Learning to Love like Jesus

You know, sometimes we claim we love, but deep down, we know it isn’t what love should really be. We’ve got to learn to love like Jesus Christ – a love that is unconditional, generous, and sacrificial.

The truth is, God has loved us since before the beginning of time, and He continues to love the entire world, believers and non-believers alike. Yet we humans struggle to match this expansive, gracious love. We’re often so stingy and selective in how we love others.

Look at the story of Jonah – he actually fled from God’s command to love the wicked people of Nineveh. Jonah wanted God’s judgment, not God’s mercy. He cared more about his own comfort and preferences than the redemption of the lost.

How often do we, like Jonah, run from God’s call to love radically? We make all kinds of excuses – “I’ve been hurt before,” “I don’t like that church,” “those people don’t deserve it.” But you know, God’s love is not conditional on our own feelings or opinions.

The Assyrians were a brutal, feared people. Yet God still wanted to redeem them. He doesn’t love selectively, only the “good” people. His love reaches the worst of sinners. Do we have the courage to love like that?

You know, we’ve kind of presented God as this angry judge, when in reality He’s a loving Father who wants to restore and redeem, not punish. That’s why so many are leaving the church – they see a God of vengeance, not a God of grace.

But Jesus showed us a different way – a way of compassion, forgiveness, and self-sacrificing love. This is the love we must learn to embody. It’s not easy, but it’s the only love worthy of the name.

It seems God wants to reconcile with us without expecting anything in return. God wants to bring restoration to those who have wronged us, without demanding payback. I’ve heard believers say “God will judge them”, but really, you’re praying that God would deliver that person.

We say God punishes, but also that God loves – how can we reconcile those two ideas about God? This is why many young people, even those in their 20s and 30s, are leaving the church. He’s a God who takes life, yet we claim He’s all-loving. Sometimes the lessons taught in children’s church come from well-meaning people who want us to love God, but they’ll say “God killed his own son for you.” Who would want to serve a God like that – one who kills his own son? But no, God did not kill his son. God came to love us, but the very people he came to love ended up killing him.

I know there are many here who have shut themselves off from love after experiencing betrayal. I’m going to pray for you, that you may open your heart again.

You see, Jesus isn’t just someone we believe in, but someone who should fundamentally shape our worldview. It’s not enough to just say “I believe in Jesus, I believe.” No, you have to let Jesus transform how you see the world. If you’re not willing to identify as a Christian in public, how will anyone know you follow Christ?

When John wrote Revelation, it wasn’t really about going to heaven. In fact, he was persecuted and exiled for his faith. Christians back then were seen as atheists – not because they didn’t believe in God, but because they rejected the Roman gods and Caesar’s divinity. When Paul said believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved, that’s what he meant – to put your faith in Jesus alone.

That means he would likely never be released from prison, because in those days you were expected to declare “Caesar is Lord,” and he knew he would be killed for refusing to do so.

We need to relearn the true nature of God’s love in order to fully experience His best for us. Do you believe that God loves you, or do you feel He is withholding something from you? Do you believe that even the person who wronged you – like stealing your partner – that God loves them too? Do you believe that?

People have studied the life of Jesus and admire Him, but they don’t always love Christians. Why? Because of the way we represent Jesus to the world. We need to start relearning the love described in 1 Corinthians 13:1-5.

Every time you experience divine healing, it’s an expression of God’s love language. When you receive a prophetic word, it’s God speaking His love to you. The manifestations of spiritual discernment and tongues also flow from God’s love. If you don’t understand this, you may view these gifts as being for your enemies. But are people really God’s enemies?

1 Corinthians 13:1-5 (NIV)
If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing. 4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.

This passage of scripture has really got me thinking, you know?

I mean, Paul lays it all out there, doesn’t he? He’s like, “If you can do all these amazing things, but you don’t have love, then you’re basically just noise.” That’s a pretty bold statement!

And then he just keeps going, unpacking all these characteristics of true love – how it’s not envious or boastful or proud. It’s not rude or self-seeking. It doesn’t keep a record of wrongs.

We should make a really good point about how we see that play out, or rather, not play out, in our modern world. With all this social media and constant comparison, it’s no wonder so many young people are struggling with depression.

I mean, think about it – you’re sitting there, scrolling through Instagram, seeing everyone’s highlight reels, their amazing vacations and dream jobs. And you’re like, “What’s wrong with me? Why isn’t my life as perfect as theirs?”

But you hit the nail on the head – we’re measuring our worst days against their best. It’s just an impossible standard to live up to. No wonder we end up feeling so inadequate!

And you know, it’s not just the younger generation, either. I think a lot of us get trapped in that cycle of always wanting more, always chasing after the next big thing. We’ve got more material possessions than our parents ever did, but we’re still not satisfied.

Love is actually quite risky and confrontational, but that’s what makes it so powerful.

The first person to say “I love you” is really taking a big risk, isn’t they? You can just imagine a young guy sweating as he’s about to confess his feelings to a girl. Love requires vulnerability and bravery.

You know, God Himself showed us what true love is all about. When humanity sinned, God was the first to come and say “I love you.” Our sins don’t separate us from Him – He’s always looking to rescue and deliver us.

