“God is love” (1 John 4:16), but as His children we find it hard to love others in the same unconditional way God loves us. Sometimes it’s because we’re unwilling to pay the high price of that kind of sacrificial love. But there’s another reason too. If we haven’t learned how to love ourselves in a godly way, it’s impossible to give that kind of love to other people. The command in Matthew 22:39 – love your neighbor as yourself – will be lived out differently for those who haven’t received God’s unconditional love for them into their hearts.
To paraphrase a Brennan Manning quote: “Trying to live the gospel or trying to be a living letter of God’s love without allowing him to love me and transform me into love is like being a travel agent handing out brochures to places I’ve never been to.”
I’ve seen and met with so many people who aren’t bad or evil … they are just lonely, broken, lost, and fearful. They are desperately grasping at anything that seems like a moment of happiness or an escape from the pain of their life. Traumas like rejection, abandonment, betrayal, or abuses have dragged them into deep pits of despair. And if that wasn’t enough, they believe lies about themselves based on what has happened to them. Lies like “I’m not good enough”; “I’m not loveable”; “I’m a failure”; or “It’s my fault this has happened to me” are all forms of self-rejection.
It’s one thing to deal with events that have happened to us, but quite another to have to deal with a civil war going on inside of us (stemming from the bad fruit of false comforts) that creates even more shame and guilt. Often hurting people believe God exists but they don’t know the deep and unconditional love available to them in His great sacrifice for us. As Romans 5:8 says: “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
In my observations about these things I’m merely describing the exact thoughts I had about myself until a deep revelation of God’s love was personally revealed to me. It cracked open my heart and poured God’s love into it – the heart of a little boy who had given up hope he could ever be loved or find companionship. This revelation came to a man who saw himself long ago as disqualified and not worthy of love. I believed I’d irrevocably blown my opportunity to be a good husband, a good father, or even a servant of God because of poor decisions I’d made and I was now disqualified from knowing who I was and why I was here.
Prior to God’s breaking through to me, my life bore witness to my brokenness by way of self-protection, self-provision, self-comfort, and too many other “selfs” to name, most resulting in addictions and idolatry of some kind. But accepting God’s love for me allowed me to shift my focus from my sin to God’s goodness, forgiveness, and healing grace.
We are the beloved! We are created to be loved. And graciously, generously, God took the first step. “We love because he first loved us.” (1 John 4:19)
Being loved for who I truly am has been the only thing that has had the power to finally transform me from the inside out. I’m not perfect but daily I’m being conformed to the image of Jesus. He’s the Potter and I’m the clay.
God’s love and acceptance of me has given me both the desire and the power to trust God, to allow Him to make those transformational changes that I have desired but was unable to achieve through my own power and strength. A transformation that would allow me to rise above selfishness into a life of loving others from the place of an overflow of love.
By allowing God to live His life through me, I can open myself to being transformed into love. This means I don’t have to build up a love for somebody. Rather, it can be a natural outpouring of what’s inside of me. Loving others can be an unselfish act unlike anything I can produce by myself, given without looking to personal gain. That kind of love is powered by God alone, and therefore God himself gets all the glory. It starts to look like the kind of love Jesus revealed by unselfishly giving up His life for me.
If perfect love casts out fear, Lord Jesus, fill me to the full with your love so that I might fearlessly give up my life to serve you Lord, and others.
As we think about love breaking into our brokenness it’s easy to see how this ties in with Christmas. Emmanuel, God with us, would break into a broken world in humility, as a newborn baby, bringing love and sacrifice, not condemnation. “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” (John 3:17) He comes to do the same for your life as well as mine.
May this season that magnifies not only a giving spirit but a Holy Spirit be a season when we unselfishly share His love with others. He will help us be kind, generous, and mindful of the needs of those around us.
Luke Mann has a true gift. From wood carving to bike restoration, he can transform old and worn out gems into something new and useful. Now a cross-cultural ministry has been born from his passion for cycling and bicycles. He collects old bikes and parts, repairs and restores them, and gives them away for free to immigrants who can’t afford a bike. He spots street venders who need bikes to carry their goods, those who need to go to work and have no transportation, or people to whom he just wants to show God’s love in a practical way. It’s creative missions at its best!
If you feel led to support Luke and his wife Dawn in their effort to reach out to Italians and immigrants in central Italy, please visit our website: https://www.adventive.ca/all-project-list/lukes-free-bike-restoring-for-immigrants/
Have a beloved Christmas!