Becoming a Person Who Loves Others
I recently had the opportunity to share with an unbeliever how I was converted to Christ. Some have enjoyed the privilege of having been raised by Christian parents and cannot recall a time in their lives when they did not trust Christ for their salvation. I have had the privilege of experiencing the saving grace of God as an adult, having spent years in the vanity and pride of sin and then coming clearly and decisively from that sin into new life in Christ.
I told my friend how I had been attending Bible studies at a U.S. Air Force base chapel where I was stationed in the early 1970’s. I came to the point of realizing that while I had acknowledged the existence of God (or at times merely the possibility of his existence), I had never trusted him vitally and practically. So one night, I cried out to God, asking him to show himself to me in a way that would win my trust. Although my friend is an unbeliever, even he thought my prayer was not very reverent or theological. Of course, he was right. But, as I explained to him, I have since then learned that God is not concerned with formal orthodoxy so much as with the genuine cry of a man’s heart and soul. My friend asked me how God answered my prayer, and I told him that the Lord simply, profoundly, and lastingly changed me. God did what no man or agency could ever do, he gave me a new heart and soul!
To this day, nearly 40 years after my prayer and its answer, I am still amazed and delighted at how the Lord did and continues to do for me exceedingly abundantly beyond what I asked or thought. But how did I know I had a new heart and soul, that I was a new man by the marvellous working of the saving grace and power of God? That answer is one of the most simple and clear ones I can give: I became a man who loved others. I had been self-centred, but God changed me into a man who began to love him and to love people. This loving, although I still do it very imperfectly, has become the greatest blessing of my Christian life, second only to God’s love for me.
As I grow in the grace and knowledge of Christ, I come less and less to question or doubt his love for me. I accept it with increasingly profound gratitude as the nourishing food, healing medicine, and liberating light of my soul. Therefore, I spend less time asking God to prove his love for me, and I spend more time asking him to make me a better lover of him and the people in my life.
It is in the exercise of such love, however difficult and sacrificial it may become, that I find a blessedness that I could not experience were I to be merely a recipient of love, even of God’s love. This is so because God’s love does not have the character of terminating with those who receive it. The love of God impels those who truly know and possess it to love others.
This loving of others makes the living of the Christian life to be both sweet and simple. As the love Jacob had for Rachel made the years of his service to her father pass quickly and sweetly, so the love the Lord gives us to have for and demonstrate to others transforms all cost and sacrifice involved in our giving such love into blessedness for us. In Galatians 4:15, Paul equates supreme blessedness with supremely sacrificial service. The Galatians were most blessed when they were lovingly committed to giving their own eyes to relieve Paul’s affliction. This can only be true if such loving service is rooted and grounded in the infinitely sacrificial and saving love that God has for us (Eph. 3:14-19). If we are so rooted, love issues from us as the natural fruit of God’s Holy Spirit, not as the artificial and exhausting works of man.
The simplicity of this is in our asking in every situation and with every person one question: What is the loving thing to do? We do not need to manipulate factors or persons in any situation in order for us to love others in those situations. We do not need to wait until others seem to us worthy of our love, nor do we need to fear that our loving will impose loss upon us, when it will only prove to be for us a greater blessing to give such holy love to others than to receive anything else in all the world.
William Harrell is Pastor of Immanuel Presbyterian Church, Norfolk, Virginia
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