Loving: Practice Makes Perfect
“If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.” 1 Corinthians 13:1-3 NIV.Love is undeniably one of the strongest forces on earth. Love can evoke a myriad of different emotions within us from opposite ends of the spectrum, whether it is extreme happiness or extreme hatred. We do not waste these extreme feelings on just anyone; if we love someone, we make a conscious effort within that relationship to make it work. If we hate someone that we used to love, whether we realize it or not or even want to admit it, it takes the same amount of effort, if not more, to allow that hatred to boil and fester inside of us.
I have come to learn, at least in my own personal life, that love is not so much an emotion. It is an action that must be practiced, performed and executed daily. 1 Corinthians 13:4 says that “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” The biblical definition of love goes against everything that our fleshly nature naturally does. Because this definition goes against our natural instincts, it must mean that we must make an effort to live up to this definition.
Galatians 5 tells us that the acts of the flesh are in direct opposition to the fruits of the Spirit. We must overstep the natural tendencies of the flesh and activate the Holy Spirit within us that gives us the grace and strength to live life in the Spirit instead of the flesh. We cannot do this without Christ. If we are not in our Word and actively cultivating our prayer life, we are going to live life according to the rules of the natural realm.
Every action that is performed against us will cause us to have a natural reaction. But if we dwell in the Spirit, we will learn to discern each and every situation and person to better understand what may really be going on. We know through Ephesians 6 that our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against a host of principalities and powers that may be working within people around us. God wants us to love people even more when they are at their most unlovable because He knows their entire story. He also knows that His love is unconditional and can break chains and strongholds; it is the answer to any situation. We are the vessels of this love.
The way we love someone can fluctuate according our feelings and circumstances. It is based off of how we feel that day or how that person may be treating us. This is how love is an action to be performed. We must love the person that throws darts at our armor as much as we love the person who is rooting for us. This is hard. It will be a blow to our pride; it will go against everything that we naturally want to do. But we must make an effort to love. Christ’s love for us took Him to the cross. His love for us caused Him to endure the shame and pain. His love for us caused Him to earnestly pray for those who were killing Him. His love was not based off of how He was feeling that day, which had to have been terrible. His love was put into action to accomplish the act that saved us all.
This is how we are to love one another in our various relationships. We must never underestimate the power of our old sinful nature. For example, Peter loved Christ. Nobody can deny that Peter loved Christ. But when the pressure was applied to his relationship with Christ, he had a choice to make. His love and profession of love was based off of how he felt, and how he felt was threatened and in danger. He compromised his relationship with Christ in order to preserve his life.
When our love is based off of flesh, we may find ourselves compromising in different areas. If we are having troubles with our spouse, our love will be tested. We may do something to compromise our relationship because of how we are feeling at the time instead of putting for the effort of love that it takes to remain in a marriage. Wedding vows must have come straight from Heaven because it is HARD to keep them when the pressure is applied if you are not actively pushing yourself to love when your spouse is unlovable. It is difficult to love your spouse when the chips are down. We are all human. We feel the euphoria of marriage when everything is like a fairy tale. But when the pressure is applied to our relationships, we must activate love.
Regardless of how this person is treating us, we must make an effort to love them with all we have. This feels like we are letting them walk all over us or that they are “winning”; but what is actually is doing is showing your maturity in Christ. It is easy to go toe-to-toe with someone and treat them exactly how they are treating us. It takes a person closely connected to Christ to love in spite of. It will not come naturally unless we practice, perform and execute this daily. If we do not show love, everything else we do for Christ is in vain. How can we love Him who we have not seen but not love those who are molded in His image?
All of creation, He created through speech. But He bent down in the dirt and intricately molded each and every one of us, in His image. If you want to know what Christ looks like and how to actively love Him, imagine the person that you have a hard time loving. Christ loves them immensely. As hard as it may be, we are too as well. It can feel like we are pushing against the wind but it pleases our Father.
It is the test of our Christian walk that will never end. We may pass one test and move on to the next but the act of love is ongoing. It may have to be applied minute-by-minute, day-by-day, or year-by-year; but it will never cease. There will always be someone in dire need of Christ’s love that He so freely gives to us even though we do not deserve it. Our relationships will always test our ability to actively love. But practice makes perfect.
Written by Dominique Bradley
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