Love is a two-way street. This is true of love in any relationship and in any capacity. It doesn't matter how much we show love toward another person, if they choose not receive our love then they will never feel and know the full benefits of that love. We can't make someone receive our love; that is a choice they must make. For the one in the giving capacity, this is a heartbreaking journey because you extend so much of yourself in hopes that your love will be accepted and possibly returned. For the one in the receiving capacity, this is a missed opportunity - a chance to be fully loved by another. Although this is true of any relationship, as I stated earlier, I specifically want to discuss God's love toward us and God's love at work within us. (As always, Scriptures used in this blog are written in the footnotes for your reference).
Reasons We Choose Not to Receive Love
Wounds. So many of us haven't been shown true love by those in our lives who should love us. As a result, we either consciously choose not to receive God's love that He graciously bestows on us because we don't trust Him; or, we subconsciously choose to not receive His love because we don't feel worthy or lovable.
1. Distrust: People give us plenty of reasons to distrust, and our horizontal relationships (those with other humans) will always dictate how we respond in our vertical relationship (with God). This is especially true of the parent/child relationship, as we are told in the Bible we are children of God (Galatians 3:26, 1 John 3:3a, Romans 8:15). Personally, this is where I have struggled the most. Having an absent and unreliable father sowed deep seeds of distrust in my relationship with God. Maybe you're the same? Maybe you didn't have an absent parent, but one who showed partial and conditional love. If so, I have two things to say to you. Number one, God can be trusted. He is reliable and He does love us fully and unconditionally. In fact, the Bible says that He loved us in our sin, meaning we didn't do anything to deserve this love (Romans 5:8). His love is totally and completely based on Him, and He is unchanging so His love will always remain (Numbers 23:19, Malachi 3:6). And, number two, our parents are human. Their love isn't perfect, like our God's love. So, if there isn't any abuse or danger in having a close relationship with your parents, I encourage you give them some of the grace that has been given to you by Christ, and to receive the love they offer and love them fully in return. This will do wonders for your heart and your relationship with God, as well.
2. Unworthy and Unlovable: I don't know what you've been through, what wounds or issues you may possess. If you feel you are unworthy of love or completely unlovable, I want you to know that that belief is a lie from Satan. People may have made you feel like you don't deserve love, or anything good for that matter. People may have told you in so many ways that you are unlovable. You may have experienced such trauma and abuse that you received the message that you were unlovable because those who should have protected you instead caused you pain. Whatever your reasons for this belief, God does not count you unworthy of His love or unlovable. In fact, His Word says just the opposite. Know that you are loved in a very real and tangible way by your heavenly Father who created you and called you unto Himself (John 6:44-45).
- Jeremiah 31:3 - "I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you." (ESV)
- Romans 8:37-39 - "No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord." (ESV)
- Psalms 86:15 - "But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness." (ESV)
- Deuteronomy 7:9 - "Deuteronomy 7:9 Know therefore that the LORD your God is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations." (ESV)
Choosing to Receive Christ's Love
The first way we choose to receive Christ's love is through acceptance of the salvation freely offered to us. Christ died and rose again as an atonement for our sins. The first step in receiving His love is acknowledging His sacrifice and Lordship and accepting Him into our hearts and lives (Romans 10:13).
The second way we choose to receive Christ's love is to live out of the fullness of His love for us (Ephesians 3:16-19). This is something we choose to do on a daily basis. We do this through several ways: reading God's Word, praying, worshiping, and witnessing.
1. Reading God's Word: I've said it before and I'll say it again - the Bible is God's love letter to us and our instruction manual for life. It teaches us how to live a life pleasing to God, but more importantly, it teaches us God's character. When we are intimately acquainted with God's character, we will want to live a life pleasing to Him and we will want to share the love and hope we've found in Him with others.
2. Praying: Praying is simply a conversation with God. When we pray to Him and listen to Him, we are strengthened to live a life of holiness, encouraged in His faithfulness, reminded of His love, and directed to do His will. "You are who you surround yourself with" is what I've been told my whole life. So, surround yourself with God and dwell in His company and you will become more and more like Him.
3. Worshiping: Adoration, praise, singing, clapping, dancing, raising your hands, working, ministering, gratitude, being.....our very existence is worship to God. Everything we do, we are to do as unto Him and this is how we worship God (Colossians 3:23). When our existence and everything we do is done in worship and praise of our great God, then we will automatically exhibit love to those around us. Living life this way and with this perspective keeps God in the forefront of our minds and hearts. He isn't forgotten and His sacrifice, love and instructions to love others is not forgotten, but ever before us.
4. Witnessing: This simply means, telling others about Jesus and showing them first-hand the love of Christ. When we fully comprehend the character of God, His love and His sacrifice for us, then we will be compelled to tell others, too. More on this below.....
Extending Christ's Love to Others
You've heard it said that we are the hands and feet of Jesus, and it's true (1 Corinthians 12:27). Christ is the image of the invisible God (Colossians 1:15), and when He ascended to heaven in Acts 1:9-11 he left us here to spread His Word. We are Christ's image-bearers. We were made in His image from the beginning of time (Genesis 1:27), and we have been instructed to go into all the world and show them the love of Christ (Mark 16:15, 1 John 4:18-19). How are you demonstrating God's love to those around you? I'm not just talking about your friends and family - those you're supposed to love or who are easy to love. I'm talking about your neighbors, those who wait on you in restaurants, drivers you encounter on your morning commute, those who have hurt you deeply. You see, there are no exclusion clauses in God's command to love others - it applies to everyone of every shape, size, color, profession, faith, belief and political view.
I've struggled so much in this area, often saying that I love God and hate people. But, that was is an immature faith. You can't love God if you hate people. "If anyone says, 'I love God,' and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen." (1 John 4:20, ESV) We do not have the authority to pick and choose who gets to receive Christ's love. His love, grace, mercy and salvation were freely extended to us, and we definitely did not deserve it. Let us show those around us the same love, grace, mercy and salvation that was given to us even if we don't feel they deserve it. We need to choose to live out of the fullness of Christ's love for us so that others might choose His love, as well.
"Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love."
1 John 4:7-8
Scripture Used in this Blog:
Galatians 3:26 - "for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith." (ESV)
1 John 3:3a - "See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are." (ESV)
Romans 8:15 - "The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, 'Abba, Father.'" (ESV)
Romans 5:8 - "but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." (ESV)
Numbers 23:19 - "God is not human, that he should lie, not a human being, that he should change his mind.Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill?" (NIV)
Malachi 3:6 - "“For I the LORD do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed." (ESV)
1 Corinthians 12:27 - "All of you together are Christ’s body, and each of you is a part of it." (NLT)
Colossians 1:15 - "He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation." (ESV)
Genesis 1:27 - "So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them." (ESV)
John 6:44-45 - "No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day. It is written in the Prophets, ‘And they will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me—" (ESV)
Mark 16:15 - "And he said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation." (ESV)
1 John 4:18-19 - "There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.19 We love because he first loved us." (ESV)
Romans 10:13 - "For 'everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.'" (ESV)
Ephesians 3:16-19 - "that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God." (ESV)
Colossians 3:23 - "Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people." (NLT)