The best relationship advice I ever received was two words.
I had a relationship that was broken. It wasn’t always broken. There was a time when it was beautiful. We loved being together. We spent time together, laughed together and shared our lives. But our friendship and the love we felt for each other got damaged. There was an offense. That offense wasn’t dealt with and multiple offenses began to pile up on both sides. A distance began to develop. We stopped talking to each other and avoided each other. Resentment began to build to the point where the wall between us felt insurmountable and the hurt too unbearable to face.
This was a painful season in my life. How could a friendship that had once been so life giving turn so painful? Could it be turned around and restored? For a long time I did not believe it would be possible. Over time my heart began to long for reconciliation more than I longed to hang onto my pride. I knew what I had to do but it felt like it would be too little too late.
I knew that if the relationship was going to be repaired I had to choose love. The only other alternative was to choose pride and selfishness. I had the chance to act on how I felt or act on what I knew to be the right and loving thing to do. The first thing to do was to repent and ask for forgiveness.
I knew that what I needed to do. What I needed to do was not what I felt like doing. I made a conscious decision to do and say the loving thing each time I saw that person. I would repeat to myself; “What is the most loving thing I can say? What is the most loving thing I can do?” In that moment I would do or say what was the most loving thing. I did this for months and months. I kept choosing love.
What is the most loving thing I can say? What is the most loving thing I can do?
I didn’t want to. It would be a blow to my pride. I knew that if I did, I would open myself up to be hurt again if my apology wasn’t received. I also knew that I might not receive any acknowledgment for the hurt that was done to me. It was a big risk. I didn’t feel like following through even though I knew it was the right thing and the loving thing to do. Would my emotions win the day or would I do what the right and loving thing despite how I felt?
CHOOSING LOVE IS CHOOSING TO BE LIKE CHRIST?
Christ is the ultimate example of love and we are called to pattern how we love others after His model.
Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. 5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Philippians 2:3-8
Choosing love means sacrifice.
The first instruction that we are given in Philippians is to do nothing from selfish ambition or pride. The first thing is the hardest thing because it is a great sacrifice. We tend to think our needs are the most urgent and our desires are the most valid. We spend our lives trying putting ourselves first and when and only when our needs are met do we consider someone else. We are called to sacrifice that pride and see others as more important than ourselves. Wow! That is a high calling. It is a calling that comes naturally to almost no one.
When we sacrifice pride long enough we will see the needs of other people. By laying down our pride our vision will no longer be obscured but we will be able to see past ourselves and into the heart of others. Instead of seeing our loneliness and resenting people for not reaching out, we will see their loneliness and reach out to them. Instead of seeing how our feelings were hurt we will see the hurt they experienced and offer forgiveness and grace. Instead of taking what we want first we will be generous and give.
Choosing love means submission.
Jesus chose to lay down His life out of obedience to the Father. In the Garden of Gethsemane as Jesus prayed to the Father, He intentionally submitted His will to the will of the Father. Obedience in every area of our lives is an act of submission to the will of God. This is even true even in the area of love.
When we choose to love we are choosing to obey God. Our obedience is proven when it leads us to accomplish God’s will over our own will. It is easy to obey God when it feels good. It is hard to obey when it involves sacrifice and setting aside our own desires.
When we don’t feel like obeying that is the exact time we need to obey. We may not feel like loving but we choose to love out of obedience to the Lord. You will need to actively tap into God’s strength to love. You can’t love like this on your own strength. We choose to love out of obedience to the Lord.
Choosing love means serving.
Boston has a song called “More than a Feeling.” John Mayer has a song called “Love is a verb.” Both of these artists got at least one thing right in regard to love. Love is active. Love does. The person who loves looks past themselves to see the needs of others. The portrait camera on my phone takes the primary subject in front and puts them in focus and blurs out the background. Too often we put our needs in front and the needs of others get blurred out. Love puts others in front and blurs out your own needs. When we love, by putting the needs of others first, we also trust that God in His goodness will meet our needs.
When I chose to love my friend every time I saw them it was a risk. I said the loving words and I did the loving things and for months I got nothing back. But each time they turned away from me I kept turning back to them. It was hard. I wanted to give up. But I knew I couldn’t give up. To give up would be to turn back from obedience. In God’s strength I kept saying the loving word and doing the loving thing.
Then the miracles happened. There were two miracles. The first miracle is that God changed my heart. My heart that did not want to love, erupted with a new found God driven love for my friend. I continued to love but with a new heart that was open. My heart no longer carried the anger, un-forgiveness and bitterness that once held it captive. The second miracle is that God changed my friend’s heart. We began to build a relationship once again. The friendship we once had has been restored; in fact we have never been closer.
There are people in your life that you need to choose to love. I know you don’t want to love them. You have been hurt and they don’t deserve it. Can I just say this? It doesn’t matter if they deserve it or not – they probably don’t. You are called to love because this pleases the heart of God. Love them out of obedience and then wait for the miracle. God is faithful.
Choose to love.
The next blog will talk about how these same principles lead us into an ever deepening love relationship with God.
If you have any comments or questions or would like me to pray for you please comment below. Let’s start the conversation.