Is it just me, or have you noticed that we are a “what can I get away with?” culture (or maybe it’s just people in general…)? As kids, we try to figure out how far we can push our parents boundaries without being punished. We try to figure out what is the least amount of chores we can do and still get paid our allowance. In dating relationships we want to know how far we can go physically but still be considered “pure”. While driving we try to see how much faster we can go than the speed limit without getting pulled over for speeding. At work many people try to figure out how hard they need to work in order to keep their job and get paid, but past that they aren’t going to put in any more effort. Essentially, we want to push the boundaries or do the bare minimum, but still receive benefits and right standing.
Unfortunately, this attitude can also sometimes carry over into how we love. If we aren’t careful, we can fall into the trap of “what do I need to do in order to be considered loving?”, or “how much do I need to show love in order to feel good about myself?” We can get into a rut of wanting to do the bare minimum, and loving others can become more about checking the box, rather than going above and beyond to do whatever we can to show love from our heart. For example (like this has happened plenty of times in my own mind and heart), I want to be considered a loving wife, so I make dinner for my husband. But bring it to him and make him a glass of chocolate milk because he is tired and doesn’t feel like getting up? Nope, sorry, you can do that yourself. Making dinner fulfilled how much I needed to show love for the evening, so I’m not doing anything over that. Or when it comes to loving others outside of our inner circle, we can think something like, “I already went downtown and served meals to the homeless earlier this year, so that box is checked and I don’t need to worry about loving the least of these for awhile.”
But you know what the problem with this type of love is? It is not the type of love we see in Scripture. It is extremely limited. And that is because we are only loving from our own strength and effort. 1 Thessalonians 3:12 says, “May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you.” I find this verse to be incredibly beautiful and also incredibly freeing. You see, God wants our love for others to be big. He wants it to be spilling and oozing out of us. But because He knows we are humans, with a propensity to sin, He says “May the Lord make your love increase…” He knows that on our own we simply cannot come up with this overflowing love, so He takes the responsibility upon Himself to produce it in and through us. What a relief!
There is a caveat, however. We can’t live apart from the Lord and expect Him to work in us in this wonderful way. In order for Him to make our love increase and overflow, we absolutely must be in close relationship with Him. We must be seeking Him and His presence daily. John 15:5 says, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” Apart from our Father, we simply cannot love extravagantly.
We cannot expect ourselves to go above and beyond to love and serve our spouse day in and day out – UNLESS we are seeking the Lord.
We cannot expect ourselves to want to spend an afternoon each week lovingly and patiently teaching a large group of rowdy children about God – UNLESS we are seeking the Lord.
We cannot expect ourselves to keep loving someone who is difficult to love and consistently makes bad decisions – UNLESS we are seeking the Lord.
We cannot expect ourselves to joyfully read a silly children’s book to our kids for the literal 18th time in a row – UNLESS we are seeking the Lord.
We cannot expect ourselves to have our hearts shattered to a million pieces when we give a foster child we have cared for and loved as our own for a year back to their parents, and then be willing to do it all again for another child, knowing we will most likely endure that same grief again – UNLESS we are seeking the Lord.
We cannot give true, overflowing love, without being connected to the Source of true love.
So my fellow believers, how are you doing in this? Are you connected to the Source? And I don’t mean connected in the sense of having salvation from Him. I mean are you connected through daily time with Him? Are you “remaining” in Him, like John 15:5 says? Are you in the Word? Do you pray and talk with Him throughout the day? Do meditate on what He is teaching you? The more you are doing these things – the more you are giving your life and heart up to Him – the more you can expect to see and experience your love for others to well up inside of you. The more you can expect to see it increase and overflow.
Praying for you,