Last week, Sam gave us two principles to live out that can transform our lives. And, most everyone would agree with what he said. But those two principles are easily ignored. It is the most interesting challenge. He said, if we pulled you aside and asked, “Should we have daily, consistent and rhythmic moments with God?” Everyone would probably say, ‘Yes.’ Second question, “Would it benefit you to weekly have down time to rest and have time to redeem your soul?” Everyone would probably say, ‘Yes.’ What is interesting is how much of a challenge it is to slow down daily and weekly to allow God to love us and redeem us.
As we walk into this week, I have say that those two principles are the foundation stones to what we are talking about this week. The point of Christianity is to love others well. I believe, to do that, we need to be slowing down daily and weekly to allow God to love and redeem us. Why? Because we can’t love others well when our inner world is filled with hurts, assumptions, control and busyness.
If I had the gift of faith so that I could speak to a mountain and make it move, without love I would be no good to anybody. If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would be of no value whatsoever. NLT 1 Corinthians 13:2-3
No matter my accomplishments I can be proud of, if I can’t love others, I have no value. No matter how many sacrifices I have made for Christ, if I can’t love others, I have no value. No matter how many years I have attended church, if I can’t love others, I have no value. No matter how many Christian discipleships I have walked through, if I can’t love others, I have no value. No matter how nice people think I am, if I can’t love my family, I have no value. If you struggle to love others well, we need to figure what’s going on.
The point of Christianity is to love others well.
I want to read for you what love is practically. Before I read this, you must know this was written by Paul for the church in Corinth. Paul was explaining how the church people needed to treat each other. It is so well written, that couples getting married use it to explain the kind of love they want in their marriage.
4 Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud 5 or rude. Love does not demand its own way. Love is not irritable, and it keeps no record of when it has been wronged. 6 It is never glad about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. 7 Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance. NLT 1 Corinthians 13:4-7
The problem with love is, it sounds good when you read about it, but love can be hard and messy to live out. The idea of love is almost easy but the reality of living out love exposes who we really are. Probably the most simple example of love sounding good but is hard to live out is owning a puppy. Why did God make puppies? Because He knew, when we saw how cute they are, we would fall in love with them. When you bring a puppy home, what happens? They become dogs. They poop and pee all over the house. They can rip apart your furniture. The idea of a puppy is awesome. That’s why every young person says, “Please, can we bring it home.” But, the reality of owing a dog is filled with responsibility. That’s why every older person says, “I don’t know.” That’s why being a dog owner is more than just fun with puppies.
Love, real love, demands emotional maturity. If you don’t grow up into emotional maturity, you won’t have the ability to love others well. If we don’t grow up into emotional maturity, we will struggle with being patient, kind, jealous, boastful, proud, rude, demanding our own way, irritable and we will want to give up on people, etc.
In the book called ‘Becoming Human’ Jean Vanier describes what loving others is all about. She said,
love is when you reveal the beauty of a person to themselves.
How cool is that and how challenging is that? That’s how you love your kids — you show them how beautiful they are. That’s how you love your spouse — you show them how beautiful they are. That’s how you love those at work — you show them how valuable they are. That’s how you live with friends — you show them how beautiful they are. To do that well requires us to grow up emotionally.
The reason we struggle to love others well goes back to the day we were born. When we are born, we enter this world and we are the center of the universe. Everything is about us. To grow up into an emotional adult means, we move from thinking we are the center of the universe and realize that God is the center of the universe. To grow up to be an emotional adult means we are able to see the value of others and we are able to slow down to see the perspective of those around us. To grow up into an emotional adult means we are secure in ourselves and secure in God’s love for us.
When we don’t emotionally grow up, we can be stuck. We may be in an adult body but emotionally, we are still immature. And our immaturity comes out in how we treat others. We may struggle to love. We may struggle to reveal the beauty in others to themselves. Here are a couple things that happen if we are stuck.
- When we are immature, we can treat others like objects; they are things we get stuff from. How do you treat your boss? How do you treat your friends? How do you treat your spouse and kids? If we get what we want, we like them. If we don’t get what we want, we don’t like them.
- When we are immature, we get frustrated when others don’t fit into our plans and they don’t do what we want. We might try to control others with guilt and manipulation.
- When we are immature, if others don’t agree with us, we quickly conclude, ‘I am right – you are wrong.’ There is no ability to appreciate others who are different than us.
