I believe so much of life is just about redefining the priority and positioning of love in our daily lives. We are told to love God with our entire beings and to love our neighbor as ourselves. But how do we walk that love out in a healthy way?
How do we know WHEN we are loving well?
The reality is that we all love something. God is love and we were created to love. Loving is in our DNA. We can’t help but give our heart’s devotion to something—or many things. But where and how we choose to love is where the battlefield and many misunderstandings lie.
Love can be mismanaged, misused and manipulated. We can love others in unhealthy ways. We can even love God wrong, depending on our motives.
Motivation matters in love.
I’m sure we all know people who tend toward extremes and who love others in unhealthy ways. People love others for all sorts of reasons—usually to meet a deep need inside themselves that they may not even know exists.
We are all motivated throughout life by our needs.
That is why it is so important to pursue the inner healing of our hearts. The more that we receive God’s cleansing love in the channels of our hearts, the purer the love flow that then pours out onto others.
The sequence of loving is so key to that pure flow.
God actually gave us a roadmap of how to love long ago:
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind…and You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
We are told to love God first BEFORE we are encouraged to love others. And then when we are exhorted to love others, it is highlighted to do so in the same way that we already love ourselves. This adds a hidden second to this 3-part sequence:
Love God. Love ourselves. Love others.
But wait…because we cannot ever give something unless we have first received it, we can actually look at this commandment as a 4-part love sequence:
Receive God’s love. Love God. Love ourselves. Love others.
He has already told us that we love Him because He FIRST loved us. We learn even as babies that receiving comes before giving. A newborn baby can’t feed or clothe himself. He has to first learn to receive way before he is ever able to give back to the world.
God uses these natural principles to mirror His unseen spiritual realities. These parallels are supposed to synonymously teach us about God’s ways as we also figure out our way through this natural world.
We were designed to receive His love WAY before we ever pour it out again. Unfortunately, many of us were not loved well by our parents or other caregivers, and that polluted perspective on loving transfers over to how we expect to receive love from God.
But if we never learn to receive God’s love for ourselves, we will always love others with a handicap. We cannot give something to someone that we haven’t already received ourselves. Natural love will always fall short.
Until we receive, we have nothing to give. Until we learn to receive God’s love, we will be loving others from a place of lack rather than fullness.
So we start the journey of loving well by first attending to our own relationship with Love Incarnate. We choose to let God love us. We purposefully invite Him in with this goal of letting Him love us. It doesn’t matter how long we have already known Him; God always wants to fill us with more of His love.
God is a gentleman and will never force Himself on us—but He is always waiting at the door. We need to let Him in because we desperately need the FULLNESS of His love to empower and bring life to our hearts.
Receiving His love is not a one-time event when we first meet God. It is meant to be a lifestyle. We need to have the expectation that God is going to continually douse us with His unconditional AGAPE love.
His love is a consuming and contagious fire.
It is in receiving the fullness of this love that we then transform into holy-love machines. His agape love becomes the catalytic force that empowers us for all other loving. Without this catalytic love propelling us forward, the embers of our own natural love will eventually burn out.
Loving that flows from our spirit is different than loving from our natural strength.
The world doesn’t teach us healthy ways to love and be loved. The world teaches self-indulgence, using others, and giving in order to get. So we have to partner with the SOURCE of love in order to learn how to love from our spirit.
Sometimes God will lead us into seasons of time alone with Him where we can reconnect our damaged receiving lines and rediscover how to receive His love. Don’t rush these times. Allow yourself to be fully saturated and immersed.
The deeper the reservoirs of His love that take residence in our hearts, the deeper the places in Him that we are then able to lead others.
Being able to receive from Him is crucial to our entire life’s journey. It isn’t a luxury; it’s a NECESSITY. Everything else in our lives will be built from this very basic spiritual building block. He IS our source for all things. If we don’t look to Him, we will forever be looking to man or stuff to fulfill our longings and needs. And they never will.
If you haven’t figured this out yet, it’s crucial to take the time to do so. Focus on the first part of God’s love sequence. Develop your foundation of God’s love first—it is the basis of all other loving.
Learn to receive His love.
Let Him love you.
“We love him because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19).
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind…and You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:37-39).
(Stay tuned for Part Two of How Do You Love?)