Devotion #168

If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.

1 John 4:20-21 ESV

This verse sums up such a core part of what we are supposed to do as followers of Christ. Everything God calls us to do while we are here on earth as ambassadors of His Kingdom can be found in these words. We are to love and we are to love unconditionally. This is the way God loves us. It’s hard to understand what it means to love someone without condition because we live in a world that has trained us that our love must be conditional. We’ve all been taught it’s okay to set expectations on our relationships, and if the person fails to meet them, we’re allowed to end that relationship. There simply are no horizontal relationships without condition, and sadly, marriage has some of our greatest expectations. 

Yet, God loves us without condition, and this is how He calls us to love others. He loves us despite the thousands of times we fail to meet His expectation. There is nothing we can do to separate ourselves from Him. It’s hard for us to even comprehend that kind of love, much less put it into action with those in our lives.

Love must come first in what we do if we are to live out a life that honors God. This verse reminds us that our relationships don’t belong to us. The world has taught us to look at our relationships as something we control. We think they are meant purely for our enjoyment, for our benefit, but then we miss the point of them. When we miss the purpose of our relationships, we will struggle in the most important relationships God has placed in our lives.

God created us to be relational beings. From the very beginning, God created us to live in community—that means the relationships He allows in our lives have a transformational purpose. Even those difficult ones. Even those with people who are not believers or only acting as believers—they all serve a greater purpose in our lives.

Relationships serve a redemptive purpose in our lives. It’s easy to sit on our own throne of judgment and point out the wrongs of others, and think about all the ways that the other person needs to change for God, but the reality is that relationship exists to change us.

That means we’re left with the question of how. How does he want to change me with this extremely difficult relationship in my life? The answer is here—He wants me to put on the face of Christ. He wants me to look more like Him to this person. He wants me to sound more like Him in my tone of voice, to be more like Him as I react, and He often wants me to do that to a person who doesn’t seem very deserving at face value. He wants me to be more like Him.

As challenging as this is, I know it is only through His transforming grace that it is possible. When I look at the person I used to be, and how He has transformed me through the most challenging relationships in my life, I am absolutely amazed at His power and His grace. The relationships don’t necessarily change—the other person doesn’t always change, but He has changed me. So here is the hard truth as applied to our marriages—our goal should never be to change our spouses. We may desire for them to be a different person, to treat us differently, to respond differently, to act differently. If our goal in our interactions with them is to change them, if our fervent prayers are to change our spouses, then we’ve missed the point. The relationship exists to change you. Instead of spending any more time dwelling on how you wish your spouse was different, spend time with the Word of God today and ask Him how He wants to change you with this relationship.

Press on ~ you are loved 💗

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