Cultivating the Love of God
by Rhonda Jones 2/03/2011 / Christian Living
Have you ever wondered why some people are repelled by Christians? Many believers may want to say that being a Christian convicts non-believers of their sin. However, in many cases, it is because they find them proud, arrogant, judgmental, or self-righteous. Thus, there is now a popular saying that is circulating about Christians, we are "known more for what we are against rather than by what we believe..." What a painful rebuke! But there is truth to it that we cannot deny.
God has indeed commanded Christians to preach the Gospel to the ends of the earth and to make disciples of men. This task involves teaching, as well as correcting and rebuking others as God's Spirit leads. But teaching or correcting others according to the teachings of Jesus must always be done in love. John 13:35 tells us that unbelievers will know we are Christians by our love. This part however, is not easy because as Christians, we also have things in ourselves that we are working to change.
How does one cultivate the love of God in the heart so that we could draw others to God by our very countenance and actions?
Asking the Holy Spirit
Romans 5:5 tells us that "hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us." No matter how good we are, true love that has the power to transform lives can only come from the God's Spirit. Luke 19:9-13 tells us that if we ask God, he will give us his Holy Spirit. Cultivating love, therefore, begins with asking God humbly, to "pour out his love on our hearts."
Gratefulness towards God leads to love towards men. In Luke 7:47, Jesus said that the one who has been forgiven much loves much. In our Christian walk, we must always remind ourselves of what God has done for us. This is not so as to bring feelings of guilt and remorse upon recollection of our past sinful state, but rather, to cultivate gratefulness in our hearts. Matthew 10:8 says "...Freely you have received; freely give." The more we are aware of the grace God has bestowed on us, the more we are able give love to others.
Acknowledgement of our weaknesses and shortcomings is good because it cultivates gratefulness; and it also creates empathy for those who might be struggling with weaknesses as well. This is another key to cultivating the love of God in our hearts.
No matter how mature we become in the faith, we will have struggles that keep us always desperate for God's grace. These struggles keep our feet on the ground and our hearts humble before men.
One of the reasons why we become proud and self-righteous in dealing with others is because we forget how much Jesus has suffered for our sins. Sometimes, we forget that it was completely by grace through faith that we have been saved. We start thinking that we somehow deserve the merits of this blessed Christian walk.
Just imagine if we can all walk in humility before God and men. Perhaps, the next time challenges our patience, we will feel compassion instead of anger upon remembering how terrible life is without Jesus.
Never Failing to Forgive
Matthew 7:1 reminds us to not judge others so that we too will not be judged. The Lord's prayer teaches us that God forgives our sins as we have forgiven others who have wronged us. Forgiveness is an expression of God's love and we find ourselves able to forgive others when we are most aware of how much we have been forgiven. That is why it is important to stay grateful and humble. It's a wonderful cycle that leaves no room for boasting. Christianity thrives on gratefulness for the cross of Christ.
There will be times, of course, when we would feel that no matter how hard we try, it is just difficult to love others the way Jesus loves us. During such times, we must not condemn ourselves for falling short. Instead, we should use it to seek God and receive his forgiveness. Remember, he who is forgiven much, loves much. And 1 Peter 4:8 assures us that love covers a multitude of sins.
As we learn to walk in love more and more, more people will respond to the Gospel that we preach with our mouths because they have already seen it at work in our lives. This is exactly what Jesus is saying by "we will be known by our love" -- that the Gospel is preached effectively if we live it rather than just speak it. As 1 Corinthians 13 says, "love never fails." If we keep on loving others, it is bound to be felt by them. People will always recognize genuine compassion. Thus, this is the challenge and joy given to us as Christians: to pursue a life that radiates God's love, because as Dwight L. Moody said, "Of one hundred men, one will read the Bible and ninety nine will read the Christian."