It always comes down to love, doesn’t it?
Do you rejoice when your child does well? How about your spouse? Why? Because you love them!
“Why do other people have it so easy?” was the question that began this series of posts on comparison cures. This minimizing of our blessings and maximizing the perceived blessings of those around us entraps us all at some point with the unfortunate result of creating bitterness, envy, resentment, and ingratitude.
There are cures for this sickness. To date, we’ve covered four: contentment, acceptance, humility and compassion. (Click on each word to read the previous posts). Each cure is a learned behavior. We do not employ these remedies to be self-righteous, create positive chi, or even to feel better. We seek them because we love God and we want to be like him. Like so many things God calls us to do as Chrisians, it all boils down to love. The love God desires from us is a selfless love; a love that demands us to put our needs on the back burner; a love that is learned; a love that puts God first, others second and us last.
How much do we really love others?
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. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.”
~ 1 John 4:20-21 ESV
Are you ready for a truth bomb? There are many people who are difficult to love and strive to make themselves as unloveable as possible. Yet loving others is not optional, it’s commanded! Take a look at the above passage from First John. If we fail to love our brother whom we can see, how can we love God whom we cannot see?
When I look at my neighbors, friends and fellow Christians and resent the good things that happen to them, two things are happening: I am failing to showing gratitude for the blessings I already have and I am failing to cultivate love. It’s not for me to decide whether they deserve what they have. I certainly do not deserve the blessings I have been given!
We are commanded to pray for our enemies and bless those who curse us. We are commanded to love. If we cannot even pray for those “undeserving” neighbors, friends, and fellow Christians, how in the world will we be able to pray for our enemies?
Ask the Lord to help you love the unloveable and quench those feelings of envy, bitterness, resentment and covetous. This type of love runs contrary to our nature. Godly love is not easy, but it is powerful. Imagine how different the church would be if we worked on growing our love and squashing our enviousness?
“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, ESV
I want to know the Lord, but in order to do so, I must start crushing my selfish nature and pursue love that seeks the best for others.
What is Genuine Love?
So, we know we are commanded to love, but how do we show love when we don’t feel love? We want to obey God, but we think that if we show love without actually feeling love, we are, in fact, disingenuous. This is a tricky problem.
In Romans 12.9, the NKJV reads, “let love be without hypocrisy.” In Greek and Roman culture, actors were called hypocrites because they created a “counterfeit persona” and were often considered to be untrustworthy because of their ability to affect emotions that they weren’t truly feeling. We don’t want to be hypocrites, right?
Here’s the thing: Just because the emotions are absent, that does not necessarily make you a hypocrite. For example: ask any solid, happily married, veteran couple (married 10 years or more) what “love” is, and they will tell you that love is more than a feeling. When a couple first marries, they do things for the other person because of how they feel. A couple that has been married 10, 20, 30+ years will tell you that they often do things for their spouse in spite of how they feel. They aren’t riding cloud nine every day, but they work to keep the spark alive because their love has grown into something much stronger than emotion—it is a deep, abiding commitment.
So, when we try to rejoice with those who rejoice (even though we don’t feel like it) we are doing so, not from some noble, transcendent emotion, but rather because we are choosing to do what is right. We want to be like God, we want to love God, so we make it our choice to demonstrate love. The feelings will come. It’s not hypocritical to choose to do right even when your feelings are against you.
Did God show you love when you became a Chrisian? Did Jesus deserve death? Did he forgive your sins? Does he continue to extend grace to you?
If that is so: shouldn’t we also extend love and grace to those around us? Are we more deserving of God’s grace and mercy than anyone else on the planet?
Before concluding, consider this passage from Colossians:
“Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved,
and patience, bearing with one another
and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.
And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body.
And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”
~ Colossians 3:12-17 ESV, emphasis mine
“Love… binds everything together in perfect harmony.” It really does. It’s no coincidence that Jesus said the greatest commandment is to love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength; and the second is to love your neighbor as yourself. It’s a commandment and we must strive to fulfill it with each breath we take. Let’s find joy in contentment, peace in acceptance, patience in humility, grace in compassion and connection in love. When you feel the stirrings of envy that come with comparison, ask yourself if you love that person the way God wants you to. Run down your list: Am I being content, accepting etcetera? Set your mind on what is true, noble and praiseworthy.
This concludes the series on Comparison Cures. I hope the series has strengthened you as much as it has me! I hope you’ll leave a note in the comments and share which one was the most helpful to you.
May the Lord be with you, my friends!