark it says, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength and Love your neighbor as yourself.”
If we believe that God loves us, and if we embrace that love in spite of our flaws, then we can understand what it is to love others. Receiving that love from God allows us to be able to receive love from others without basing it on whether or not we think we deserve it.
Then, if we receive God’s love and love from people around us, we can truly extend love to others. It’s really God’s love that we’re extending. The love that God extends to me is not based on perfection or merit. He gives it to me freely, so therefore I can receive love from others even though I’m not perfect, and I can truly love others who are not perfect. God’s perfect love is in us, and HE loves others through US. HE loves others through ME.