Spiritual Survival Handbook

8. Love in Action

"Watch what God does, and then you do it, like children who learn proper behavior from their parents. Mostly what God does is love you. Keep company with him and learn a life of love. Observe how Christ loved us. His love was not cautious but extravagant. He didn't love in order to get something from us, but to give everything of himself to us. Love like that." Ephesians 5:1-2

An American was walking down the streets of a Chinese city. He was greatly interested in the children, many of whom were carrying smaller children on their backs, and managing at the same time to play their games. ‘It is too bad,’ the American sympathetically said to one little boy, ‘that you have to carry such a heavy burden!’ ‘He’s no burden,’ came the quick reply; ‘he’s my brother.’ ‘Well, you are gracious to say so!’ said the man, and he gave the boy some money.

When the American reached home he said to his family: “A little Chinese boy has taught me the fullest meaning of the words, ‘Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.’ “ He told them of his interview, and added: “If a little Chinese boy can carry and care for his brother and refuse to consider him as a burden, surely we ought not to think it a burden to carry our little brothers, the weak and the needy ones, who look to us for help. Let us rejoice as we carry others, and say by our actions, ‘He’s no burden; he’s my brother."

Loving others by serving them is the master key that opens the door to fulfilling your God given destiny.

"Love your neighbor as yourself. Love does no wrong to anyone." (Romans 13:9-10) Love God and love others... love is the most potent force on earth. Are any of us Christians capable of successfully achieving this on our own? Definitely not, but in Philippians 4:13 we are reminded there is a way to succeed: "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." So by admitting we are unable to love God and others adequately in our own strength and abilities, we are left dependent on the Lord to love through us!

You've probably learned through your spiritual journey that God never asks us to do something He isn't willing to do through us. All it requires is using our free will in allowing Jesus to live His life through us without limits through surrendering. At times this may stretch us past our comfort zones, but living on the edge with Jesus produces the abundant life He promised to those who believed in Him... John 10:10, "I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly."

In regard to dying to self, I've died many deaths in my lifetime and each time my carnal nature screamed in protest with each surrender. Yet, through each death/surrender more of God's compassion flows through me thus motivating me forward into new surrenders. I believe the human heart in its original form doesn't possess compassion for others due to the sin nature, but when a believer's heart is wounded and they choose to forgive the offender rather than harden their heart it creates a pathway for God's love and compassion to flow.

This principle was demonstrated in Christ's life many times, but my favorite example took place after he learned John the Baptist was beheaded. Obviously, Jesus was grieving as he needed to be alone with the Father, but by the time he arrived at his destination he had forgiven John's executioners as the compassion that flowed through him for the needs of the people waiting for him on shore moved him past his own emotional state into healing them all! (Matthew 14:1-14) For me this is the power of God's love and compassion... it meets the specific needs of others abundantly no matter what our current emotional or mental state.

pportunities to love others come at unexpected moments. Every time we hug our children, sincerely ask a co-worker ‘How you doing?’, or smile at our neighbor is love in action. With the break up of the family structure and the mobility of society, many are missing the emotional support they need. This produces loneliness. Loneliness is at epidemic proportions. It isn’t restricted to the elderly. It is a way of life for many single people as well.

Here are some suggestions for putting love into action:
Practice hospitality. Write a letter or an email of encouragement. Make a phone call. Speak truthful and positive things that boosts their self-esteem.
Provide a need they have like clothing or food. Do an activity with them that they enjoy doing. Deliver a home cooked meal. Visit them when they are in the hospital or grieving from a profound loss. Do the tasks around your home, church, or office that no one else enjoys doing. Give money to meet a need without any strings attached. Pray with them or at least let them know you are praying for them. Include them in family functions especially during the holidays.

Eternal relationships are developed over time with the sharing of life's joys and sorrows. This level of relationship is shown in the biblical characters of Jonathan and David. Their friendship was founded on devotion and a commitment to support each other in obtaining God's purpose for each of their lives - regardless of any personal cost. Loving relationships are wonderful sources of support, encouragement, companionship, and inspiration. If we choose not to have relationships and isolate ourselves into a lonely existence, our chance for spiritual survival is not as good.

