“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God.” 1 John 4:7
We, as Christians, are called to be a light in a dark world. We are challenged to love our enemies, to “judge not, lest you be judged”, and to follow Christ’s example in our daily lives. Yet even though we strive to live like Christ, we all fall very short in our efforts.
This year, I’m studying the book of John in my Bible Study Fellowship class (www.bsfinternational.org). I’m reminded how Christ used every opportunity in His encounters with people to show unconditional love to them. As a Christian counselor, I try to use His example with the many clients I work with. And in the 24 years I’ve been in practice, I have come to love those I am privileged to work with. Love originates with God and without Him, we are incapable of loving others. We usually want to love ourselves more. Here’s what I recommend in learning to love others:
Pray often. The last verse in John 7, talking about the chief priests & Pharisees, says “Everyone went to his own home.” Then the first verse in John 8 says, “But Jesus went to the Mount of Olives.” Why did He do that? Because talking to God was like home for Jesus. Prayer was what He did continually. As followers of Christ, that should be our goal. We should feel at home when talking to Jesus. Before starting my day, I spend time in prayer. I’m not a fortune teller and have no idea how my days will go - so it’s imperative that I spend time in prayer before I leave my home. God knows what obstacles will be put into our lives. He wants to help us through them - so make it a habit to go to Him every day in prayer.
Stop judging others. Unless you spend time talking to someone, there’s no way you can understand why people do what they do. Until you’ve “walked a mile in their shoes”, you don’t know them. I love my job because I get to sit down with people and listen to them. Once I hear their back story, I ‘get it’. And the amazing thing for me is that when I pray for them, God gives me love for them. And I can allow His love to work through me. Spend time talking with people and getting to know them really well.
Examine yourself. It’s always a good practice to take stock of your shortcomings and see where you need to improve. If our focus is on improving our own behavior, we won’t be so quick to look for faults in others. For me, I have lots of room for improvement so if I were to compare myself to others, I guarantee that I would come up short. Rather than compare ourselves to others and judging them, keep the focus on being the best you can be in all situations.
Study your Bible. Many people rarely even read their Bibles, much less study it. All the Bible knowledge I have learned has not come from sitting in church listening to sermons, or from reading my Bible (but it helps). It has come from years and years of being in Bible study classes. There are Bible study classes going on at every church at one time or another. Join one. If your church doesn’t have one, look up Bible Study Fellowship (www.bsfinternational.org) for a men or women’s class here in Lafayette. It’s non-denominational and classes are open for new members.
There’s no perfect formula for how to show love and acceptance to others, but left to ourselves, we simply are too selfish to think of others. When we follow the example Jesus set forth for us, we can learn to show love to others by praying more, not judging others, examining ourselves, and participating in Bible studies. The more you learn about the ways of God, the more you will be blessed and in turn, be able to bless others.