Giving And Receiving Love
How many times have we tried to make an imbalanced relationship work? How many efforts to change other people have failed? In doing this, many of us bypassed the first two ingredients of God’s system of love: Putting God’s love first and loving ourselves. Since that left us empty and with so many needs, when we enter into a relationship, we put an enormous number of expectations on the relationship, as well as on the person or persons in the relationship. Not only do we expect it to satisfy our need for love and acceptance, unknowingly we expect it to replace God!
We are only intended to be conduits of God’s love, not consumers of it. We don’t have the capability to produce love on our own since it is a byproduct of God’s Spirit. His love in us nourishes us and allows us the ability to properly give love away! It is life-giving, not because of the vessel that transports it, but because of the source that provides it.
Interdependent, Not Identity Dependent
God designed relationships to be fulfilling, satisfying, and mutually beneficial. He designed us to need each other and love each other to a degree, meaning we are created to be “interdependent” with others. In interdependence, we are connected and even intimate with those around us, but at no point do we lose our own identity. In interdependent relationships, we are not in a state of needing, but one of giving. When we link with others who are willing and ready to meet our needs, harmony, wholeness, and true agape love bind our hearts together. Our needs actually give others around us the opportunity to pour into us. Their needs allow us the same opportunity to pour into them.
We can only become true givers when we have God’s love in us. Then we become carriers of that love, not consumers. We can offer it to others who need the same love, hope, and acceptance that God has given us.
Love Can Sometimes Be Difficult to Receive
Being on the receiving end of love can be very difficult for some of us, at times even humiliating. Some might rather go without than to have someone help meet their need.
Internalized shame and our self-reliant nature (pride) often finds it humiliating to receive others’ gestures of love. Oddly, at the same time, we can be overly needy in other relationships. We might look for people to meet the needs that only God can fill. One of the sweetest and most satisfying experiences in life is being the receiver of true expressions of agape love.
Encountering Real Love
The way you love others right now is a direct reflection of your current belief system regarding love. It also reflects your love of God. God doesn’t require us to give out anything He hasn’t already provided to us. Therefore, you can only give out God’s agape love, in its true form, by receiving it first. We must learn what it means to walk by grace. Moment by moment, day by day, we need to focus on how God loves us, meditate on His promises to us, and establish a new foundation based entirely and only on Him.
As Paul teaches in Philippians 3:7-10, we convert our unhealthy love system to the love system God intends in the following ways:
- We must have our hearts broken to self, including self-efforts, self-benefit, and self-focus.
- We must realize our deep need for God to love and accept us, live in us, and receive His grace and forgiveness.
- We must discard our outward acts by which we try to prove our worthiness to self, others, and God.
- We must adopt a new system where we find our worthiness in Christ alone.
- We must personally identify with Jesus Christ in order to “know Him” and “be one with Him,” including His sufferings, His death, and His resurrection power.
The radical, life-changing result of this is:
- We experience the type of love that will suffer and sacrifice for the benefit of someone else in order to accomplish the will of God and for them to experience the agape love of Jesus.
- We are able to die to self, including the selfish intents of our heart. Rest assured, we don’t die to the authentic person God created us to be. That is our unique, our inborn temperament.
- We are anointed with the power of the Holy Spirit to live our life through Him – this is the same power that resurrected Jesus Christ from the dead.
The truth of God’s love means little or nothing in itself if we never activate it in our lives. We must receive it and open it like a gift before we can use it. We need a personal encounter with Jesus where He reveals truth to us. Without this, it’s nearly impossible for what we know in our minds to be translated into what we deeply believe in our hearts. Lysa TerKeurst, another of my favorite authors, says in her book Uninvited:
Only when we seek to apply God’s revelations to our situations will we experience transformation. In this transaction, we must be able to stand before God and realize we are empty handed, bringing our “empty cup” and acknowledging in His presence that we need His love, even though we have nothing to give Him for it. We ask Him to do for us what we cannot do for ourselves.
We simply stand in His presence, allowing Him to mentor, guide, teach, counsel, instruct, nurture, comfort, and heal us. We don’t do anything other than simply make ourselves available to Him and learn to trust and obey Him. We find that in Him, we become His love. This is the mystery of God, and it is the longing we all have in our hearts. This love then translates and spills over into our relationship with others and within ourselves.
The Test of Love
How can we identify the presence of authentic, agape love in our life? The Bible tells us that when it is operating in our lives properly, it will be evident (see 1 John 3:16-19; 4:9-21). These remarkable scriptures tell us that love is action oriented, not feeling oriented. They explain that we are to love just as Christ loves us – sacrificially – even if it hurts or costs us. When we truly find God’s love, it transforms our heart. It helps us properly see ourselves through God’s perspective, and eventually pours itself out to others.
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