We recently looked at marks of a true believer, and one of those marks from 1 John is to love one another. Jesus said in Matthew 22:37-39 that the greatest commandment is to love God and the second greatest commandment is to “love your neighbor as yourself.” So if I’m supposed to love the people around me, what does that really mean? It’s great to say it but what does it look like to apply that to my life?
We do need to add a few caveats to our discussion. For any change and true love for another to happen, it must be the work of the Holy Spirit and His grace in our lives. Change and growth in any of these areas must begin with prayer. That is the work. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you discover areas of this list where you aren’t doing well. Ask His presence to give you self control. Plead that He increase the love for others in your heart. Only then will it flow out into our attitudes and actions toward our family, friends and even adversaries.
Most of us have heard of the “love chapter,” 1 Corinthians 13. Some of us had it read at our weddings or have it hanging in our house. Let’s look more closely at the picture this chapter paints of the idea of love. Here are 7 questions to ask to see if you’re loving those around you well. Next week we will look at another 7 questions from the end of this passage:
1. Am I patient?
Patience is bearing with someone for a long time. There are so many opportunities around us to grow in patience. Traffic, waiting on hold, and waiting in line are just a few things that can try your patience. But how is your patience with your family? Are you patient with your kids when they ask questions? Are you patient with your spouse as you confront their sin but their change in action and attitude is almost imperceptible? This is a hard one and an area we all can get better at.
2. Am I kind?
Another hard one. Sure, it’s easy to be kind to encouraging, likable people. Hopefully, our friends are kind to us so we return kindness to them. But how kind am I to those who aren’t kind to me? To the people who are constantly pointing out my mistakes, causing drama or alway negative? To my children who keep me up half the night because they won’t go to bed? To my spouse who forgot to take out the trash again? One mark of our love for others is how kind we are to them.
3. Do I envy others?
Envy is when you look at someone else and want what they have. It could be physical things like a nice house, phone, car, watch, beauty or body type. You can also envy other things like a job, family dynamic, intelligence, personality, confidence or ability with people. Envy is so dangerous because it’s putting yourself in the place of God. Envy says to God, “What you gave me isn’t good enough. You should give me what you gave that person.” It’s dangerous when you believe you have more wisdom and love for yourself than God does. And it’s absolutely not true. It also prevents you from being thankful for the things God has given you and using them for His glory.
Envy also isn’t loving to the person who’s the object of that envy. Instead of encouraging another in their gifting and what God made them to be, with envy you will be tempted to diminish and discourage them in their pursuits. You may even go so far as to hurt them so that you can take what you want from them. Clearly this isn’t loving.
4. Do I boast?
Boasting is excessively promoting yourself to others. This can take different forms. Probably the first thing you thought about when you read this was the loud mouth athlete who is a constant commercial for himself. That is one type of boasting. But I think there are more subtle ways that we boast. Do you bring up a topic for conversation just so you can show how much you know about it? Do you only serve in ways that always put you in front of people so that they can see it? Do you always wait for someone to notice you and say something good about you before you encourage them? Do you take pride in yourself and your giftings so that it becomes your focus, to the neglect of the interests of those around you? As love increases, boasting decreases.
5. Am I arrogant?
This is closely related to boasting but can also take on different forms. Arrogance, or pride, often includes self-focus which is the opposite of love because to love, you have to focus on the needs and desires of someone else. Again, there is a stereotype of arrogance similar to that of boasting that is very “loud and proud.” But arrogance, as C.S. Lewis wrote, can also occur as self-depreciation because when you are putting yourself down, the focus is still on self. So a conversation with an arrogant person could be them only talking about themself and their accomplishments and opinions. On the other hand, it could also look like a demure series of comments from someone dominating the conversation to talk about how bad they are at something. In both cases, arrogance is afoot. The humble, neighbor loving conversation will be one where there are lots of questions asked to learn about the other person. Often you walk away possibly not thinking more of the person but simply that they were a nice person who listened well. Are you loving your neighbor through humility or are you arrogant?
6. Am I rude?
Someone who’s rude is abrasive. They aren’t loving well because they aren’t treating others with respect and dignity. They are putting their own desires and preferences above those of others. Rudeness also touches on topics we’ve already mentioned like arrogance and kindness. So are you being rude? Do you treat others with dignity and respect? Do you have good manners? Do you take advantage of others and their generosity? Do you say thank you when someone does something kind? Do you address others with terms of respect when you speak? Do you interrupt? Are you loud in an obnoxious way? Are you rude?
7. Do I insist on my own way?
It is a good and healthy thing to be able to openly express your feelings and opinions to those around you. This becomes unloving and selfish when you insist on your own way so that you always put your needs and desires above everyone else’s. So what does this look like? Do you always have to go eat at the place you want to or are you open to the suggestions and desires of others in the group? Do you have to have the last word and be right in every conversation? Do you insist that your family have the schedule that’s best for you on days off? Do you want others to always do things your way without comment or suggestion? These are all signs that you may be insisting on having your own way.
It’s good to consider our way of life to see if it aligns with the picture of a believer according to the Bible. Our love for those around us should be an undeniable sign that we’re a follower of Jesus. Let’s pray that the Holy Spirit would refine us in these seven areas and reveal our blindspots. Since He is the source of love, lets ask Him to fill us with His love so that it overflows to those around us.