An extraordinary example of love in action is found in the life of Mother Teresa. She responded to a call from God to leave teaching girls at a Catholic school and minister to the poorest of the poor in India. There she lived for over fifty years with only the barest essentials for life. Every day she picked up the poor people that had been left to die in the streets. She carried them to where she lived and cared for them as if they were Jesus.
Mother Teresa’s description of love, "We have all been created for greater things - to love a person without any conditions, without any expectations. Works of love are works of peace and purity. Works of love are always a means of becoming closer to God, so the more we help each other, the more we really love God better by loving each other."

Every day is a gift from God, so live in the moment, judge no one including yourself, be the first one to forgive, love without conditions, and g
o the extra mile in helping others. This demonstrates God's love in action... especially to the Junkyard People.

1. Who are the Junkyard people?
They are the emotionally wounded and developmentally challenged in our society. Many have been discarded. Like broken down cars they've been abandoned at the Junkyard. The longer these people remain in the Junkyard, the more they believe they are useless. With each passing day they lose more of the ability to help themselves leave. But Jesus the Master Mechanic of hearts can repair, restore, and help them. Only Jesus can perform this miracle of restoration on the Junkyard People. He begins their restoration process by bringing into their lives Christians.

These members of the Body of Christ act as tow trucks that pull the Junkyard people into knowing God's love for them. To love a person this way is to meet them right where they are. It’s speaking to them in terms they understand. Its giving them the time they need before they are encouraged to make any lifestyle changes. Jesus did the same for us. He didn’t expect us to shape up overnight. He first gave us time to get to know Him before he challenged us to change.

2. What stops them from moving forward?
Fear. It can be the by-product of painful life experiences involving rejection, abandonment, abuse, and other traumas. Fear stops God's love from flowing through you. It steals from you the blessings of healthy Christian relatiionships.

Facing our fears uncovers our self-protectiveness. It is designed to make sure no one hurts us. This results in not being open, but if we trust no one - life is more painful.
Investing in others might be new emotional territory that's outside your comfort zones. If you are willing to be stretched beyond present boundaries, God will empower you to be transparent as you develop lasting and loving relationships, so I encourage you to love like you've never been hurt.

3. What promotes healthy relationships?
Gentleness: showing concern by meeting the needs of others. 1 Thessalonians 2:7, "As apostles of Christ we certainly had a right to make some demands of you, but we were as gentle among you as a mother feeding and caring for her own children."

: cheerfully sharing food and shelter. Hebrews 13:2, "Don't forget to show hospitality to strangers, for some who have done this have entertained angels without realizing it!"

: adjusting personal desires around the needs of others. Philippians 2:20-22, "I have no one else like Timothy, who genuinely cares about your welfare. All the others care only for themselves and not for what matters to Jesus Christ. But you know how Timothy has proved himself. Like a son with his father, he has helped me in preaching the Good News."

: give undivided focus to others' words and emotions. Hebrews 2:1, "We must listen very carefully to the truth we have heard, or we may drift away from it."

: viewing every person as a valuable individual. Philippians 2:2-4, "Make me truly happy by agreeing wholeheartedly with each other, loving one another, and working together with one heart and purpose. Don't be selfish; don't live to make a good impression on others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourself. Don't think only about your own affairs, but be interested in others, too, and what they are doing."

: limiting our actions and speech in order not to offend others. Romans 14:21, "Don't eat meat or drink wine or do anything else if it might cause another Christian to stumble."

Keep Secrets
: don't repeat what has been entrusted to you. If the information is something you don't want the responsibility for, tell the person before they disclose their secret.

: knowing by the prompting of God's Spirit what actions and words will benefit the lives of others and what will not. Don't say things that represent others in an unfavorable light and don't repeat things that make people look bad - conceal it. (Prov. 17:9 & 11:13) Romans 12:15-16, "When others are happy, be happy with them. If they are sad, share their sorrow. Live in harmony with each other. Don't try to act important, but enjoy the company of ordinary people. And don't think you know it all!"

Active listening
: Stop whatever we are doing. Give the other person our undivided attention. Look into the eyes of that person as they speak. Here's an illustration demonstrating this principle:

One day a 4 year old boy was playing with his toys at his Daddy's feet as his Daddy read the newspaper. The little boy began telling him of his adventurous day and the Dad would only respond with a generic "Ah Ya" and a nod of his head. After 5 minutes of this type of shallow interaction, the little boy shouted, "Daddy you're not listening to me!" "Oh, yes I am." said the Daddy as he continued to read the newspaper. Out of frustration the little boy grabbed the newspaper, crawled up on his Dad's lap, and placed his little hands on each side of his Daddy's face. Then he pointed the Dad's eyes right at him. The little boy then said, "Daddy, I want you to listen with your eyes!"

