Wednesday, January 21, 2015

The Two Greatest Commandments

Part 4: Loving Others

The spiritual ingredients contained within the greatest commandment of loving God make the perfect recipe in loving those around us. In the first three parts of this series we have focused on loving the Lord with the heart, soul and mind. Without following it, there is no way of possessing the strength, consistency and mindset needed to love others continually.

Now we know what it takes to love God, let’s look at the second greatest commandment: 

“And the second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 

Matthew (22: 39)

People are unavoidable and even in remote places where there are distances between neighbors they show up unexpectedly. The population of the world is no accident. God’s designed plan (Genesis 1:28) intended for us to multiply. For this reason, the Lord provided lots of opportunities for us to radiate our love towards others.

The easiest folks to love are the ones we actually enjoy being around. We are willing to forgive when they say or do things that hurt our feelings. It doesn’t take a lot of Christian effort showing them our affection.  

Jesus pointed this out:

 Matthew (5:46) 

“For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same.”

The real challenge is loving those we really dislike, despise or hate. We sometimes find them among family members, at the office and within our circle of friends. They make us emotionally uncomfortable and brings the conflict to our hearts. Our conscience is disturbed, causing suffering within our souls. We rather not be around them, but the circumstances won’t allow us from staying away.

So, how can anyone find peace with those difficult people?

Finding the answer to that question comes from building a face to face relationship with Christ. None of us have the spiritual strength required to change someone else’s wrongful behavior. Nothing we can say or any amount of our determination can do the job. The only one who can is God. All we can do is change ourselves, and we can’t even do that without the aid of Christ.

Making peace with our enemies is tough. The pain they caused places a wedge between us. There is nothing wrong from feeling hurt or angry over being mistreated. The Lord fashioned us with emotions, and one of the reasons is knowing the difference between right and wrong. He also provided us a way to forgive.

However, when we hold onto negative feelings from other people’s sin, then we too are in the wrong. Our Father is watching how we respond to being mistreated. Until we can let go of our disturbances with the issue, and then we won’t be able to love. We have to find the cause of our blockage because an unforgiving spirit hardens the heart.

What actions can one take to move beyond the hurt?

The first thing is to pray not only for yourself, but the trespasser. Praying for the one who has wronged you shows God your willingness in setting aside the pain and ask Him to help them. Now this may be difficult to do, and Christ understands the resistance, but if you don’t try then the door to God’s grace remains closed.

I pray this prayer: “Lord relieve me from being angry. How can I be of service to this person? Your will, not mine be done.” When I honestly and humbly express those words without any reservations, I find inner peace. The presence of God flows into my soul and freedom from the emotional bondage emerges. 

Another excellent tool available is to write about the injustice. Taking a look at the situation on paper begins the process of shedding light onto the sensitive encounter. Stuffing negative emotions inside the soul drains the spiritual energy God has provided and prevents us from loving others. And clinging to them keeps them in the dark where they fester and grow. So, by releasing them on paper exposes our motives.

The way I do the writing exercise is to pray and ask myself questions. I usually start out like this: Why am I so bothered by this injustice? What part if any did I play in the situation? Did I provoke them? Do I feel entitled to hold on to anger? Am I resentful at them? If so, what is the cause? How does that resentment affect me? Answering those questions helps me to gain a better perspective on the situation. As the result of doing this I am able to see clearly the whole picture.

We have discussed in a general way how to love others. Your experiences may be different. The only thing that matters is for us to follow Christ’s commands and allow Him to be our Director. In regards to loving difficult people, the best guidance we can draw from is found in Matthew: 5:43-48.

What spiritual steps do you take to love difficult people?