Learning to Love the Agape Way
Where I used to live, there was a double-window sliding glass door that opened onto my back patio. Vertical blinds hung over these doors and they were secured at the bottom with a small chain that ran through each blind, keeping the blinds secured so that they did not get caught up in the doors when entering or exiting.
I brought a kitten home from the humane society that was always getting into something that threatened harm to her or my home. One day she got tangled up in the chains that ran along the bottoms of the blinds. I heard her crying out and ran to find her and when I saw her, I knew I must keep my calm about me or she was going to die as the chains were squeezing the life out of her. I got down on my knees and I held her with one hand while I undid the chains with the other. As I held onto her, she was fighting me with all her strength, while scratching and biting with all the protesting she could muster. In her mind, I suppose I was the one bringing pain upon her little body. Eventually, I managed to untangle her, checked her for any cuts or such, and then put her down and she ran and hid for hours. My arm was a bloody mess and took a few days to heal.
The Lord used this experience with my cat, a few years later. I was in the process of asking God to teach me how to love as He loved and it seemed everyone I was encountering was like the small kitten, protesting with ferocity. It almost seemed to me that God had brought every atrocious person He could find to cross my path. I found it hard to breathe much less able to learn to love anyone. The Lord took this time to show me how He brings His love into people’s lives and they fight Him and His love, just like that kitten fought me when I was trying to free her. They kick at Him, they curse at Him, they scream at Him, they blame Him for all the woes of their lives. I got real with God and told Him, He was sending me too many ugly people to love and I did not think I could pass this test. He told me, “I do not expect you to love them all right now, just choose one. Someone that you encounter daily and find it hard to be in their company. And show this person love in the face of their unloveliness.” I said, “I can do that!” So, I chose a guy I worked with that had a stinking disposition and he was tough to like, much less love. He had such a negative attitude and there was only one or two people at work that he even associated with or bothered to acknowledge. I practiced my love walk on him. And lo and behold, I honestly did witness this guy soften a bit. Just a bit, but hey, it was just me that was showing him love. Think what would have happened had everyone he worked with done that?
God has loved us past our own pains, hatred, fears, protests, etc. And we can all agree that we are glad He did!
I am by no means as proficient in the love walk as some are or God is, but I do strive daily to keep the love commandment. And I wanted to pass on a few pointers that God has given me in this quest for loving others.
First, know that God loves you. When we truly know that He loves us, we are able then and only then to pass this love on to others. Love is like a light that shines from God and goes right through us and onto others, bringing them a sense of warmth and acceptance, no matter their own dispositions and attitudes. And, remember, we usually cannot immediately see the impact this love is having on another, but God can.
Second, love yourself. Now, I am not talking about loving yourself in the worldly way. But, loving yourself in the way of taking care of yourself. Respect yourself. We love ourselves when we accept things about ourselves that we cannot change. We love ourselves when we eat right. We love ourselves when we exercise to improve our health. We love ourselves when we allow ourselves to relax after a hard days work. We love ourselves when we take proper care of ourselves. It is next to impossible to love another when we feel we have slighted ourselves.
Third, begin a serious love walk with at least one person that you know is unlovable. Ask God for guidance as to whom to practice loving, of course. Seeing the results of what love can do for another will help you to build your faith concerning the love walk. It will give you reason to believe that loves does indeed, never fail. (This is Agape love and it is unconditional. It is a choice we make to love another person whether they love us back or not. Agape love is the love of God and it is a decision we make and is not based on our emotions. Many times, this kind of love will be contrary to our emotions. It is a real challenge for us as Christians, but doable. Agape love treats the unlovely with the same attitude and attention as it treats those we find attractive in a lovable manner.)
These are just a few pointers to help along the path of your love walk. However, the most important of all .. Spend time with God. Spend time in His presence. Spend time in His Word. Spend time in prayer. Spend time meditating on how much He loves you. And when you feel your love for Him swelling within your heart, remember, you can only love Him because He first loved you.