How often do we find ourselves giving just a nod of response instead of truly listening? Real listening requires our undivided focus on the one speaking by keeping our thoughts on what is being said not on what we want to say next.
: Love that forgives is God's type of love. The benefits of forgiving others includes: 
1. Freedom for the one forgiving and the one being forgiven, Matthew 18:32-35.  
2. Enables you to receive God's forgiveness, Matthew 6:14-15. 
3. Prevents you from becoming bitter, Hebrews 12:15. Bitterness is a cancer of the soul. It must be dealt with or it will defile you and your family. Don't deal with the symptoms, deal with the root. Ask yourself what you are afraid of. Your answer reveals your area of bitterness.

4. What is forgiveness?
Forgiveness means to pardon, to excuse, set free, and wipe the slate clean. Let the past be the past. Forgiveness doesn’t need to be accompanied by a current good feeling or emotion. It is simply a choice or a decision.

Forgiveness creates freedom for the one forgiving and the one being forgiven (Matthew 18:32-35), it enables you to receive God's forgiveness (Matthew 6:14-15). and it prevents a person from becoming bitter (Hebrews 12:15). Bitterness is a cancer of the soul. It must be dealt with or it will defile you and your family. Don't deal with the symptoms, deal with the root. Ask yourself what you are afraid of. Your answer reveals your area of bitterness.

Forgiveness is experienced from a belief based in love and faith. Forgiveness also circumvents the creation of new fear based beliefs which produce havoc in our lives. This process is to be used when you find yourself in an uncomfortable emotional state and you have an inappropriate response to the present situation. The way to change how we respond to our current fear based emotions doesn't require anyone else to be involved in the process. It simply requires that we lovingly forgive ourselves for creating the identified false belief and release the grief associated to it to God. Then create a new love based belief to replace the old fear based belief that is no longer one we choose to remain in bondage to.

5. Why is forgiving myself so important?

Unforgiveness keeps us bound to fear based beliefs and forgiveness releases us into beliefs based on love. "Whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven." Matthew 18:18 Jesus also said we are to forgive without limits. "Then Peter came to him and asked, "How often should I forgive someone who sins against me? Seven times?" "No not seven times." Jesus replied. "But seventy times seven." Matthew 18:21-22

Jesus is addressing forgiving others, but have you ever considered the idea that we can sin against ourselves? Well, its true. Give this some thought. Every time we miss the target of not being true to ourselves by living out love based decisions, actions, and words, we sin against ourselves. In Matthew 22:39, Jesus addresses the importance of the principle of loving ourselves, "Love your neighbor as you love yourself."

If we don't love ourselves unconditionally, we won't be able to love others unconditionally. Because how we love ourselves will be exactly how we love others. If we refuse to not perfectly love ourselves through forgiveness, our fear based emotions will continue to thrive and the open door we had to apply the following verse to our lives is a missed opportunity: "Love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear." 1 John 4:19

Self forgiveness might take on the form of involving the following steps: Recognize we have believed in the illusion of Smoke & Mirrors, we have been responding to and making decisions based on those illusions, we take responsibility by creating new love based beliefs, we acknowledge we are in complete control of shifting ourselves from the fear paradigm we have been operating in, and finally forgive yourself for the responses you generated that may have been detrimental to yourself and those you care about.

Forgiving others isn’t accepting the role of a victim nor does it excuse or ignore the behavior or minimize the act or pretend it never happened or say it doesn't matter. True forgiveness doesn’t need to be accompanied by a current good feeling or emotion. Forgiveness doesn't surrender justice. Forgiveness isn't necessarily forgetting. Forgiveness is a merciful decision. When we show mercy we resemble Father God at that moment more than any other.
Forgiveness is the required element for resolving anger and receiving emotional healing. Reconcilation isn't possible in some relationships, but forgiveness is always the right choice.  

Spiritual Survival Handbook by Kathleen Brown. Copyright © 1999. All rights reserved.
Holy Bible New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc. All rights reserved.

The Message by Eugene Petersen. Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 
The Cry of Mordecai by Robert Stearns, Copyright © 2009; 12 words from page 26. Destiny Image Publishers.