Saturday, September 5, 2015
for your consideration
Are you selfish? Do you bulldoze your way over others? Do you manipulate every conversation so that topics revolve around you and what is important to you? Do you influence every purchase, every job, every scheduled event... every "everything" around what you want to acquire... what you want to accomplish... what you want to experience? Is the priority always centered around your agenda... your way? OR are you able to pause and consider loving others first before yourself?
Ooooo, there it is. The idea of considering others first. The concept of taking time to love people in the same way we would naturally care for ourself. But how is that possible? How can we wisely administer to our own needs and maintain a positive and healthy self image when we are scripturally called to uphold those around us in love? Doesn't that concept impact our own comfort zone? Doesn't that command insure that our life will be more complex and difficult? And if so, won't that cause us to endure more stress... more trials?
For realistically, we can rationalize that some people are not model candidates to receive love. Some are hypocrites, liars, and back-stabbers. Some are cheaters, abusers, murderers, and thieves. Some are merely odd or strange or different. Some carry too much baggage. Some are draining. Some are poor. Some are needy. Some are helpless. Some are sick. Some are lowly. Some are childish. Some are brainwashed. Some are sexually perverse. Some are stubborn. Worse yet, some will certainly not love us in return or employ our same standard of morality. Some, simply, are just so unlovable. Aren't they? Surely God didn't mean those people when He gave us His command to love our neighbor as ourself...? Surely our time is too valuable and important to stop and consider them... right?
Well, at least there are those we do love regularly and put before ourselves. Our friends. Our family. Our church community. These are the people we have openly vowed to love. These are the individuals we share unity with in similar ethics, interests, enjoyments, and heritage. These are who we choose to love as our own. Or do we? Do we actually consider these people first? Do we cherish their lives as importantly and urgently as we do our own? Do we love freely without tallying a beneficial return on our investment of extending our valuable time and energy toward their issues?
Ask yourself... do you really love others unselfishly and as a servant of Christ?
Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law. The commandments, "Do not commit adultery," "Do not murder," "Do not steal," "Do not covet," and whatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this one rule: "Love your neighbor as yourself." Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law. (Romans 13:8-10)
Wow. Love is the "fulfillment of the law"... God's law. But how can we really accomplish this in our lives? How can we live out God's love to our neighbor? The issue of changing our selfishness into selflessness is a tricky, sticky little topic that many do not think even possible.
When the Lord brought this topic to my attention, I immediately thought, "Oh, Lord. I give so much. I try so hard to never be selfish. I definitely strive to love others." But the truth of the matter is, I cannot be selfLESS without MORE of Jesus. For I know, deep down I am very selfish. I can make everything all about me me me. I can easily forget to look at others first and to become a servant that loves each individual as I would want to be loved.
The Holy Spirit began showing me ways that I have been insensitive to this topic. He began pointing out circumstances where I could have better held my tongue rather than gossip or betray another. He pointed out places where I could make prayer more of a priority while lifting up a brother or sister rather than callously dismissing their situation as hopeless and a waste of my time. He shared where I could have taken an extra moment to encourage, or listen, or simply care more... more like Jesus would care. And He especially pointed out the concept of my pausing to recognize others in a more deliberate, more intimate way. God stopped me dead in my tracks with the idea of my waiting to hear what someone has to say, rather than pushing to say what I want someone to hear.
Yes, more of God is really the only way I could accomplish loving others scripturally. He is the answer. Once I understood the importance of Philippians 2:3, God had me meditate on what the word "consider" really means in terms of loving others. For when we pause to consider someone first, we are taking time to deliberately reflect upon their present circumstances and feelings. We are forcing ourselves to pay attention to the details surrounding their life. This is where we begin to see God working - emotionally, physically and spiritually. When we pause to consider how God wants us to love every individual we encounter... how Jesus would lovingly acknowledge a person in appropriate boldness or gentle tenderness... we are then able to wisely apply His healthy image as a focal point and solution to someone's earthly turmoil. We are biblically able to share what love really is when we lay aside our "self" and center everything around the King.
