Jesus taught us to love one another and to love unconditionally. He also said that this means we must love our enemies too. In a time filled with passing judgement and criticizing others I wondered if I knew how to love unconditionally.
Since I wasn’t sure I truly understood what the actual words unconditional love meant I decided to study it in depth. I always head to the dictionary first for the definition of whatever I need to learn about. This is the definition I found for unconditional love. Unconditional love is known as affection without any limitations, or love without conditions. Wow, so it means to love without any other thoughts.
OK so I know I love my family and I love my alone time but I was pretty certain this wasn’t unconditional love. In my research I found out many interesting things that I believe I knew but was sure I wasn’t practicing. I would like to share some of my findings with you. I turned to the teachings of Pastor Rick Warren and his 40 days of love to start my research.
I found that the basic principles of love are stated at most wedding ceremonies. I had heard them many times yet I had not listened.
1 Corinthians 13:4–8
Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends. (ESV)
I read this bible verse many times out loud just to listen to the beauty of my words as I recited the passage. Again I must say how sad I am that I overlooked this true eloquence in previous years. Let’s look at this phrase by phrase.
Love is patient and kind. This can be a tough one. I have been working diligently on being kind no matter what and I have made great progress here but patience is another story. Patience they say is a virtue and some days I am not very virtuous. It’s my own fault really because most days I overbook myself leaving me short on time as well as patience.
I heard a story the other day that Zig Zigler once told. He said there was a man on the bus that was becoming agitated as two small children ran up and down the bus aisle continuously. The man looked at the children’s father that was staring off into space. The man asked the father, “Would you mind asking your children to sit down and stop running up and down the aisle?”‘ The father turned to him and said, “Oh I am so sorry, my wife, their mother died yesterday.” Of course the man felt horrible because he hadn’t considered there may have been other circumstances that led the children to act out of sorts leaving the father distracted.
Once my husband and I were flying back to his hometown of Nashville and a group of people boarded the shuttle with us. They were celebrating and telling us they were headed to Nashville for vacation. They wanted to know why we were going. My husband politely said, “To see family.” He wasn’t able to say his mother had only hours to live and we were rushing there to be with her when she passed. I think this is the moment I realized not everyone is traveling for joyous reasons. I became more conscious of my questions to other travelers on future trips.
We don’t know what path others are walking on and we need to be patient and kind because they may be suffering like the man on the bus or my husband and I were. Love is patient and kind.
We can combine the next six phrases together since they are self serving. We were also taught by Jesus that we must serve others quietly and humbly. We are not showing any love when we do something special for someone and the look for gratification from others. Serving others is what we should already be doing to show our love to God. I know people that go out of their way to try to catch people doing something wrong or incorrectly just so they can point it out to others. Judging and criticizing is not in the Bible as a practice we are to instill in daily life. No bragging, being resentful or being rude.
When we are burdened with health issues or troubles love support us. When we cry together, we grow together building support for each other. Relationships become stronger when you go through the darkest times with others. When you see others’ vulnerability you see their strengths. People break down to only be built back up so then love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things.
Love never ends. Just like God’s love for us by sending Jesus down to earth, to walk among us and die for our sins we must always love. God is always with us offering unconditional love without judgement and always with forgiveness. His love always endures and never ends.
I also learned that love is kindness. What this means is when you are kinder you are more loving. When you start seeing others needs, you are able to minister to them causing you to be kinder. I also realize that when a moment is presented to help someone that I must take the opportunity to help and not think about helping. God puts moments in our lives for the opportunity to help others and make Him smile. Practice spontaneous kindness not planned kindness. In order to do this you must be able to release your fears of helping and just jump into the situation. God blesses kindness.
Love is forgiving and this may be something we all need to work on. When you forgive another, you are not minimizing the offense or accepting the behavior. You are allowing your heart to heal and move on. A few things to remember is God always forgives us, bitterness makes us miserable and someday you will need forgiven so you must forgive through love. We need to acknowledge that some people will do premeditated and evil things to us but we must bless them, pray for them and know this is God’s love shining through us. Jesus said we are to forgive multiple times.
21 Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?”22 Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times
The final thing I discovered was how to have a loving heart. In order to have a loving heart there are three things you need to practice. First you need to practice things that constantly refresh your health. This includes 7-8 hours of sleep each night, eating a healthy unprocessed diet and exercising regularly. I have talked before about the body is the temple for the Holy Spirit and the Holy Spirit can only thrive in a body that is taken care of. Second, do things that recharge you emotionally. Meditate and pray in solitude. Even Jesus went into the woods to be alone and pray by himself. And laugh! Laughter actually produced T-cells which boost our immune system so sit down to a good comedy and laugh away!
I feel most importantly is to develop habits that renew you spiritually. This includes daily prayer and reading the Bible, worshiping weekly and sing your praises to God. It says in the Bible you should praise God by singing to Him. Side note, God created you so He knows your singing abilities, sing anyway!
I have grown so much in learning more about love, especially unconditional love. My heart is warmer and my patience is building. If you can’t love one another quite yet it’s okay, just walk away and breath and ask God to help you love. He is there for you and will always listen and help. This is a practice you build through faith.
All my love and gratitude, LoLo