Editors note: For the month of November, our theme is Loving Big. The Bible tells us in 1 John 4:7-8, “Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is a child of God and knows God. Bug anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love.” This month, you will hear from the ladies of our church about how to show God’s love to others.
Loving big. In I John 3 and 4, the disciple who calls himself the one that Jesus loved gives his readers much counsel on how and why they should love:
“Anyone who does not live righteously and does not love other believers does not belong to God.” I John 3:10
“If we love our brothers and sisters who are believers, it proves that we have passed from death to life.” I John 3:14
“Dear children, let’s not merely say that we love each other; let us show the truth by our actions.” I John 3:18
“Dear friends, since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other.” I John 4:11
My favorite, though, is I John 4:16: “We know how much God loves us, and we have put our trust in His love.” In theory, all these admonitions from John make sense to me, and I know that I really am called to love not only fellow believers, but Jesus even goes so far as to tell me to love my enemies! (Luke 6:35). I have found, though, in my own life, that there are obstacles to loving big.
One of the big ones is rejection.
I was a baby when I was adopted into my family. My adoptive parents raised me and treated me as their very own, and I knew I was adopted from as far back as I can remember. It wasn’t a big deal, even though my mom gave birth to my younger brother. That was my family. One day when we were kids, my little brother said, “Your mom and dad didn’t want you, so they gave you away.” Well, I told my mom, and my brother got in trouble for saying it, but that stuck in my head. Those words introduced me to a spirit of rejection that I battled for most of my life, and which still tries to rise up on occasion.
This spirit of rejection can be caused or enhanced because of many life circumstances: abuse by a parent or loved one, death of a parent or someone dear, negative words spoken by teachers or caregivers, rejection by a group at school or by a boyfriend or girlfriend, failure at a job or school, divorce; the list goes on and on. As a person experiences these things as a part of life, she may begin to believe that God has also rejected her. Rejection also has self-fulfilling consequences. A person feels rejected, so she pushes people away, afraid to get close to anyone, and she often causes the cycle to continue. She pushes people so far by her words and actions that they reject her, so it’s confirmed that no one wants anything to do with her.
Rejection causes me to focus on hiding myself, when love wants me to reach out to someone who is lonely, who is hurting, who needs someone to listen and to pray. Rejection says to me, “Who do you think you are?” Love says, “Who can Holy Spirit touch through me today?” Rejection’s focus is self-protection, while love’s is ministry. Rejection is always looking inward. Love is always looking outward.
It’s clear that a person can’t go around living in this rejection mode and still fulfill the law of love, right? In Philippians, Paul tells his readers, “Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.” (Philippians 2:4). The only way I’ve found to move forward is to realize that I AM accepted in the Beloved (in Jesus). (Ephesians 1:6). The more I receive the love, and believe the love that HE has for me, the more I can open my arms to the people around me and love THEM. It’s scary, at times, because there is always a risk that people will reject me, but Jesus never will reject you or me. We can love despite the risk.
“Whoever walks constantly afraid of punishment has not reached love’s perfection. Our love for others is our grateful response to the love God first demonstrated to us.” I John 4:18-19
“Afraid of punishment” means “fear is suspicious” in the Aramaic. We can overcome our suspicious fear of rejection and love BIG, knowing that we are safely in the family of God, no matter what.
We would like to thank Sheri Warren for writing this blog post.