As I've been reading books are marriage this summer I've been thinking a lot about what it means to love people, not just your fiancé/spouse, but anyone that God places in our lives. Specifically I've been thinking about it in regards to siblings and close family members. What does it mean to love? How do we force ourselves to love people we are not naturally inclined to love. Perhaps we have been hurt by people close to us, people who we want to have a relationship with, people we want to trust, or people who are daily involved in our lives––yet there is a barrier between you and them. I've been, and sometimes still am, in that position with my family. I am sure that there will be times that I find it difficult to love my husband, though right now that seems nearly impossible. =) What I've been reminded of is that love is not all about an emotion. It is not just a feeling––it is a commandment. We are commanded to love others as Christ loves us. Emotions cannot be commanded, but they can be taught. When we struggle to love someone, we have to ask God to love them through us and to teach us how to love with action and not just emotion. There are a few quotes from Tim Keller's book The Meaning of Marriage that have really stood out to me.
"It is a mistake to think that you must feel love in order to give it."
"Do not waste time bothering whether you 'love' your neighbor; act as if you did. As soon as we do this we find one of the greatest secrets. WHen you are behaving as if you loved someone, you will presently come to love him."
We have to act as though we love someone even when we don't feel like it. As we do so, we should pray for two things, that God would give us the grace to love them, and secondly pray for that person. When you pray for someone else you will come to care about them more, you will look for the good, you will rejoice in the little triumphs, you will see more of their strengths and less of their weaknesses. It is so important that we be in prayer for our siblings, our spouses, and our children. How much greater could our love for them be if we forget about satisfying ourselves, forget about feeling love, and focus on the act of loving as Christ did? However we can not love with Christ's love if we do not have a proper relationship with God ourselves. We have know His love for us and understand the sacrifices He made for us out of love.
We are to "bare the cross of Christ," the trials of everyday life, but we should not see them as burdens, but as a way to lose our own life for the sake of someone else. To serve, to put the needs of others above our own, and to love with Christ's love. We are told that we if try to save our lives and live for our own pleasure and happiness, we will lose our lives, but if we live a life of service and humility as Christ did, we will find true life and true joy.
"Seek to serve one another rather than to be happy, and you will find new and greater happiness"
*All Quotes from Tim Keller's book The Meaning of Marriage.