I have a good friend who has been a Christian for much of her life. She’s now in her 60’s. It’s been fascinating watching her in her faith progression. For years she sat solidly in the knowledge that Jesus died for her sins. She knew that God loved her. She can quote many Bible verses, she taught Sunday school, and has an active Bible study life. But it was only in the last year that she has firmly grasped the lesson of being a loving and faithful friend to the unlovable. She was led to finally forgive a family member. To show that person love and kindness. And what she discovered was the other places in her heart that were holding out on God’s love for others. Jesus has put out His hand to her and said, “It’s time to move forward.”
“We love because he first loved us.” 1 John 4:19
When I listen in to a Pastor Max Lucado podcast I find myself in the presence of a man who exudes God’s love. His voice alone invites us to sit with him by the fire. He then gently walks us through the Words of Jesus expressing God’s immense, unwavering love for us. It is truly a gift God has given him.
You and I long for Someone who will meet us in the midst of life’s messes. We long to believe in a living, loving, miracle-working God who won’t think twice about stepping into the thorny thickets of our world and lifting us out. I have an encouraging word: you are not alone. Max Lucado, “You Are Never Alone”
This message of God’s love for us and His faithfulness is not a small thing to accept. And Jesus’ command – yes command – for us to open those gifts and use them cannot be leapfrogged. Without honing and living out being a loving and faithful friend to God’s people the rest of the message is rarely listened to and accepted. When the Truth of God is wrapped tightly in love we will find ourselves ready to be God’s hands and feet.
“During our first birth we relied on our mother and the doctors to do the work. We were loved and carefully cared for. In our second birth we rely on the loving God to care for us — to help create a new heart and mind for us.” Max Lucado
Have you practiced and perfected the Loving and Faithful Friend mindset? Or are you still stuck in the unbelief that Jesus fully loves you – not realizing your chains are broken? Are you trapped in a world of unforgiveness, judgment, or anger towards people around you or the circumstances in the world? Ask God to reveal to you any hidden places in your heart that keep you from fully living like the loving Jesus.
I’ll be perfectly honest and say that at the ripe age of 56 I still struggle with anger and resentment. I once told a group of Bible study friends I wanted to be more “sparkly.” You know, that woman that seems like she’s living her best life — seemingly floating above life’s strife. Everything not only rolls off the “sparkly” woman’s shoulders but she also dives deep into joyous moments. When my prayer life finally included this plea to God He showed me how my lack of Jesus-type love for others was the chain holding me back.
For some of us that “sparkly” life is easier to achieve. For others our well-honed training from our past and the perils of our everyday environment make it more difficult. And that’s when Jesus fills the gap between what we are able to accomplish and what we cannot. When we encounter difficult people or circumstances, it’s Jesus’ love — for us and others — that is the bridge.
"By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." John 13:35
I’m glad I’ve had the opportunity to re-visit Pastor Lucado’s teachings about love. He reminded me not only that I am deeply loved but God expects me to love the “unlovable” in my life. I encourage you to pick up any of his books or tune into his podcast, Encouraging Word. We all can use the reminders of God’s love for us and how to gift that to others. For most of us we need to be in constant training. Practicing, failing, and practicing again. When we fail we need to make note of how to do it better next time, pray for forgiveness, and ask God to tap us on the shoulder when the time comes to do it again.
I know the old “what would Jesus do” saying has gotten a bit worn out but the question still is powerful. There is no other, more powerful, more consistent touchstone for our lives than Jesus. When I pray for God’s strength, guidance, and wisdom I frequently ask for Him give me that shoulder tap when I’m about to go astray. To interrupt what is about to be my “typical” response to a person or situation and instead turn my head slightly toward Jesus as a reminder.
"And walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God." Ephesians 5:2
You’ll notice throughout Jesus’ words and the New Testament it’s not enough to have the absence of dislike, rudeness, unforgiveness, etc. He offered Himself up as a fragrant offering. He brought something to God. We are to bring something of ourselves into our relationships with the people of the world.
There are days that I have only been able to accomplish the “lack” of something bad. And when I do that, I feel incomplete. I lay my head down at night knowing I didn’t run the race well — I just made it around the track. And so I ask Jesus to help me do it as He would the next time. He always says, “I will.”
Jesus always loves us. And He is always with us ready to tap our shoulder. As Pastor Lucado says, “You are never alone.” He is our constant example to look toward. And in my next post you’ll meet an ordinary woman who lives out Jesus’ mindset of being a loving and faithful friend, making her extraordinary to all who meet her.