By LESLIE LUDY
My five-year-old daughter, Avy, recently asked me a rather profound question: “How do you know if somebody really knows Jesus or not?” In modern Christianity, there are various opinions on this matter. Some say there should be a particular demonstration of power in a believer’s life to prove he or she has really been born again. Others insist that specific personal convictions must be adopted to prove true devotion to Christ. But Jesus gave a very simple answer to this perplexing issue. He said, “By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (Jn. 13:35).
What kind of love was Jesus referring to? Was He speaking of the warm, fuzzy emotion we feel toward those who treat us well? Or did He mean a deeper kind of love — namely, a sacrificial love toward even those who don’t deserve it? In Matthew 5:46, He clearly tells us, “If you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?” And in the parable of the good Samaritan, Jesus clearly shows us the kind of love He has called us to — a love that sacrificially gives time, resource, and compassion to the unloveable, the unwanted, and the helpless. In other words, the love He asks for is not a warm fuzzy feeling — it is a choice; a decision to put another person’s well-being above our own; to love even those who are unlovely and undeserving; to love even when it is inconvenient and taxing.
We often think of applying this kind of choice-based, sacrificial love when it comes to “down and outers” that we may meet on the street, or impoverished children we see while on missions trips. But what about the family members or close acquaintances who are extra-challenging to deal with? Can we love the difficult child, the insensitive husband, father, or brother, or the emotionally needy sister or mother under our own roof? Can we love the friends who betray us, the teachers or employers who overlook us, or the peers who are promoted above us? The love that Christ commands us to demonstrate is not based on a sweet emotion, but on an often difficult choice to put aside our own feelings and do what is best for someone else even when they don’t deserve it. And this kind of love is truly impossible without the enabling grace of God.
This principle has recently been put to the test in a very real way for me. Our two little “bundles of joy” from Haiti are adorable — and extremely challenging. Looking in from the outside, people often assume that bringing little ones home through adoption home is all snuggles, laughter, and sweet bedtime stories. There are definitely those moments, which are precious and meaningful. But the majority of our relationship with these little ones consists of training them how to behave and properly function in a family. It is hard, taxing, and often emotionally draining work. Because of their unique circumstances in Haiti, Rees and Lily were used to constant supervision every moment of the day and night. Now, they must learn how to sleep, eat, use the bathroom, and play much more independently, without constantly using their newfound freedom to get into mischief. In Haiti, they were used to having the undivided focus of a foster mommy. Now, they must learn to share their parents’ attention with seven other family members. Adjusting to these enormous changes has led to a lot of rebellion, fussing, bad attitudes, and foolish behavior from our new little munchkins. In spite of their cuteness, they have actually caused me far more frustration than warm fuzzies since their homecoming.
Whenever my frustration begins to mushroom, I sense the Spirit of God gently reminding me, “Why did you adopt these children — for your own enjoyment and convenience, or for My glory?” When I remember that He has called me to love these little ones even when it is not easy or convenient, I also remember that He is ready and able to equip me with every bit of supernatural grace that I need in order to obey His command. Loving sacrificially is impossible on my own. But when I allow Him to love through me, it becomes a joyful privilege.
Are there people in your life who are difficult to love? Remember that God’s love is not first and foremost a feeling, but a decision — a choice to move out of the way and let His divine, enabling love flow through you from the inside out. Allow your hands to become His hands, your mouth to become His mouth, and your actions to become His actions. No matter what your feelings say, make the choice to let Him love through you — and then stand back in awe as He equips you with a joyful, sacrificial love that you could never have mustered up on your own.
His love far surpasses all human emotion. His love is powerful and eternal. What an incredible privilege to become a conduit for this glorious, Christ-like, world-changing, superhuman love.