The essential mark of a Christian is love. Love for Christ, church members, neighbors, family, authorities and people who don’t know the Lord yet.
But let’s be honest. We don’t do this very well.
I don’t. You don’t.
Why do I say this with such confidence?
Because we are lovers of ourselves first. I prefer myself over you, and I suspect the same is true of you.
Unfortunately we deceive ourselves into thinking we love better than we do, and our friends will do everything they can to convince us we’re doing okay.
Try this experiment next time you’re in a group: Say something that lowers yourself in your own eyes, like, “I wasn’t very patient with my mother the other day.” Then wait for people’s responses. Several will try to rescue you from your low-self esteem. Why? Because if they didn’t attempt the rescue operation they would have to face their own lack of love for others.
We settle for half-hearted attempts. Listening with half an ear; putting off calling that pesky friend who talks too much; holding on to revenge because the person who hurt you still hasn’t admitted it.
Our hearts are deceitful and compromised by the world, the flesh and the devil. If one doesn’t cause us to trip, the other will. Maybe all three at the same time.
And the biggest trap we fall into is looking inside our hearts to find those evidences of love, good feelings and caring.
Except that’s the wrong direction.
Nothing good resides there.
Love must come from the outside. Not as a sensational feeling that sweeps us off our feet, but in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ.
We are members of his body and united to him. Love flows down from him to us and then out to our neighbor.
That’s why the apostle Paul exhorts us to put on Christ. Not once or twice but everyday.
What does that look like?
It’s realizing his love is 100% perfect and it’s ours as a gift.
It’s being grateful that he loved perfectly when he was here on earth and his perfect record God has been put into our account.
From God’s perspective, we love perfectly because it’s Christ’s love he sees there.
From our perspective, we live a life of transparency before the Lord, where no secrets are tolerated. We no longer give ourselves permission to sin. We throw out old grudges and hatred and forgive the other person, a hundred times if we have to.
It reveals how much we need Christ, which is exactly where we need to be. It’s confessing our sins and admitting our inadequacy. “Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner.”
And what does God think of this display of lowliness?
Take a look.
“For thus says the One who is high and lifted up,
who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy:
‘I dwell in the high and holy place,
and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit,
to revive the spirit of the lowly,
and to revive the heart of the contrite'”. – Isaiah 57:15 ESV
Talk to me.