Taking the truth of 1 Corinthians to a new level of understanding.
As the Bible says in John 13:35, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” So, how do we love? We know from 1 Corinthians that love is patient, kind, not envious or boastful, etc. But how do we apply this knowledge to our lives? I don’t know about you, but being patient doesn’t come naturally, and I can be kind, but only if you are willing to reciprocate. Here are a few practical steps we can all take to love better!
Listen without interrupting.
If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame. – Proverbs 18:13
This one is difficult for me, for a few reasons. First and foremost, I think I have a hard time with this because I am impatient, and I catch myself finishing people’s sentences. I’ve gotten better, but the struggle is real. Secondly, I find myself wanting to fix people. I think as Christians we all wrestle with this from time to time. You see a friend going through suffering, and you just know that if they surrendered the situation to God, they would experience such fulfillment and freedom. So you load them up with scripture and prayers, and you feel pretty good about yourself. In reality, your friend might just need someone to listen, not to jump to conclusions, or for you to assume you are more equipped to handle the situation than they are. You probably mean well, but before you respond… listen.
Speak without accusing
Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. – James 1:19-20
Along the same lines as listening without interrupting, this next way to love better is another tactic geared towards communicating better. We are told many times in the Bible to guard our mouths (Proverbs 13:3), to let our speech be gracious (Colossians 4:6), and that by our words we will be either justified or condemned (Matthew 12:37). Yet, with Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and other social media sites, we need these reminders more than ever. May we be the kind of Christians that are known by our gracious words, our ability to give the benefit of the doubt, and to encourage, uplift, and give grace to those we don’t agree with!
Give without sparing
The desire of the sluggard kills him, for his hands refuse to labor. All day long he craves and craves, but the righteous gives and does not hold back. Proverbs 21:25-26
At first read, these verses seem to be talking explicitly about material things, working hard for what you earn, and being willing to give it all away for a greater purpose. I believe that in addition to the material things, this verse speaks to what we give of ourselves, and how we invest in relationships. People are messy, and they hurt you. It is much easier to shut people out, keep your two or three close friends, and call it good. But God didn’t call us to a protected life, or even a comfortable one. He wants us to get our hands dirty, to give love out of the abundance of love He has for us.
Pray without ceasing
And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding. – Colossians 1:9
Can praying really help us love better? I can tell you from personal experience that yes, yes it can. God uses prayer to change our attitudes towards others. One time, I remember there was someone in my life that I just could not forgive. Not only could I not forgive them, I couldn’t even be in the same room as them. A friend told me to pray for them. Ha. She challenged me to pray for them once a day for a week. My first prayer was something like, “God, I don’t have anything nice to say, so this is my prayer. Amen.” By the end of the week, however, God did change my heart, and gave me a deeper understanding of my own sin, and the depth of His love for me, and how it is my joy and obligation to show that to everyone, even this person whom I was not a fan of.
Answer without arguing
Better is a dry morsel with quiet than a house full of feasting with strife. – Proverbs 17:1
How bout that, another piece of advice about loving others through better communication. It’s like maybe God really really wants us to understand that our words have the power to hurt or to heal. We can chose to respond to a stressful situation, or even a situation in which we are wronged, with strife and argumentative words, or we can take a beat, and chose to show love, to speak peace, to live a forgiven life, and give grace upon grace.
Share without pretending
Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ. – Ephesians 4:15
The point of this tip on loving others is to be honest. Another great and relevant verse I would add is Proverbs 27:6 – Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy. Sometimes we think we are being loving and gracious by just avoiding conflict or confrontation with someone. It’s their problem after all, right? What good would it do for me to dump on them right now? While it does take some discernment in figuring out when to listen and when to speak, if you are feeling the pull of the Holy Spirit to speak up, then by all means, the most most loving thing you can do is say something! It is a balance between staying true to scripture, and showing love and understanding.
Enjoy without complaint
Do all things without grumbling or disputing, 15 that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world. – Philippians 2:14-15
Ugh. Why does this one have to be on here?! (See what I did there?) This one, while hitting a little close to home, is so good to hear, again and again. Part of complaining ties into our speech, and how we communicate to and about others, and another part of complaining is rooted deep within us, and stems from discontentment. Either way, the urge to complain, or to view life through a lens of bitterness is something that we just have to set at the foot of the cross, every day, every hour, every minute.
Trust without wavering
Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. – 1 Corinthians 13:7
We all struggle with insecurities. Some are more obvious and outstanding than others, and some creep into our lives and our invade our thoughts and feelings without us even realizing they are there. When we are truly found in God, when we finally understand that His is the final judgment, and He has said that we are made pure and good through His son Jesus, then we are free to love others without fear of pain. Not that people won’t hurt us, but it is not a devastating hurt, or a foundation crumbling kind of hurt. It hurts because we care; not because we have lost ourselves in this other person. When we stake our claim in Christ and realize our value and worth to Him, then we are free to build long lasting relationships. Trust in God, so that we can build trust with each other.
Forgive without punishment
Bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. – Colossians 3:13
Yikes. This one also cut right to my core. How often do we say with our mouths, “Yes, I forgive you, it’s fine, don’t worry about it,” but then hold a grudge for months to come? I personally do this about twice a week. How often do we forgive our spouse or loved ones, only to bring up the incident at a later time? This isn’t how it is supposed to be. This isn’t how we want God to forgive us, is it? So we too, need to let it go, whatever it is.
Promise without forgetting
Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ. Now I commend you because you remember me in everything and maintain the traditions even as I delivered them to you. – 1 Corinthians 11:1-2
God promises us lots of things in the Bible, that are ours to claim if we know and love Christ. He promises that He will never leave us, that His grace is sufficient, and on and on. We cling to these promises in times of trial, and we remind ourselves (and in desperate times, we remind God) of the promises He made. Likewise, if we give our word that something will be done, or if we stand in front of God and family and promise to remain faithful – that is what we should do. We depend on God keeping His promises, and so we should keep ours!SKM: below-content placeholder