We are called to love each other. In John 13:34-35 Jesus said:
“So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other.” John 13:34-35
The kind of love that Jesus is commanding to express is called unconditional love. He says that’s how He loves us, and He wants us to love other people in the same way. But the problem is we aren’t capable of doing that. We have a defect in character called a sin nature, which makes us selfish and self centered. So if we are going to love unconditionally, we need help. And God offers to give us this help through the Holy Spirit.
But sometimes people don’t want God’s help, so what happens? Well, relationships will suffer. One area where this is especially true is marriage. The divorce rate in America today is reaching all time highs. Approximately forty one percent of all first marriages end in divorce. For second marriages it’s sixty percent, and for third marriages it’s seventy-three percent. If you add all these together, the divorce rate is well over 50%, and that’s alarming.
Divorce Counselors tell us that avoiding divorce requires overcoming what is called the “Deadly D’s”. Here is a partial list: Difficulties, Disagreements, Differences, Discord, Disappointment, Defeat, Dead-ends, Depression, Delay, Doubt, Distance, Death, Debt, and Demands. These are not easy to overcome without unconditional love, but those who do overcome them avoid the final big D, which is divorce.
OK, so let’s talk about unconditional love — the kind of love that Jesus is calling us to express. What does unconditional love look like? What are its characteristics? 1 Corinthians 13:7 gives us some insight.
“Love (unconditional) never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.” 1 Corinthians 13:7
There are 4 major characteristics of unconditional love listed in the passage, so let’s talk about the first one.
The first characteristic of unconditional love is it NEVER GIVES UP.
Now the passage doesn’t specify the circumstances when this is true, so we have to conclude that circumstances are irrelevant — unconditional love doesn’t give up under any circumstances.
Alright, so what does never giving up look like? Well, it means we cut people slack. It means we give others the benefit of the doubt. It means we don’t judge people, and we don’t condemn them. Instead we strive with other people for as long as it takes. We keep our eyes on the goal, which is to love others unconditionally. We don’t let anything get in the way.
The Bible tells us to accept others as Christ has accepted us. Take a look at Romans 15:7.
“Therefore, accept each other just as Christ has accepted you so that God will be given glory.” Romans 15:7
That’s another huge command. Can you imagine accepting someone as Jesus has accepted them? Even when they are ugly and heinous and repulsive and so on. That’s an incredible standard, but we are called to meet it. So how do we do that? Once again we must rely on the Holy Spirit to help us love unconditionally.
Take a look at Ephesians 4:2.
“Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.” Ephesians 4:2
This is the same thing Romans 15:7 is talking about. We have to bear with each other in order to accept each other. Maybe it’s the other way around — I don’t know. In any case the motivation to do this is love — unconditional love, and once again we have to ask the Holy Spirit to help us.
So let me ask you to do something. Think of someone you have a hard time loving. Once you have done that pray the following;
Dear Lord Jesus, I don’t understand it all, but I realize that you love me, and I need to learn about Your love. I don’t understand all about the cross, but I want to accept what you did for me. Thank you for loving me. Thank you for dying for me. I ask you to forgive all my sins. I ask you to come into my life and make me a new person. Please help me to understand it all as I follow you. In your name I pray. Amen.
Once you have prayed that prayer, the Holy Spirit will come into your life, and you can ask Him to help you love that person…..
Let me know how it turns out…..