The only way to love differently as a follower of Christ is to hit the pause button for a moment and take time to think about what it means to be loved. This weekend, Pastor Jeff shared with us 1 John 4:19 which says, “We love because He first loved us.” Many times, it is easy to read this verse too quickly out of an energy and excitement to come up with ways to love, and this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. However, in order to live a long-term lifestyle of loving differently, it’s important to think first about the phrase, “because He first loved us.” What does it mean to be loved by the King of the universe?
God does not love His children with a generic, one-size-fits-all kind of love. He loves each child uniquely. The Psalms are a great starting point to see some of the specific ways that God “first loved us.”
- “Yet I am always with You; You hold my right hand.” (Ps. 73:23)
- “You understand my thoughts from far away.” (Ps. 139:2)
- “You reveal the path of life to me; in Your presence is abundant joy.” (Ps. 16:12)
- “He rescued me because He delighted in me.” (Ps. 18:19)
- “My every desire is known to You; my sighing is not hidden from You.” (Ps. 38:9)
He loves you. He loves your personality. He loves the way that He made every part of who you are. He loves the unique way He’s gifted you. And stopping and soaking up all that love – that’s what will transform you and enables you to have a long-term, life-changing ability to love differently.
Henri Nouwen describes it this way: “Once I know that I am the beloved, once I start discovering that in me, then the Spirit can work in me and others, then we can do wonderful things.”
When you realize how loved you are, actually declare that truth over your life out loud every day, that’s when “Give it away” and “love differently” changes from being a thing that you do to the way you see the world. I recently heard it described that serving Christ is a lens that defines how you see every situation you are in.
Living loved is what enables us to look for the little ways to speak life and encouragement to the people we are around every day at work. When we grasp that we are beloved children and that each person around us is capable of being transformed by encountering that same love of the Father, it changes the way we talk to the person serving our food or the cashier at the store. It inspires us to look for ways to show kindness to our neighbors. Loving differently is all the little ways every day that we spread the abundance of the love that we have received.
This identity of “because He first loved us” changes everything about us. It becomes the shoes we wear when we walk into any situation. Author Brennon Manning summarizes it well: “Define yourself radically as one beloved by God. This is the true self. Every other identity is illusion.”