Sitting in the coffee shop, sipping ice tea on a hundred-degree day across from a new friend, I was reminded again of Proverbs 27:17: As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another. We talked about love. The topic of love has been on my mind lately.
Over social media, people use the Bible to try to emotionally blackmail another person to agree with or to comply with choices the other party is not in agreement with. This isn’t love. Love is determined by the motivation of the speaker. The Bible uses many examples on what loving your neighbor looks like. Then, you learn about the different Greek words that describe the different kind of loves that are mentioned in the Bible, like Agape.
Got Questions defines Agape love as that which, “…involves faithfulness, commitment, and an act of the will.” They use 1 Corinthians 13:1-13 as an example. I have even heard Agape described as sacrificial love in other articles.
The Five Love Languages by Dr. Gary Chapman, published in 1992, on how to express love “…in your spouse’s language”, reminded me that each of us has a love language and won’t recognize love unless expressed to us in that language. It doesn’t only apply to spouses, but friends, neighbors, and even strangers. If we want to love others like Jesus, following His example is important, and understanding what the Bible says about it is necessary. It’s also important to understand who your neighbor, friend, or even the stranger is when trying to love them. Social media makes that easy (and hard) to do.
I recently read a Tweet about a man who reconciled with his friend after a four-year shut down in communication. The original argument was over politics. He wrote at the end of his tweet, “FOUR years lost.”
Loving others is not easy, and it takes sacrifice, like Jesus. When you Google “love your neighbor scripture”, this link comes up. When you read the Bible in context and you see all the love verses together, Clarity happens, and the truth confronts your spirit. Because you love the Lord, obedience is the next step. There’s nothing natural about it, either.
How do we love our neighbors, friends, and strangers when both face-to-face and online relationships are tough right now?
- Count Others More Significant Than Yourselves (Philippians 2:3): The relationship comes before your preferences. As a leader, I am learning John 13:1-17, when Jesus washed his disciples feet. Yes, I want to be that kind of leader, that kind of friend, and that kind of person. The word honor comes to mind. I want to honor others before myself, and this can be done without sacrificing my values or the relationship. In practical ways, some suggestions might be to ignore thoughtless online remarks, let another person know privately or publicly that you prayed for their request, be a good guest instead of a demanding one, and always give more than you receive out of the sheer joy in being generous. Look for ways online and face-to-face where you can serve a need or even a want. Everyone likes to receive that unexpected card or gift in the mail. Don’t be too proud to pick up a broom.
- Unity for The Gospel: In reading Philippians 4, two women had a quarrel in the church. Paul implored them to, “…be of the same mind in the Lord.” Both women needed to recall that the Gospel that they had in common was more important than the quarrel. Much work can be accomplished if our differences can be resolved. What gifts were we given to serve the Lord? How has the Lord prepared us for the work He has for us? It goes on to say in the chapter to “Show a gentle disposition to all men” (online and face-to-face).
- Learn About Your Friends. Lurk on their profiles. Study your friends. Learn about how they need to be loved. For some, it is gifts. For others, acts of service. Respond accordingly. How can you use your own social media to help them rejoice? How can you practically help them? Have no agenda in the realm of friendship. Invest time in online and face-to-face conversations. Where possible, avoid phone calls, and instead use video calls so you can see each other’s facial expressions.
- Speak Truth if You Have the Relationship: We don’t have the right to speak into someone else’s life unless that permission is given. Build the friendship first, and you build trust. Cherish that trust. Put the Gospel first above any other “truth”. Respect the other person in your choice of words and tone. It’s advisable online to use emojis for facial expressions.
- Forgive. The divide and anger are so thick one could cut it and serve it on a plate. Forgiveness is essential for our souls, to be reconciled with each other, and it is also a process, depending on the sore point. But, it is worth the effort to forgive, if not for our own sakes.
This love thing is really a struggle. If we ask ourselves, “What would Jesus do?”, we must know the answer to that was: the cross.