I’ve been reading through the Message Bible this year. I have read the entire Bible in this version and am doing it again because I find myself drawn in by this version of the Bible. It is easy to read and I find myself reading large portions in one sitting. Yesterday I started reading the book of Philippians, but only got through one chapter. A portion of Paul’s prayer for the Philippians really jumped out at me and challenged me. Here it is, Chapter 1 verses 9 & 10:
“So this is my prayer: that your love will flourish and that you will not only love much but well. Learn to love appropriately. You need to use your head and test your feelings so that your love is sincere and intelligent, not sentimental gush.”
I can’t get this idea of loving well out of my mind. Lot’s of questions have run through my mind. How well do I love? How do I love well? What does he mean by love appropriately? Why should I use my head to test my feelings? Love is a word that has been used a lot and it’s meaning has been confused in my opinion. For many people the idea of loving well is somewhat confusing and intimidating. Many of the people I talk too and interact with struggle with this idea of loving well. There are so many struggling, broken relationships today that to love well is almost uncommon.
I don’t have time to go very deep on this thought, but I want to share some ideas I have on how to love well. These ideas may connect with you for your marriage relationship, your parenting relationship, or other relationships you currently are struggling in or are wanting to do better. There is a lot more to loving well, and none of us will ever love perfectly, but all of us can love better.
- To love well, we must admit our inadequacy – What I mean by that is none of us know how to make intimate relationships work. We might know some things that work, but we are inadequate on our own to love well all the time. So say it with me, I don’t know what I am doing!
- To love well, we must be humble – Pride destroys relationships, humility heals relationships. Humility is the secret of blessing and intimacy. In humility we think about our selves less and those close to us more. In humility we look to serve those around us without expecting anything in return. In humility we realize we need help from God in order to love well.
- To love well, we must trust – Without trust no relationship can last. Trust is about always looking and believing the best about a person. Trust can only happen if I know who I am and who I am not. Trust leads to deeper intimacy, and also the potential for deeper hurt. Trust means I will open my heart and not close out people. Trust means never looking back and bringing up the things that are behind me. Trust does not mean I allow people to continue to hurt me or take advantage of me.
- To love well, we must forgive – I know of no relationship that last over time that does not have to give and receive forgiveness. As humans we hurt each other, our natural tendency is to be selfish. When we are quick to forgive, we do not allow bitterness and anger the time to take root. If we are slow to forgive emotions come out of us that hurt and damage us and others. Forgiveness allows us to love well for the long haul.
- To love well, we must persevere – Loving people is not easy. Patience and persistence are vital to loving well. Love never gives up. Through the most difficult of times we can love well if we have a long-term perspective. Loving the unlovable may seem impossible at times, yet to love well, we must love to the end. As mentioned earlier we can only do this with the power and strength that comes from a relationship with Jesus Christ. He is perfect love and he can give us what we need to love someone for the long haul.
- To love well, we must grow – When we stop growing we often stop loving well. Whether it is spiritual growth, emotional growth, intellectual growth or even physical health. When we stop learning, growing and changing our love deteriorates and declines. If I find myself struggling to love the people around me as I should, I start to spend more time with God, I read more, I pray more, I exercise more, I schedule more one-on-one appointments, I talk to my life mentors. Just like a tree, to be healthy and strong it must keep growing. It’s roots go deeper to find more nutrients and water. It’s branches grow thicker to support the additional growth. We need to find ways to have our roots go deeper and our branches grow thicker in order to continue to love well.
I could come up with some more, but this is a great start. How well do you love? What would your spouse say? What would God say?