If you were offered an opportunity to grow in one of three godly characteristics (those being faith, hope, and love), which would you naturally be drawn toward?
- Would you want to learn more about faith?
- Would you desire to gain more hope for freedom through Christ?
- Or would you be drawn to learning to love as God loves?
Yet, somewhere along the way, I’ve inadvertently inflated my value of faith and hope above love. Which is sad because love is essential.
In fact, love is the greatest of the three.
So, I’ve decided it’s time to find some balance. Or rather, I believe God has decided it’s time I find some balance between the three.
(And isn’t that just like God? We think we’re doing fine until he points out something we’ve been neglecting, then lovingly steers us in the right direction.)
Learning to Love As God Loves
When God first called me to write for him, I wanted to shrink back from the task. I felt there were millions of people better equipped to write for God than me.
“But God, I’m not qualified.”
The only answer I received was: “Sara, write what you know, and leave the rest up to me.”
Alright. What do I know? I know I want to love, and I know it’s hard to love. But even more importantly, I know these two truths:
- God is love; and
- God will never give up on teaching us how to love.
1. God is Love
Do you have kids? If yes, I’m certain that one of your goals as a parent is to teach your children valuable qualities, traits, and behaviors.
Not only that, but often as parents, we purposely pass on our own unique skills and interests to our children.
- A scientist may want to train their child to think critically and investigate the world around them.
- A literary expert will likely teach their child to read and love books.
- A skilled gardener may encourage their toddler to help pluck weeds and pull carrots, thereby planting the seed of gardening into their child’s heart at young age.
God the Father is Love.
“…God is love.”(1 John 4:8b NLT)
God isn’t an expert at being loving: God is love.
If God is love, wouldn’t it make sense that he would also want to teach his children how to be loving? God knows that the most valuable quality, trait, or behavior he can teach us is to learn to love as he loves.
We are God’s children.
“See how very much our Father loves us, for he calls us his children, and that is what we are!”(1 John 3:1a NLT)
The beauty of the parent-child relationship is that not only do parents wish to pass on values to their children, but children naturally want to emulate their parents.
When one of my children was around five years old, I found them in front of our hallway mirror coloring black marker on their face.
“What’re you doing?” I asked.
Smiling, they answered, “I’m making the dark stuff under my eyes so I can be like you, Mommy.”
My child has long since realized that having dark eye circles isn’t exactly a trait to long for. Yet, the memory is still sweet to me because my child admired me enough to want to be like me.
All my children (at least during their younger years) have admired me in certain ways and copied many of my mannerisms – some good and some not so good.
This innocent desire to emulate a parent is, I believe, one of the reasons God calls us to be like little children.
A Loving Relationship
As our Father, God wants us to learn to love like him, to admire him enough to want to imitate his character.
- “Imitate God, therefore, in everything you do, because you are his dear children. Live a life filled with love, following the example of Christ. He loved us and offered himself as a sacrifice for us, a pleasing aroma to God.” (Ephesians 5:1-2 NLT)
As God’s children, the more we get to know our Father, the more we want to be like him and bear loving fruit through the help of his Holy Spirit.
- “We know how much God loves us, and we have put our trust in his love. God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them. And as we live in God, our love grows more perfect. So we will not be afraid on the day of judgment, but we can face him with confidence because we live like Jesus here in this world.” (1 John 4:16-17 NLT)
So, then, love is a big deal to God because God is love, but also because true love is valuable. It doesn’t fade.
Like God, love lasts forever.
Do you know how much God loves you?
Take a step today towards accepting more of God’s love for you. Renew your mind with the Truth of God’s Word by reviewing these 75 Biblically Based Personal Identity Confessions.
Let me ask you this: When your life is over, what will remain?
If you’re like me, it’s easy to judge the value of our lives by things such as what kind of house we own, or whether we’re successful in business, or if our children behave the way we want them to.
Scripture tells us, however, that at the end of our lives and after the Earth passes away, only “[t]hree things will last forever – faith, hope, and love – and the greatest of these is love” (1 Corinthians 13:13 NLT).
These are the treasures we’re meant to seek during our lifetime. These are the building blocks of a life of value.
“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”(Matthew 6:19-21 ESV)
I’m thankful that our God, our perfect Father, always tells us the truth.
If God says that faith, hope, and love are the only things that will last, then I want to learn to live a life that is filled with these. Especially, love, because “the greatest of these is love” (1 Corinthians 13:13b NLT).
Yet, what happens when we want to live a life of love, yet our sinful nature constantly fights against us? Love can be hard. In fact, love often feels impossible. Especially when we disagree with others and relationships are strained.
Here’s where the second truth I know about love comes into play:
2. God Will Never Give Up On Teaching Us How to Love.
Years ago, I booked an appointment with a prayer minster at my church. At the end of our meeting, she gave me homework. “This week,” she said, “ask God what he likes or loves about you.”
I thought her assignment was lame. Like a surface-level counseling gimmick intended to make me feel better about myself. Even so, I figured that if I wanted her help, I’d better do what she suggested.