The Bible tells us that Jesus was essentially “slain before the foundation of the world.” Even before His physical crucifixion, God had a plan to redeem us through His Son’s sacrifice. Jesus didn’t need to come die, but He did it because we didn’t fully understand God’s incredible love.

In the Old Testament, people thought you had to mutilate yourself or sacrifice your firstborn to serve God. But when God revealed Himself to Abraham, He showed that He doesn’t want that kind of worship. He provided a ram instead of Abraham’s son. The Bible is a progressive unveiling of who God truly is.

So many of us get caught up in religious rules and requirements, but Jesus made it so simple – salvation comes through faith, not works. The paralytic man was forgiven just because of his friends’ belief (Mark 2:3-5). Imagine if the power of your love could bring salvation to your whole household!

Where is your love taking your family, your community, your country? So often we get distracted arguing about things we can’t control, instead of focusing on the people right in front of us who need help. When conflicts happen in the world, do we pray for all sides with the same fervor?

Love is risky, I admit. It makes you vulnerable. But the healthier you are, the more risk you can take. Instead of building walls to protect your heart, why not dig wells to nourish your relationships? Be willing to forgive and forget, like Jesus did with His disciples.

This isn’t an easy message, I know. I’m challenging you, not just asking for agreement. Because true, self-giving love – that’s the kind of love that can change the world.

Love can be such a tricky thing, can’t it? And sometimes we find ourselves treating people not based on who they really are, but on their outward behavior.

The big question is, can we actually love someone into their future? Love is so risky – it can completely baffle me, especially when I see people I’m trying to mentor pull away, saying they’re afraid of me. But the truth is, they’re not afraid of me – they’re wounded and can’t fully receive love.

Some people do treat us well, not because they’re scared, but because of who they are. They’ve caught a glimpse of our futures and are loving us into that. We can choose to step into that future they see, or we can choose not to.

Honestly, it’s not my business how you choose to love. But I choose to love people based on their potential, not just their current behavior. That’s why so many marriages fail – the husband or wife isn’t loving their spouse into their best future, they’re just focusing on the frustrating behaviors of the present.

I’ve seen it happen with pastors too. Some people in the church will bite and betray the pastor, not because the pastor did anything wrong, but because they haven’t encountered the full, transformative love of God themselves. They don’t know any other way. But the pastor who has experienced God’s love needs to keep loving them into their future, even when they disappoint.

It’s the same with our children- they promise us all kinds of things they don’t end up doing. But we still love them, right? Can’t we extend that same patient, believing love to everyone in our lives?

You know, God has been chasing after us with His love since the beginning. His love was so strong it led Him to sacrifice Himself for us. And even when that killed Him, He didn’t stay dead – He rose again, conquering even death itself. That’s the eternal, unstoppable love we’re called to embody.

Love isn’t about keeping score or demanding perfection. It’s about giving, even when it’s risky. When we stop believing in people, we stop loving them. But God believes in us, so why can’t we believe in and love others the same way?

It’s not easy, I know. Comparing ourselves to others, being impatient, withholding our love – those are all too common traps. But if we can learn to love people into their futures, the way those women loved me when I was just starting out, just think of the transformation we could see.

Have you ever felt like the word of God just isn’t taking root in your life? Like no matter how many sermons you hear or Bible verses you read, there’s still a disconnect between what you know to be true and how you actually live? Well, according to the Bible, there are two main culprits that can “choke” the word – beauty and riches.

Jesus himself warned about these two dangerous deceptions. In the parable of the sower, he explained that the “worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth” are what can prevent God’s message from truly taking hold in our hearts and bearing fruit.

But how does this play out in our everyday lives? Well, think about how easily distracted and divided our attention can be. When we’re with our spouse or kids, are we really present in the moment, fully engaged and listening? Or are we already mentally checking out, thinking about what we need to do next, what we need to get, or what’s causing us anxiety?

And then there’s the allure of wealth, status, and material possessions. We work so hard to acquire the latest gadgets, chase after fame and fortune, and surround ourselves with beautiful things. But do these things really satisfy us in the end? Often, the pursuit is more exciting and captivating than the actual possession.

You see, the root of the problem is a lack of love. The Bible is abundantly clear on this – if we don’t love our brothers and sisters, we’re still in spiritual death, no matter how much we have or how successful we appear to be in the eyes of the world.

The way forward, then, is to commit to loving one another. That’s the entry point into eternal life. When we focus on loving others, rather than on our own worries, desires, and sense of scarcity, that’s when the word of God can truly take root and bear fruit in our lives.

So let’s take a step back, examine our hearts, and ask God to help us reorder our priorities. Beauty and riches may catch our eye and demand our attention, but true life and fulfillment can only be found in loving as Christ loved us – selflessly, sacrificially, and with an unending well of grace.

It’s not easy, of course. The pull of the world is strong, and our flesh is weak. But with God’s help and the support of our brothers and sisters in Christ, we can learn to keep our eyes fixed on what truly matters. Because in the end, the only thing that will last is love.

We pray the love of God abounds greatly in your heart and in the end, you’ll be able to love like Jesus.

SHALOM.

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