One more thing on this love learning menu. Then after, instead of just adding more to the list, it will be time to practice those same things over and over until they become specialties walked out only by Grace given and the growth that inevitably comes from the many failures and eventual successes on the wisdom road.
We spent a week in Romania sharing this verse, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself." (Matt 22:37-39), and a somewhat comical portrayal of the Good Samaritan to children and adults in which our good friend was jumped by my husband and another guy, 'beaten' up, and left writhing on the ground complaining and whining in English with a couple Romanian phrases thrown in for good measure. Stressing that everyone is your neighbor was the point of the story. Everyone is your neighbor. Not just the ones you like. Not just the ones you who were nice to you first. Not just the ones who can scratch your back if you scratch theirs.
To me, it seems as if this final lesson of love is the most difficult because its the one that costs us the most. Before now everything has been head knowledge. Learning that we need to love, learning what love is, learning what love is not, learning that we can't love on our own, learning where that love comes from, can all be done internally, alone, without truly feeling the cost of what it takes to set yourself aside and extend that love we have so graciously been given to another, any other, every other. But that is exactly who we are asked to love, everyone.
This is all well and good on paper until the time comes to put it into action.
We are given this Truth that we are loved, when we are His child we are loved unconditionally with Hope eternal. And if that, then... From that one point we can be taken to a future of loving, one step at a time.
Preparing your mind for action (1 Peter 1:13) is an absolute necessity. Studying, memorizing, readying yourself is an integral part, but only if when the time comes you "walk by the spirit, and not gratify the desires of the flesh." God is going to call you to love people you want to love, people who fill you with joy and hope, pleasure and purpose, and when this happens your heart will burst with the sweet Spirit inside and surrendering yourself to it will be one of the easiest decisions you can make.
However, in just as many instances, God will present you with people to love in that same whole-hearted, spirit surrendering way and every part of your being might feel nothing but the opposite of a loving desire. In fact, instead of walking by the spirit and not gratifying the desires of your flesh, your flesh will boil and fight and inside yourself you will physically feel these two forces completely opposed to one another, keeping you from doing the things you want to do or, maybe more truthfully, allowing you to do exactly what you might want to do, nothing.
Let's be honest. There are countless times you don't really want to love the people you love so why on earth would we want to love the people we don't love. There is no earthly reason why we should love another if we do not want to, but there is a very heavenly one that tells us why we need to. "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this ALL people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. (John 13:34-35)
It's HARD, when it gets personal. When you can list reason after reason of the why you should nots, the justified examples that can be spilled out and pointed at, but if the given in our loving proof is that we are loved then eventually, following that beginning, no matter how many sentences follow, we can reach the end with a loving heart for another. When we remember that we aren't worthy of the love we have been given, why should we expect another to earn our love in return.
In his daily devotional New Morning Mercies, Paul David Tripp says this, "You are a lover; we all are. We love. It's what human beings do every moment of every day, in every location, and in every situation. You are never not loving. It's in the very fiber of your being. It's the way God carefully constructed you. Why did he hardwire you to love? Why is this such an essential part of who you are? God created you with this capacity so that you would have what you need to live in a deeply loving, heart-controlling, motivation-producing, worship-initiating, joy-stimulating relationship with him. Your capacity to love was created for him. Your desire to love was meant to draw you to him. Your heart was designed to long for love, and that longing was meant to find its final and complete fulfillment in him."
We are all hardwired for love, the question will come down to how it manifests itself. Does it come out in a love of self, in being right, in wanting personal comfort, satisfaction, retribution? Or will it come out in an inner disposition that builds others up and inevitably points them to Jesus because it's His love in us they see.
I pray that others will see God through our love, and I pray much more needfully, that He help us love others because we know how much He loves us. Pray for me, I'll be praying for you.