The Lord has gently put a finger on something in me recently, a profound lack of love for other people, especially fellow Christians. I’ve known of this for a long while, but my awareness of how deep and pervasive it is is painfully growing.
My confession is that I frequently “size people up” and dismiss them if they don’t immediately present something valuable to my interests. Usually this is directed toward 1) those who appear strong and who “don’t seem to get” the message of brokenness, i.e., they appear to have it all together by my estimation, or 2) those whose brokenness is different from my own narrow understanding and experience of it. An example of the latter would be that I usually feel great compassion for those broken or wounded by religion or the church, but typically feel no compassion for the homeless and poor.
Dallas Willard (Knowing Christ Conference, Feb 2013, lecture #3) talks about this horrible dynamic of “sizing people up” that results in either a response of attack or withdrawal, based on my “assessment.” If another is perceived as a threat, I likely will withdraw. The ultimate message I am communicating is that “you’re not worth my time.” Sometimes I will feel compelled to “attack” by seeking to impress the person with my knowledge and experiences. The message I communicate to them is that “look how blessed you are to be in my glorious presence!” Both responses dismiss the person as they are and establish myself in the place of God as I edit them out of my story.
The Kingdom of Jesus frees us from this pathology, as we are safe in the arms of the Trinitarian Fellowship and free to relate and love people where they are instead of where they “should” be. I can love as I am loved.
This thought attended a recent flash of awareness: The only people I have any right to teach or speak into are those in whom I delight, those in whom I feel genuine affection.
I’ve begun to think of Bible passages (NIV) that speak of Christians’ love for other Christians, such as:
1 Thess 4:9, Now about your love for one another we do not need to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love each other.
Phil 1:8-9, God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus. And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight
Col 1:3-5, We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all God’s people—the faith and love that spring from the hope stored up for you in heaven and about which you have already heard in the true message of the gospel that has come to you.
John 15:12-17, My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. This is my command: Love each other.
There are many more passages that could be mentioned, like 1 Cor 13:4-7, but these have been forefront in my mind. I highlighted those portions above that are especially speaking to me, evidence of a process by which God teaches us (as his disciples) how to love one another as he loves us.
My first step is to acknowledge my lack of love and seek to be aware of the voices of criticism that swirl in my head as I relate to other believers. Then, hopefully I can quiet these voices and seek the Lord in confession and trust. He is the great lover of our souls, and I trust Him as my Master Teacher to teach me how to love as I have been loved. May God grant me great grace, for I am a great sinner.