When I sat down to design the February lock screen this month, I felt compelled to say more about the verse other than finding my usual commentary quote and calling it a day.
It's February, with Valentine's Day decorations and reminders of "Looove" everywhere. But there's so much tumult going on in America right now. So much screaming at each other to be loving and tolerant, which doesn't look very loving at all.
There's a great deal of confusion about what love is. We see conflicting messages all around us. So let's look real quickly at this: What does Biblical love look like?
It's everywhere, from Instagram to Pinterest to book covers to TV commercials. "Love yourself." "You deserve it." "You're worth it." This mantra is pervasive in our culture.
There's a real, fundamental problem with this message though, and that's that we don't really have any problem loving ourselves. Do we really need to love ourselves more? Think about ourselves more? Serve ourselves more?
Who can honestly raise their hand and say, "I don't think of myself very much."
I didn't say "I don't think much of myself." That's different.
I don't know about you, but I think about myself an awful lot. Even when I'm caring for my family or serving someone, my thoughts are mostly on myself. What I'd rather be doing do, what I want for lunch, how I really wish someone would help me with this laundry! Me. I. Me. I.
Friend, when you look at the Bible, the "love yourself" is not written as a commandment. It's written as a comparison: "Love your neighbor as yourself."
Nowhere in the Bible will you find scripture that tells you to love yourself. Because self-love is natural. But self-love tends to be selfish.
The Bible is clear that we should think of ourselves less and think of others more:
- Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. (Romans 12:10)
- For if anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself. (Galatians 6:3)
- Do nothing out of rivalry or conceit, but in humility consider others as more important than yourselves. (Philippians 2:3)
When you focus on yourself, it ultimately makes you an unhappy person.
"Self-love often fails to produce happiness; it often produces anxiety, ands when in excess, misery. It often disappoints itself, especially when made one solitary principle." -Bishop Joseph Butler
God is love. It's an essential part of his nature. The two greatest commandments are:
I'll tell you an uncomfortable truth about myself. I'm not a people person. I'm a me person. Love people? Well, that's not my strong suit. But I'm commanded to love people. If I say I love God, then I must show love to people.
How? I have to clothe myself daily.
Which brings me to the verse on our lock screen this month:
"Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony."
The hardest thing for me is to "put on love" towards my family. They get the brunt of my impatience, selfishness, and anger.
But it's not just my family. Social media opens up a whole new world of people we wouldn't normally meet. And where someone probably wouldn't tell you off to your face, they have no trouble yelling at you through the Internet. It's incredibly hard to respond kindly to the person who was rude to you, or be humble toward the person who has political views and opinions very different from yours. But in person or online, that's how the world is going to see true love.
Jesus said, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? (Matthew 5:43-46)
"Clothe yourselves with love." (NLT). Every day you wake up and put on your clothes, one article at a time. That's how we put on love - along with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, patience, etc.
Don't be overwhelmed by this list of words, though. You and I are completely incapable of living in compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, patience, and love on our own. Only in the strength of CHRIST can we "put on" those qualities every single day. Only with CHRIST can we really love people the same way we love ourselves. Only with CHRIST does "love win."
Do you really want to know? It's not comfortable.
It takes intentional time in God's Word. It takes prayer. But you can "put on love" every single day. Let it be said of you in your neighborhood, "That woman is different from me, but she is truly loving."
You can do it in Christ.
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