March 1, 2017

Loving others is not about me

The Christians in Galatia had entangled themselves in a pattern of trying to establish their righteousness by keeping the Law of God. They didn’t say ‘We are saved by our own works’ because Satan knows how to put a lie into our hearts without being so easily detected. Only when Paul wrote to them was that lie exposed.

At least two major denominations teach that we are saved by grace, but only if we keep the law. Others put variations on this such as, ‘We are justified by grace alone, but sanctification comes by keeping the commandments.’ However it is phrased, both are trying to mix law and grace. In doing so, they deny the Gospel of salvation by grace alone.

“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” (Ephesians 2:8–9)  

As I think about this, Satan can be even more subtle. He tells me that I am saved and being sanctified, but constantly is at me with stuff like “you are not good enough” or “try harder” pressuring me with the idea that pleasing God is about my performance.

Many people grow up with that idea. We want to please our parents and are praised when we behave. We want to please our peers and are accepted by them as long as we fit in. For me, it was pleasing my teachers by good grades and pleasing myself by accomplishments.

While obedience to God is the way to go, I need to be aware of my motivations. Who am I really trying to please? Who will get the glory in the end? Am I doing this for me because ‘me’ always likes to pat myself on the back?

Jesus came in perfect humanity not only to die for sin, but to show sinners what God intended when He created us. For Jesus, it was all about others. He fulfilled every law, every commandment, every ideal that God describes. This is how we express love to God by loving one another.

One of the ways to love others is this: “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” (Galatians 6:2) This verse speaks of the law of Christ, but that law and that love is never about me or my performance. In other words, the love of Christ is not measured in how many pies I bake for the neighbors or how many orphans I support. It is measured by releasing all my I-wants to God and letting Him live out His live through me. It is living in the power of the Holy Spirit and doing what He says. It isn’t about what I want or my needs, but about caring for the needs of others because Christ takes care of me . . .

“So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus . . . .” (Philippians 2:1–5)

Just as the traits of others rub off on me when I hang around them, the mind of Christ becomes more and more evident as I hang around Him. I learn how to love by observing His lack of selfish ambition and conceit. He considers others more important than Himself. He listens to their hearts and meets all their needs. He loves and serves people, an expression of His perfection, not a way to gain it or prove it.

Bearing the burdens of others is not about worrying, or removing their responsibilities. It is sharing their load in whatever ways God has gifted me and blessed me with the resources to do so. By looking at Christ as the example, I see that love expressed in burden-bearing is also sacrificial. If I am in this for Jesus, it will cost me something rather than building up me or gratifying my pride. Just as He gives the description, the glory of love also always goes to its source — the Lord Jesus Christ.

Jesus, Your Word is plain; we are to love one another. Because I have been born of God, You live in my heart and make possible that kind of burden-bearing love. This is how the world knows that God sent You. This also gives me confidence as I walk with You because this kind of love casts out all fear. This seems an odd prescription but I am thankful that Your remedies always bless Your people and glorify Your name!

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