I remember when I first met Paula in September of 1977. We became friends and I so enjoyed her personality and company. I knew that I cared deeply for her and it wasn’t long (less than a year) that I knew I wanted to marry her. When we were married on June 2, 1979 I loved her very much with the best quality of love I understood at that time in my life. We have been married over thirty-four years and my love for her is so much richer and deeper than it was back then.
When my first child, Jeremiah, was born it was one of the greatest highlights of my life. I loved him so very much, but it was limited to my ability to love at that time. JD is twenty-nine and I can’t compare the love I have for him now than when he was born.
I came the church where I am serving now and immediately enjoyed their friendship and loved them as best I could when I first arrived. They were sweet and dear people. Now that I have been there for almost thirty years my care and love for them has matured and deepened. They are like family to me.
Here’s my point. I loved Paula, my children, and church as sincerely and deeply as I could, but it was a shallow love. Genuine love grows and loves deeper as we walk with the Lord and our selfishness is rooted out and replaced by Christ’s love as He lives through us.
God allows us to be put in difficult circumstances to reveal our lack of love. One of these ways is seen by our being agitated by the idiosyncrasies of those we love in order that we might learn to genuinely love them more.
Sometimes we are stretched in our love in the very areas in which we were attracted to someone in the first place. What was a strength in the early part of our relationship now becomes a negative. It’s true, the excess of a strength is a weakness. It is during these times that we discover if we have the love of Christ or not.
True love tolerates people even when they are difficult to love. The Bible says, Love “is not easily provoked…” (I Corinthians 13:5). These difficult times are when our love is proven.
When a person becomes a Christian one of the primary evidences that authenticates that profession is that they love people. The Bible says of believers that “…the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us”. (Romans 5:5)
The words “shed abroad” mean “to pour out in a gushing stream that spills over”. It has the idea of an abundant overflow. There is no shortage of love in a Christian’s heart; it is normal and natural.
The very moment of the new birth the Spirit of God indwells a person (Romans 8:9) and there is an abundance of love that will stay in your heart for all eternity. It is this presence of love that enables us to fulfill the two greatest commands of God, to love Him and to love people (Matthew 22:36-40).
If a person doesn’t love God and people then they have never been born again, period. The desire to love people is there for every believer. In fact, it is a test of true conversion. The Bible says, “…as touching brotherly love ye need not that I write unto you: for ye yourselves are taught of God to love one another.” (I Thessalonians 4:9)
Genuine love enables us to tolerate difficult people and their irritating qualities. All of us have blind spots of which we are unaware that aggravate others, especially those that are closest to us. We certainly want and need people to be patient with us in those times and we ought to do the same for them.
This quality of love (not being easily provoked) is related to the first one in I Corinthians 13:4 (being patient when it would be easy to become angry). During the next few posts we’ll consider how being irritated by people can be conquered by the love of God in our hearts.
Let me leave you with a challenge. Today (and it will happen today), when you are irritated by someone realize this is an opportunity for you to show your love . Ask God to help you to love them through you. That’s real love, when it’s tough to do so.