Have you ever wondered why it's so difficult to love people as Christ calls us to?
As I get older--wiser--it's hard not to complete the proverb and get sadder too. Inevitably, you're forced to be increasingly aware of the failings in yourself and others. New friends with different expectations, who take things for granted, or who don't place the same value on things you thought were basic for friendship. Old friends having problems you never knew they had before, until something happens to bring it into the open, and leaves you both hurting and confused. Ugly parts of yourself which you never knew, or wanted to know, existed.
How to keep a tender and compassionate heart, a forgiving and loving heart in the midst of all this, seems impossible. We're not perfect ourselves. We struggle with our own selfishness and ugliness, and at the same time we have to struggle with the same two faults in others.
We know what divine love looks like, because we've experienced it at the cross. Yet we're not able to reflect it perfectly, just as we can't understand it perfectly. Hence the struggle to love others--because they're not lovable and we're not loving.
Jonathan Edwards addressed this problem when he said that divine love is not natural to the heart of man. In fact, he wrote: '....it is a plant transplanted into the soul out of heaven...its foundation [is] in God, and not in self.'
'Self-love', he wrote, 'is the sum of natural principles, as divine love is of supernatural principles.'
Owen Strachan and Doug Sweeney add to that: 'As one matures, one's love for God and His creation spills over into the lives of others, just as a maturing plant or tree stretches across an ever-widening distance and shelters it. The believer who lives for God ultimately cannot avoid blessing others.'
Divine love does not naturally exist in our hearts, and that's why we feel that struggle--the sin-stained terrain of our hearts wants to reject the seedling, choke it, because the roots it puts out clashes with the cement that's all we've ever known.
But it's here nevertheless. Christ placed the seed there; transplanted it from heaven, in Edwards' words. And though the struggle now is real, and tough, the concrete will slowly give way and the plant grows, its leaves grow, and the shade its leaves cast grows...
a quiet voice
Ci thinks some of God's greatest blessings to mankind are
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