The glowing boxes in our living rooms have lied to us about love.
John 15:9-17 (NLT)- “I have loved you even as the Father has loved me. Remain in my love. When you obey my commandments, you remain in my love, just as I obey my Father’s commandments and remain in his love. I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow! This is my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you. There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you slaves, because a master doesn’t confide in his slaves. Now you are my friends, since I have told you everything the Father told me. You didn’t choose me. I chose you. I appointed you to go and produce lasting fruit, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask for, using my name. This is my command: Love each other."
I read this and realized I’ve heard all of these passages separately, but never in the right context. Jesus says if you love me, do what I command. Then he gives the command to love each other the way he loves us. That’s big.
Love is an action.
How do we abide in Christ’s love? By following his commandments. How do we follow his commandments? By putting his desires before ourselves. There is no greater love than to lay down your life for your friends. There is no better way to stoke the fire of a relationship than to put someone before yourself.
If your marriage is failing; start acting in love. Find a way to be selfless.
If your relationship with your family sucks. Find a way to put them before yourself.
The root of love is selflessness. Our society is obsessed with feelings. They market falling in and out of love to us every day. So, by their standard, if you suddenly don’t feel butterflies in your tummy, you abandon your relationships because “the flame has died”. Love is an action. No matter what relationship you are trying to build with love, it takes an action. I cringe when I hear people talking about how a relationship has just "died out”. You are in charge of who you love. It's a choice and a commitment. I know this might not be the most popular post of all time; but Jesus doesn’t say to look inside your heart and see if it’s warm toward someone to figure out if you are in love. He says to take action. To lay down your own life for someone else.
Do I feel warm in my heart when I see my wife? Absolutely.
Do I have joy that overflows when I play with my daughter. Of course.
Do I leave interactions with friends feeling energized? All the time.
Because I’ve cultivated a relationship with each person built on mutual selflessness. If I stop feeling giddy toward my wife I don’t look to her to fix something. I need to love her and let her love me. The giddy feeling is a result of love, it isn’t love itself.
When Kayla and I first got married I didn’t understand compromise at all. I thought if we could both just become unoffendable then we would be fine. What I didn’t realize is that’s not the easiest thing in the world. You need grace and compromise as you build toward a relationship without expectations. When there is grace, you can move forward without the fear of failing and your significant other coming down on you about it. Grace gives us the freedom to grow without fear of failure. Don't get me wrong, grace should never become a crutch for sin, but it can open doors for growth we never would have attained otherwise.
Take someone who has a porn addiction, for instance. If their spouse is someone they trust to distribute grace, then the failing person will be more willing to open up about their problem. Once the sin is exposed they can let God deal with it. We can find healing through confessing our sins to one another. If they are afraid of their spouses reaction, then they are likely to bury their addiction deeper into darkness and let it grow into something that has the potential to destroy their marriage. You get to be in charge of your marriage's success. Love isn't something that grows on it's own. It's a fire that you have to continually throw more of yourself into until you eventually have nothing left to hide. Once you reach that point then real intimacy can exist.
Am I a perfect model of a husband, father, or friend? Absolutely not. I'm growing just as much as everyone else. God doesn't expect us to instantly become perfect, but we are supposed to continually grow in our capacity to love. We should always be moving forward, not becoming stagnant.
If you don’t believe me try it for yourself. Instead of blaming your family, spouse, or kids for your unhappiness, try to do something special for them and see if you still feel that way.
Disclaimer: If you just read this and now you are going to share it with your husband, wife, or family so they can love you better, then you missed the entire point. You gotta lead by example. You also gotta do stuff without expecting the recipient of your love to instantly notice and gratify you. This isn’t going to be something that changes overnight. It takes practice. I know I spoke more about marriage than family relationships, but I believe more people apply the lie of butterflies to marriage than they do to their family.
Let's lay down our lives for others today.