By Katie Helmreich
A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.
John 13:34 (NIV)
Kids! Quit needling each other. Why can’t you keep your feet to yourselves? You know he doesn’t like it when you call him a “snorka borka.” Use his real name or don’t talk to him at all, please.
Look, if you all close your eyes, you won’t be able to tell who got which color straw/bowl/cup/plate/sock/shirt/thingamajig. No, I promise you it tastes the same no matter which cup it’s in.
Guys … please, for five minutes, just be NICE to each other!
Love one another… Yikes. What a command. The concept sounds great, but even nice verses like “love one another” can pack a heavy wallop when we swing them around at others. But do you remember what was going on when Jesus spoke these words?
In John 13 we find Jesus with His disciples in the upper room, on the night of His arrest. Jesus had knelt to wash their feet. Jesus had predicted the betrayal and allowed Judas to go about it. They were sharing the Passover, eating together, listening to Jesus as He spoke to them of what was coming next.
As Jesus prepared to give up His life, to pay our sin debt in full, Jesus reminded His disciples of His love for them. “Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.”
We aren’t capable of loving that way on our own. (Or at all for that matter.) But that’s not what Jesus said. He first loved us! Loved us with an abundant, deep, and faithful love that fills our hearts to overflowing! Jesus loves us so much that the love flows from Him, through us, to others.
Does your heart feel like it’s overflowing with God’s love today?
Chances are… it doesn’t.
We’re all struggling to acclimate to the changes around us. Political unrest, illness, ever-changing rules affecting how we shop, eat out, work, and go to school. Rifts between friends and family members as we struggle to find common ground amidst strong opinions. Hopes dashed on such a regular basis, we hesitate to make any plans at all.
But God’s love for you isn’t merely a feeling. God’s love for you doesn’t change. God’s love for you is a fact.
I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
Galatians 2:20 (NIV)
Sometimes it’s easy to feel the feelings, but they can slide right out from under us when we check the news or miss a snack. When we rediscover truth and dwell in it (“read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest”) we find ourselves on solid ground.
Facts can be verified. How do you know Jesus loves you? He saved you! He shows you daily. And He says so in Scripture. Over and over and over again.
When a wave of anxious or angry feeling threatens to sweep you out to sea, hold on to the fact of God’s love for you by experiencing divine messages of love!
At our house, we’re all too familiar with how big those angry and anxious feelings can be. Often simply reading a Bible verse isn’t enough to tow us back in from stormy emotional seas. When the waves of emotion are crashing and minds swirling it’s best to write. When we sit down to write out a verse from Scripture, God’s Word engages our whole brain. Writing gives us a reason to loosen balled fists and relax tense shoulders. It gives us an opportunity to see our rescue line materializing on the paper in front of us as we dwell in truth. One letter, one word, one phrase at a time God’s Word guides us along a path back to peace.
Gathering verses we’ve written creates a tangible reminder of God’s love and of the fact that, even when emotions have threatened to overcome us, Jesus has always drawn us back to Him.
It’s hard to speak kindly, to wait patiently, and to listen to understand instead of jumping to take offense. It’s so much harder to love one another when we are having trouble remembering how much God loves us! When our hearts feel empty, anger and anxiety seem to be all that we have left to give.
God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.
Romans 5:5 (NIV)
Our hearts aren’t empty. We are filled to overflowing with God’s love! Sometimes we just need to be reminded. When the truth of God’s love pours over us that anger and fear are washed away!
The number of verses about God’s love and faithfulness are myriad. As part of a Visual Faith project I created a while back, I gathered a Scripture writing list of 28 verses (one for each day in February). The project includes directions for simple 3D hearts that are a great way to display or decorate written verses.
I’ve never done the project with my kids, but in the next few weeks we’re going to work on creating a visual reminder of God’s love for each of us. My prayer is that each will grow in confidence in their true and complete security in God’s love.
For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
Ephesians 3:14-19 (NIV)
I’d love to see some of that love overflowing between siblings (and spouses). Saying “be nice!” hasn’t helped. I think instead I’ll work on saying “God loves you, and so do I” more often. We’ll continue to use God’s Word as our life line in times of big emotion, but we’ll also spend time talking about how much God loves us during the times in-between.
Do I expect to hear, “Because God loves me, I’d be happy to give up my seat by the window”? No. But I know that God’s grace will continue to cover us all. I know that Jesus loves us and that we are in His hands as each of us continues to mature and grow. I know that we will be blessed through the action of dwelling in Scripture together. I know that seeing the overwhelming evidence of His love for us might just help each of us remember the fact and feeling of His love pouring into our hearts!
Finally, brothers and sisters, rejoice! Strive for full restoration, encourage one another, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you.
2 Corinthians 13:11 (NIV)
Jesus loves you. No matter what.
If you’re having a tough time remembering right now, consider writing down verses that speak His love to you. You can create your own or search online for Scripture writing schedules with a verse per day. You may find it helpful to write down or print out several verses and put them in a jar to pull out when things threaten to overwhelm you. You might collect these verses in a notebook, on a bulletin board, or hanging from a garland. You could even just toss them in recycling after the focusing exercise. But reading, marking, learning, and inwardly digesting will bring the fact of God’s love to your heart and mind.
May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you.
1 Thessalonians 3:12 (NIV)