During my prayer journaling times that week, I asked, “God, what do you like or love about me?”
By the end of the week, I sensed God was telling me he loved that I was teachable.
Teachable? Ugh. I’d hoped he would reveal something more glamourous than that. Maybe something about my personality? Or, perhaps something I’d accomplished?
God’s answer seemed as lame as the assignment.
At the next meeting, I shared from my prayer journal what I felt God had said to me. When I finished reading, I reluctantly looked up from my page, expecting to find a facial expression on the prayer minister’s face that would reflect how unimpressive being “teachable” was.
Instead, she was grinning.
“That’s huge, Sara! Being teachable is very good. Not everyone is willing to learn. God can work with teachable.”
Since then, I’ve discovered she was right. Apparently, God is most interested with the state of my heart, not in what I can or can’t do.
“For the LORD sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”(1 Samuel 16:7b ESV)
God simply wants me to be teachable, to trust him to complete his work in me.
“And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.”(Philippians 1:6 NLT)
God Isn’t Surprised by Our Struggle
So, then, what do we do when we want to live a life of love, yet our sinful nature constantly fights against us? We run to God, our wonderful Teacher.
God isn’t surprised when we mess up. In fact, because he knows our sin nature, personalities, and circumstances, God expects us to be unable to love like he loves in this lifetime.
When we make mistakes – because we all do make them – rather than criticize ourselves, God wants us to ask him, “What do you want me to learn from this, Lord?”
“Make me to know your ways, O Lord; teach me your paths.”(Psalm 25:5 ESV)
Even in our struggle to learn, we have hope. We are not meant to rely on our own strength during this learning process. We rely on the Holy Spirit who teaches us all things, including how to love.
“But just as His anointing teaches you [giving you insight through the presence of the Holy Spirit] about all things, and is true and is not a lie, and just as His anointing has taught you, you must remain in Him [being rooted in Him, knit to Him].”(1 John 2:27a AMP)
Do you know how much God loves you?
The Three Progressive Levels of Learning to Love
From nature we know that growth is progressive.
Babies aren’t born speaking the language their parents speak. They first learn to make sounds with their mouths. Then, one day, they speak their first word. Soon, they add new words to their vocabulary. One day, they will speak in full sentences, eventually grasping the written language through reading and writing.
Just like a child learning to speak, we also need time, healthy building blocks, and the (divine) help of a loving Parent to learn to speak God’s language of love.
I’ve learned there are three progressive levels of learning to love as God loves, with each one building upon the level before it.
Level One: Accepting God’s Love
Before we can learn to love as God loves, we must accept God’s love for us.
“And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.”(Ephesians 3:18-19 NLT)
Level Two: Loving God
When we begin to grasp God’s love for us, we can learn to reciprocate.
“We love him, because he first loved us.”(1 John 4:19 KJV)
Level Three: Loving Others
As we grow in the knowledge of God’s love for us and grow in our love for him, we can then also grow in our ability to extend God’s love to others.
“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.”(1 John 4:7 ESV)
Now, don’t be fooled by the seemingly tidy, three-step progression listed above. Although growth is progressive, it’s not always linear.
Sometimes growth feels like you’re going backwards. But you’re not.
Recently, I felt like I must be the most unloving person on earth. Call it a spiritual attack, call it a mental health crisis moment – whatever the cause, it came on suddenly and with a vengeance.
I felt so frustrated with myself that I wanted to give up on writing all together. I mean, how could I write a blog post about love if I don’t even know how to love, myself? I was distressed.
After a long while of seeking God, I sensed him showing me that my foundation was cracked. “Level One: Accepting God’s Love” was crumbling. I had been placing my worth in all that I do rather than in how much God loves me.
There are times when we’re trying to operate in the second or third level of love, but it’s not working because we’ve lost our footing. We need to strengthen that first level of love (our solid foundation) before we can continue growing in the other levels again.
To strengthen my love foundation, I’ve been focusing lately on accepting God’s love by reciting “75 Biblically Based Personal Identity Confessions.” In addition to reviewing these truths from God’s Word (as often as I remember to, anyway, with my houseful), I’ve purposely taken time to rest and remove myself from many of the “to do’s” I thought God expected me to do for him.
I’m learning, again, how to just be God’s child – loved and redeemed, by the grace of God.
If you can identify with the feeling that you don’t know how to love well, or with the feeling that you’re not enough or can never be what you think you ought to be, maybe your love foundation needs some reinforcement, too.
Let’s learn to love together, starting with God’s love for us.
Let’s Learn to Love Together
Love is more important, and far bigger, than we can imagine.
Praise the Lord! God never stops teaching us through his Holy Spirit how to accept God’s love, reciprocate God’s love, and extend God’s love to others.
“Let everything you do be done in love (true love to God and man as inspired by God’s love for us).”(1 Corinthians 16:14 AMPC)
Let’s grow in that love together along with the help of the Holy Spirit.