1. Before you love someone else you need to love yourself first.
Jesus said, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” We may mistakenly think this means we need to love ourselves first. But that is not the point Jesus was making here. The emphasis Jesus was making was on seeking and doing good to anyone we come into contact with.
Dr. Townsend points out this important truth. “Love is an interpersonal, relational process. It occurs between one person and another, not inside one person. Love requires a subject and an object, and they are different from one another. We can no more love ourselves than we can tell our car to fill itself up with gas from the trunk.”
2. Love is based on an emotion.
Emotion is often a part of love, but love is not based on emotions. Rather love is a decision and a value. Love is simply seeking and doing the best for another. It is ongoing and intentional. “Its intent is for the betterment, safety, healing, growth, success, and responsible behavior of someone else. It is an others-oriented and others-focused value. It involves actions, words, feelings, and experiences that all come together in love.”
3. Love should always cause feelings of intimacy and closeness.
The feeling of closeness is not the cause but the effect of being a loving person. “Intimacy is sometimes a fruit, more than a root of love. In fact, when you love someone the right way, it ma have the opposite effect from closeness! Confronting someone who is being hurtful may cause conflict and distance. It may be painful.”
4. You shouldn’t waste your love on those who don’t love you back.
Jesus taught, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?” (Matthew 5:43-46 ESV)
It is important to understand that the Old Testament never taught that anyone should hate his or her enemy. Jesus is not correcting the Old Testament. Rather he is correcting the misinterpretations of the Old Testament.
Dr. Townsend says, “The more we require that the other person be lovable in order for us to care, the less loving we are.” And, “the less we require the person to be lovable, the more loving we are. When you can empathize and have compassion for someone who is selfish, unkind, or hurtful, you are truly becoming a loving person.”
5. Loving someone means you don’t question or put limits on someone’s behavior.
If love is seeking and doing to the best for someone else, then there are times when you need to confront and speak the truth in love.
“Do not confuse the grace of being loving with the license of being enabling. Loving people don’t put up with evil and foolishness. That is enabling and rescuing, and it never helps anyone. Instead, people who are truly loving will confront, limit, and quarantine people who consistently make wrong choices. Love seeks the best, but it does not enable bad behavior.”
6. Anger will destroy the love inside of me.
God is love. And yet we know that God gets angry. And it certainly doesn’t destroy the love he has for us. When God was among us in the flesh, he got angry and flipped over the tables of the money changers in the temple.
We need to know that anger is a God given emotion. “Like all emotions is serves as a signal to us, giving us information we need. Feelings are like warning alerts on your computer screen.”
“Sometimes we become angry because something good and valuable is in danger – such as a person we love, our hard-earned money, or our own feelings – and we want to take action to protect it. That is a good and helpful use of anger.”
“We also become angry because something we have no right to have in the first place is being taken from us. For example, our spouse had a bad day and can’t listen very attentively. Or our kids don’t want to got to the movies when we want to, preferring to be with their freinds that night. When we get angry because someone else has choices, our anger is self-centered and unhelpful. We need to let of this anger and move on from it.”
7. You can’t be a loving person and hate at the same time.
There are things we must hate if we are going to be a loving person. Hate can help us guard against things that would destroy love. If hatred is for protecting love, it is helpful. If it is about selfish, revenge, and hurting others it is destructive.
The book of Proverbs shares six things that God hates. “There are six things that the Lord hates, seven that are an abomination to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil, a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers.” (Proverbs 6:16-19 ESV)
I think it is safe to hate what God hates and still be a loving person.
So choose to be a loving person. Your family, your friends, your community, and your world need loving people like you.
(All quotes are taken from the book Loving People by Dr. John Townsend.
I would love to hear from you. Feel free to leave me a message or comment below.