Recently, the reality of my heart was exposed when God gently pointed out how I am not loving others quite as well as I could be. He revealed that my serving in ministry was more from my ability and skill rather than from an overflow of love.
So I asked myself another question: What keeps me from loving others well?
If Paul tells how ineffective my ministry is without love (I Cor 13), then John reveals to me what’s keeping me from loving well.
Do not love this world nor the things it offers you, for when you love the world, you do not have the love of the Father in you. 16 For the world offers only a craving for physical pleasure, a craving for everything we see, and pride in our achievements and possessions. These are not from the Father, but are from this world. 17 And this world is fading away, along with everything that people crave. But anyone who does what pleases God will live forever. 1 John 2:15-17
The letter of the apostle John tells us over and over that we need to love each other. He tells us that loving each other is a pretty good indicator that we love God.
If I find that I’m not as loving as I should be, there’s a problem somewhere. In the 2nd chapter of John’s letter, I find that a love for the world is short circuiting my love for people and for God- “for when you love the world, you do not have the love of the Father in you”
How am I loving the world?
Craving for physical pleasure– Do I pursue what tastes good, what feels good, what looks good? Am I looking for instant gratification? Am I pursuing what will meet my physical needs over what is best for my spiritual needs? Is the pursuit of my physical needs keeping me from doing the things that will increase my love for God?
Pursuing physical pleasures includes the big, bad sins we think of at first. It’s easy to think of the ones that destroy your life in an instant and have drastic consequences ( affairs, drugs, stealing, etc) But what about the physical pleasures that are subtle and more socially acceptable? Too much shopping, Netflix binging, or emotional eating? How about gossiping or criticising or controlling? We get physical pleasure from these things because they feed our flesh. Anything that keeps us from pursuing God, even if it’s a good thing, is going to increase our love for the world.
Craving for everything we see– Do I want the latest gadget? Do I want the latest clothes and shoes? Am I keeping up with the latest social media trends? Is my pursuit of all things material and temporal keeping me from pursuing what will truly last forever in eternity?
The things we see and the material world we live in are not going to last forever. The old cliche is true- You can’t take it with you. What will last forever are things that money cannot buy: Love, joy, peace and all the fruit of the Spirit! But, we live in a world of instant gratification so it can be really hard to hold off on the newest thing we want now in order for something better, more eternal later.
Pride in our achievements and possessions– Do I take pride in what I do over whom I love? Is it more important for me to get something done, to set a goal and accomplish a task than it is to love someone? Is being successful and looking good in other people’s eyes more important than loving the person it benefits?
Believe me, it’s easy to fall into this trap. I can look back through the years and see how I’ve volunteered for stuff because I wanted people to think highly of me for all the great things I accomplished. I wanted the success and pat on the back for a job well done. The only reward I’ll get is the pat on the back and the applause I received in that moment.
That’s what Jesus said. Those who do stuff for the sake of men, for recognition and applause, that’s all the reward they will ever get. But those who work and serve with humility and serve without needing to be seen, their reward will be eternal.
If these motivations are what’s driving my ministry, then the world’s kind of love is the gas that’s in my tank. Having the world’s kind of love is ultimately self serving. It wants what’s best for me. It wants me to feel good and feeds the ego of my flesh. And that’s why if I love the world, the love of God is not in me.
Love for the world and love for God cannot coexist. They cannot occupy the same space.
Instead, how can we increase our love for God?
Love the Lord with all your heart soul mind and strength
Love your neighbor as yourself.
Follow His commands.
Feed His sheep.
These pursuits of True Love are not easy. We must fight our flesh and the temptations of the world the entire way. It’s worth it, though. It’s deeply satisfying. When we do these things, our love for God grows while our love for people grows with it.
Love for God and love for people can coexist. In fact, they must or our love isn’t real.
What’s keeping you from loving others well?