- When we are immature, we are poor at dealing with conflict. We either avoid it or jump into it with passion and think it’s about winning or losing.
- When we are immature, we treat God like a genie. God isn’t someone who we surrender our lives to; we think He exists to serve us. If God gives us what we want, He is a good and loving God. If God doesn’t come through for us the way we want, He is a bad God and maybe He doesn’t even exist.
Remember, the point of Christianity is to love others. To love others well, it requires us to grow up emotionally. I want to share with you, practically, the growing up process of being an emotional infant, child, adolescent and adult. And, I want to close with a great, practical way to begin to grow up emotionally.
An emotional infant.
Do I look for others to take care of me? Do I have great difficulty entering into the world of others? Am I driven by need for instant gratification? Do I use others as objects to meet my needs?
An emotional child.
Do I just leave relationships without talking [friendships, church, community, work]? Am I only content and happy as long as I receive what I want? Am I easily hurt? Do I complain, withdraw, manipulate, take revenge, become sarcastic if I don’t get my way? Am I hot and cold? Do I interpret disagreements as a personal offense? Do I have great difficulty calmly discussing my needs and wants in a mature, loving way? Do I quickly unravel from stress, disappointments and trials?
An emotional adolescent.
Do I keep score of what others give so I can ask for something later in return? Deal with conflict poorly, often blaming, appeasing, going to a third party, pouting, or ignoring the issue? Am I critical and judgmental – that means I see what’s wrong …all the time? Do I tend to be defensive? Do I tend to be threatened by criticism? Am I preoccupied with myself? Do I struggle to listen to another person’s pain, disappointments, or needs?
An emotional adult.
Can I respect others without having to change or control them? Can I appreciate people for who they are – good, bad, and ugly – not for what they give back? Can I accurately assess my own limits, strengths, and weaknesses and freely discuss them with others? Can I recognize, manage and take responsibility for my own thoughts and feelings? Under stress or peer pressure, can I live out my beliefs and values? Can I give people room to make mistakes and not be perfect? Can I enter into the world of others [feelings, needs, concerns] without losing myself? Can I resolve conflict with maturity and love?
Remember, the point of Christianity is to love others well. To do that requires us to grow up emotionally.
Okay, here’s a great practical way to grow up. When you are in a relationship with someone, you will talk with them and you will listen to them talk. It’s called communication. Funny thing is, most people struggle to communicate with each other. Why? Here’s a couple possibilities. In general, we can be self-focused and we want others to enter our world and we struggle to enter into the world of others. Also, in general, maybe the family we grew up in didn’t model this well. Also, we may be deeply hurt and that hurt hasn’t been dealt with yet. Whatever the case, it can lead to conflict and misunderstandings.
Here is a practical way to communicate and deal with conflict. Remember I said love seems awesome when you read about it but it can be a challenge and messy to live out? This very practical process is about love but it can be a challenge.
If you are speaking, here is your challenge.
- Talk about your own thoughts and your own feelings.
- Be brief and use short sentences or phrases.
- Nicely correct the other person if you believe they have missed something.
- Continue to speak until you feel you’ve been understood. Please note: That doesn’t mean they have to agree with you. They can understand your point of view and not agree with you.
- When you don’t have anything else to say, say, “That’s all for now.”
If you are listening, here is your challenge.
- Put your own agenda on hold. Be quiet and still as you would before God.
- Allow the other person to speak until they complete their thought.
- Things to avoid. If they are sharing a hurt, avoid sharing your hurt, that is another discussion. If they are sharing properly, don’t take it as a personal attack and shut down and become defensive, quiet or combative.
- Reflect accurately the other person’s words back to them to confirm that you understand what they are trying to say. You can paraphrase if that helps.
- When it appears the speaker is done, calmly and patiently ask, “If there more?”
This process forces you deal with your emotions and at the same time apply what Jesus taught. That’s why we call it, emotionally healthy spirituality.
The point of Christianity is to love others well. It’s about taking what Jesus has done for us and taught us and giving it to others. And when we engage people in life, it reveals to us our true spiritual and emotional condition.
We have to close with a few questions:
Where are your emotionally? Infant, child, adolescent or adult?
What is going on inside you spiritually? Is God transforming you or are you existing day to day?
Are relationships a struggle for you? Why?
How good are you at showing others the beauty that is in them?