The hard part is, God's way of doing things does not come naturally to us. For we are a selfish species. We do indeed bulldoze our way over others. We frequently manipulate every conversation so that topics revolve around ourselves and what is important to us. We hoard and plan and coordinate everything to work towards our agenda... our way. We don't naturally trust what is unseen but rather what is tangible to our eyes. We don't naturally like to be ruled, but would rather maintain our own security - no matter how false it may be. If we honestly looked in the mirror at our own character, we would see a big fat hypocrite, liar, back-stabber, cheater, abuser, murderer, thief. We would note how odd and strange and uncomfortably different and out of place we feel. For we are overwhelmed with baggage. We are drained by the sin that consumes us. Our spirits are poor, needy, helpless. Our bodies are sick and lowly. Our minds are childish, brainwashed, sexually perverse, and stubborn. And we only care about ourselves. We are not concerned with what anyone else wants or thinks or holds dear. No, if we were honest about it, we would resemble the exact definition of what we consider unlovable... yet (and that's a BIG life changing "yet") God still pauses to consider us. God still holds His attention exclusively for us. God still loves us and cares for us... anyway.
I used to enter into every day assuming that everyone I knew was the same as always. That their lives didn't need any more or any less of my love or consideration unless I heard otherwise. But lately, God's voice on this matter cannot be ignored. I've been seeking after His example in scripture where I keep returning to His servanthood. Because of this, I've been praying for guidance on this subject. For has my approach been a proactive approach to love my neighbor as a servant? Does my love resemble the urgency in how I would, in fact, love my own self? Does it engage and embrace and encourage and entwine my Savior's heart in all matters? Or am I too busy protecting myself and my own interests?
Today, I stand before Him willing to love as He has called me. Yes, I am only one person... one introverted but devoted woman who belongs to Christ. Alone, I don't make much of a difference in this large universe. But, I trust that my GOD is in control and capable to use me each day to greatly showcase His glory. I know this because my Master willingly came to earth to offer Himself so that I could receive His grace... so that I could enjoy His love forever. And boy, does He ever deliver! Remember what scripture says about the angels rejoicing over someone coming to Christ?...
"There is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents." (Luke 15:10)
That's a pretty big celebration for just one person. That's a lot of attention given for someone who is truly unworthy of love due to sin. But that is what my Savior offered to a wretch like me. That is the gift I have received from my King. So, shouldn't I also consider every person worthy of His love and share God's endless blessings to anyone who will listen? He calls me to do this. He commands me to do this. So, yes.
You see, God's love is the remedy for all selfishness. God's love is the antidote for every trouble or trial we may encounter. We are not to avoid opportunities to share love because they may seem stressful or because they rattle our comfort level. Rather, we are to rejoice through all circumstances and live as redeemed proof that God's love is true. Sure, there are false and faster methods that Satan offers the weak-willed to temporarily mask the evil symptoms of mankind's selfish corruption. But ultimately these sinful methods produce more spiritual harm than good to both ourselves and our families, friends, etc.
But love... ah, love promises a true solution. It is what the Holy Spirit gives freely to every believer who seeks after Jesus. It is a gift that empowers us to offer ourselves to others in order to fulfill God's original law... God's original plan. We cannot accomplish this effort without our Savior guiding us. For true love does not exist in us... only through Him. When we invite Jesus to direct our paths, we are trusting Him to use us as His ambassadors - showcasing His consideration for others. We are seeking Him to love through us and, in turn, learning how to love in His Name.
Ladies, I challenge you to humbly pray for Jesus to teach you how to love others more actively and intimately. May we focus on His image rather than worry about our own. May we put aside our selfish agendas and hand over our desires to manipulate and endorse our own way. Lord, help us lay these false comforts aside. Help us to embrace outwardly rather than clutching inwardly.
Let us place every sinful weight of selfishness on God's altar and take up our cross to serve His law while rejoicing in His glory. For His ways will indeed be fulfilled. His promises will surely be kept. And the angels will sing praises to the King of kings over every individual who is restored and renewed in His Name. Yes, this "love your neighbor" thing is a really big deal in the eyes our Creator! So, I encourage you to love others with the holiness of Jesus. Love each and every person you encounter in Jesus' Name. He knows what is needed. He will direct your paths. All you must be is open and willing to obey. He is able. Hallelujah, HE IS ABLE!
Teach me, O LORD, to follow your decrees; then I will keep them to the end. Give me understanding, and I will keep your law and obey it with all my heart. Direct me in the path of your commands, for there I find delight. Turn my heart toward your statutes and not toward selfish gain. Turn my eyes away from worthless things; preserve my life according to your word. (Psalm 119: 33-37)
Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us. (1 John 4:11-12)
Let's start each day out right and showcase the joy - the everlasting solution of our Savior while illuminating His pure and holy heart to others. No matter how unlovable or how difficult someone may seem... we must always remember that God still pauses to consider us. God still holds His attention exclusively for us. God still loves us and cares for us. So, let's mirror His heart. Let us pause and consider one another in LOVE.
Serve one another in love. (Galatians 5:13b)
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