Not the Lover I Ought to Be {Lent Reflection}

To help me think more deeply on Jesus during this season of Lent, I reading Loving the Way Jesus Loves by Phil Ryken. I’ll be reflecting on that reading here…you are invited to join along. (The book is available on Kindle here, so it’s not too late to join in!)

Chapter One: “Nothing Without Love”

“If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.” ~I Corinthians 13:3

Complacency is a swindler. She offers assurances that everything is okay. “You’re fine,  better than most.

I realize today how dangerous it is to try to dine with complacency at the table of love. The fruit of love is spoiled by her company. Like a guest at the table who has discovered the meal was eaten with a noodle stuck dangling from the chin, I have discovered myself to be wont of love. I am not the lover I claim to be, the lover I want to be, or even the lover I ought to be. 

I do fine loving the people I want to love–the lovable ones. The ones who think just like me, who laugh, who say nice things. Ah, yes, it’s so easy to love the people who tell me how wonderful I am. With them I am a good lover.

Yet I am annoyed and frustrated and irritated and angry with the other people. The ones who don’t keep their word, or who don’t speak truthful words, or who withhold words of kindness. The grumpy teenager at the dinner table. The pushy neighbor. The needy. The self-absorbed. The ones who stand by and do nothing about injustice. The greedy. The fake. I can feel my blood begin to boil, but then I simmer back the feelings with a flick of the fingers, “Whatever.” To these, I offer apathy, indifference. These are all too risky to offer the value of my love.

When pride fuels our love, it finds very few who are worthy of it.

This becomes a very self-serving kind of love. “I love you because you have made me feel as good as I believe I deserve to be treated.

It’s so contrary to the love of Jesus. “…but have not love {for even the ones I consider too hard to love}, I gain nothing (I Cor. 13:3.) Sobering, huh? Every drunk thinks they are the best dancer in the world. Just like so many of us “Christians” think we are the best lovers in the world, completely impervious to our swaying to a very hateful beat. Welcome to sobriety. Do we see how easily we can be deceived? Not convinced that’s you? Just watch how you respond the next time someone tells you ‘no,’ or disagrees, or ignores you.

One thing Phil said in the first chapter that really struck me was is in regard to how we read the I Corinthians 13 love chapter. We are inclined to read it as a “feel good” experience. To read it at weddings or on Valentine’s Day or when “love” is  feeling mushy and comfy. Yet he cautions against this. The chapter should confront us. It should feel combative to all the places where complacency has been allowed to occupy. It should rattle some doors and shake our sensibilities. Do we let the Word do this? You know, with the people in your life with whom you are having the hardest time getting along?

I confess, there are many, many places in my life where I don’t have love…certainly not the Jesus kind of love. I need a better understanding of Jesus’ love and the courage to walk in His ways. I need to repent of a loveless heart.

Phil asks these two questions:

1. What limits are you tempted to put on your love? I am tempted to limit love by what I will get in return. I don’t want people to reject, critique, or disvalue my love. I want loving others to make me feel good too. I want to limit how loving others will leave me feeling empty.

2. What can you do to remove some of those limits and truly love your neighbor as yourself?  I think Phil’s suggestion to see Jesus as a portrait of love helps me to settle love back into its truthful context. Jesus loved perfectly, yet people around him still disappointed him, betrayed, yep, even crucified him. It always strikes me as significant that Jesus washed Judas’ feet and fed him at that last supper. Removing the limits means setting down my expectations for what I might get out of loving someone else–truly loving others means treating them for their own good, even at the risk of personal harm. Okay, so loving a grumpy teenage son means I’m going to get my feelings hurt a lot.

How about you? Do you struggle with placing limits on your love?

Mark 10 tells the story of Jesus’ encounter with the rich young ruler, or as Phil calls him, “the man who thought he knew how to love.” Over the next couple of days, meditating on the Jesus found in that story could teach us much about the person in the mirror who thinks they know how to love. Hopefully, we can share some insights from that passage here together.

Lenten Reflection: Today I will need to put down unrealistic expectations, excuses, indifference, and resentment–they keep me from loving God and others rightly. 

What are your take-aways? Share them in the comments field or if you blog, feel free to link your blog with your reflections.

6 thoughts on “Not the Lover I Ought to Be {Lent Reflection}

  1. ahhhh, Brenda we are on the same page today… I was thinking of this last night, I like to love the “unlovable” but not the “loveless”…. Change my heart O GOD!

    • Heather, well said. Yes the loveless always reveal what we don’t yet know/practice of Jesus’ love. I’m praying the same prayer as you.

  2. I’ve rethought the story of the rich young ruler lately. We’ve maligned him as being to selfish to give up everything for Jesus. However, maybe this man was really more reflective than we often are. He counted the cost. Was his decision the best one? Of course not. But it was an honest one. How often do we say we’ll give everything up for Jesus but take it back when it’s convenient. The rich young ruler had a better handle on the reality of giving our all for Jesus than many of us. Just a thought. God Bless. Mike

    • Mike, I agree! It’s certainly easy to point the finger at the rich young ruler as a way to deflect from our hearts. I think the author of the book when be in complete agreement with you…with his point being that the presence of Jesus helps each of us to confront the ways in which we are not truly loving God and loving neighbor as we could.

      I appreciate you adding this perspective to the conversation. Necessary and good! Thank you.

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