If there is therefore any encouragement in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any tendernesses and mercies, then fulfill my joy, that you may be like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord and of one mind.(Phillippians 2:1-2)
Last week, I was part of a rummage sale at church, and I was in charge of praying at the beginning of each day of the sale. One of the things that I felt led to pray for was that we as a women's ministry would show the love of Christ to each and every person who walked through our doors. I asked that God would send His Holy Spirit down upon us so that we could fulfill this calling and that others would be touched by our presence. As the day went on, I felt uplifted and positive that we were fulfilling this mission. We gave the people walking into the sale a sense that they were welcome. We let them know that we were glad that they came and invited them back for other events. We were also able to share about our ministry and its mission to support the women of our community, no matter what, if any, religious affiliation they had.
This in itself is showing the love of Christ.
I was so pleased with the success of weekend, not only financially, but in the community spirit that was built with God's power...until the end...when I screwed up.
I spoke the prayer...I felt the call...but when it was all said and done...I let my frustration bring out the worst of me.
When my friend was tired and aching from the physical strain of the work we had put in. When she was frustrated and feeling beaten down...I didn't show the love of Christ. I should have shown understanding. I should have asked how I could help. I should have been more gentle. Instead, I told my friend to go home because she was miserable and she was pissing me off (yes, my words exactly).
I didn't show the love of Christ to my friend.
Why is it easier to be kind, understanding, and gentle to those people who we don't know. Why does it seem that we can put a smile on our face for those that are acquaintances or strangers? Maybe we want to put on a show for them, so that they walk away with a good impression of us. But when it's our loved ones, we let our guard down and we snap at them.
I have heard it happen in a million different relationships. Kids who are perfectly respectful and well behaved at school, talk back to their parents at home and disrespect them. Husbands and wives who take each other for granted, laying burdens on them and criticizing things that we would never admonish someone else for. Parents so willingly to tell other parents that it's not a problem when another child makes too much noise or runs wild, but they would never allow their own son or daughter to do the same without reprimand. Why is it that we take our frustrations out on those that we love?
If we are going to be Christians, whose mission is to show the world the love of Christ, then we should show it to everybody...to our friends...to our spouse...to our parents...to our children...as well as to strangers and acquaintances.
God tells us in Mark 29:29-31 that the greatest commandment is, "The Lord our God is Lord alone! You shall love your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. The second is this: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other commandment greater than these." Merriam-Webster defines our neighbor as not just "one living near another," but also as "one located near another" and "fellow man." Our neighbor is every person we come in contact with...the person across the street, the man in the car next to me, my own flesh and blood, my friend, my spouse. And God calls us to love each and every person as we would love Him.
And so I challenge everyone, including myself, to show the love of Christ to EVERYONE, not just the "strangers" we encounter each day, but also to make an extra effort to show understanding and patience to our loved ones. Especially, the ones who push our buttons :) Those are the people who see us at our best and worst...and if they see us showing the love of Christ to others, but not to them, what is that teaching them about being a Christian?...about us?
I know that we can't do this on our own, we are human...it is not always within our power to love unconditionally, but the scriptures tell us in Philippians 4:13 that we "can do all things through Christ who gives (us) strength." We need to take the time to think (and pray) before we speak.
To share the love of Christ...we need to show the love of Christ...in the world and in our homes.