This past Sunday we saw from Ephesians 5:1-2 the unique power of Christian love. Only in Christianity are we able to love from the love that we have already received. We have a wealth of riches to draw from of God’s love for us that should result in us showing extravagant love for others.
During my sermon, this question was texted in:
How do we avoid a savior complex? How do we exercise wisdom and faith (rather than try to fix all the world's problems ourselves, say for example by adopting a dozen foster kids and giving $1,000 to every homeless person we walk by) without using prudence as a rationalization of selfishness and unloving attitude towards those to whom we are inclined to be indifferent? In other words, what are the limits to dramatic, costly, life giving love we are called to express?
Great question. I’m really grateful that this person is trying to think through how love works out in the nitty gritty details of love, for that is where love must be. It is not enough to just hold on to an abstract principle of “love”. We are to “walk in love” meaning that love is to be a step by step, choice by choice, moment by moment decision that we make in the details of life. So here’s my best, off the top of my head, stab at practically living out love.
Our hearts are not naturally drawn to love anyone other than ourselves. So the most practical thing we can do if we want to walk in love is pray for God to fill our hearts with love. This might seem obvious, but it is the obvious stuff that usually gets us tripped up. God wants to help us work out the details of his commands in our lives. He has given us His Holy Spirit to indwell in us and lead us into all truth. We can lack wisdom, because we fail to ask God for wisdom. So pray and ask for God to align your heart with his and open your eyes to see how you can love those around you.
In the parable of the Good Samaritan, the Good Samaritan was just going about the normal rhythm of his life when he came upon the beaten man. Yet, because he was looking outside of himself, he saw the man in need and responded with loving mercy. What this question gets right is that we can’t do everything, but we should do something. I think the best way to answer that is by living life with our eyes open and looking for who the Lord might be placing in our path. This doesn’t answer the larger question of global humanitarian crisis, but I think the majority of our opportunities to love are going to come just by being faithful to love those whom we see on a regular basis.
As we see more and more opportunities we are going to need more wisdom on how to respond to those opportunities. So again we must be led by the Holy Spirit and pray for how God wants us to apply his love in specific situations.
If you are married talk together about how you can grow in loving those around you (and loving each other!). If you are not married find a good friend that you can work through these things with. I learn just as much (if not more) from the conversations I have with people then all the sermons that I have heard preached. I’ve also found that as I talk about these things, resources to help me put my talking into acting have popped up. There is a plethora of information out there about how you can show love on a humanitarian level. Do some research and get informed.
While we are commanded to love everyone, we do not love them all the same. This is obvious. As a parent, I need to love my kids and spend more time with them then I do my neighbor’s kids. I love my church dearly, but if I am serving people in my church every night and neglecting my wife, then I am not loving her (this is why I don’t usually respond to email or phone calls on the weekend. Sorry, but she is my priority!). There need to be priorities to my love. So the question you should ask is, “is this act of love hurting my ability to give my love to those who are to be my first priority of love?” This is not always a hard and fast answer, so you need to really pray about it. Did I mention prayer yet?
We can overcomplicate things and get caught in paralysis by analysis. Doing something is always better than doing nothing. Christianity started out with 12 guys just sharing Christ with whoever they could find. Those 12 men, through the power of the Holy Spirit, changed the world. So as you walk out your door how can you love others that you come into contact with? I can’t answer that specifically for each one of you, but that is something that we should strive be able to answer at the end of every day.
Love as you have been loved, Christ Church!
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