Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. - 1 John 5:1-2
If I believe that Jesus is the Christ (and I do), then I have been born of God. If I love God (and I do!), then I love whoever else has been born of him.
What does that love for fellow believers look like? It looks like this: I love God and obey his commandments.
Personally, I tend to make relationships and loving others so convoluted. How? By demonstrating a fear-fueled lack of personal and relational integrity. By loving the relationship more than I love my heavenly Father. By neglecting the command to "...let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil" (Ephesians 4:25-26).
Relationships - even between believers - are messy this side of Glory. Inevitably, we disappoint and hurt one another. When that happens - the messiness of relating - I tend to downplay the situation.
"It's no big deal," I tell myself. "This relationship is too important to risk it by making a big issue out of little things."
"This is not a good time to talk," I tell myself. "Everything will blow over with time."
"The other person...they don't really care what I think anyway," I tell myself. "If I try to talk to them about this problem, they'll just get mad and defensive. They won't really listen to what I say."
I tell myself all these things instead of doing the uncomfortable work of exposing myself to another and admitting my hurts, instead of confronting the person whose friendship I value.
This morning, in the midst of all kinds of relationship mess that I would truly rather downplay or ignore, I read the above passage in 1 John. Then, in case I missed what God was saying in 1 John, a friend shared a link on Facebook to an article by Allison Fallon, "Why you have so many acquaintances and but not many friends."
After describing me and my relational trepidation to a T in the first third of her article, Allison writes:
There's an epidemic of loneliness in our culture and I think our unwillingness to be honest is causing it.
So what's the answer?
I don't think the answer is to take a guns-blazing, honesty-at-all-costs approach, because I've seen this blow up for people and leave them just as frustrated and alone.
I do think the answer is to get really good at being honest and vulnerable.
It doesn't take much to say, "you can be a real jerk sometimes." But it takes courage and resilience to say, "when you said that to me, it made me feel insignificant and small."
(You really should take a minute to check out Allison's entire article HERE. It is short and worth your time.)
Honesty and vulnerability.
Courage and resilience.
Love and obedience.
And so I come full circle, back to the cross, back to where Jesus, on my behalf, exhibited honesty and vulnerability, courage and resilience, perfect love and perfect obedience.
I want to love like that.
I want to be that kind of friend.
2 hours ago