Jesus never said that outsiders will know we are His disciples by our friendliness.
Friendliness is great. But in a capitalist country, every company that stays open year-to-year has to learn at least some level of friendliness in order to keep your business. It’s true that if a person shows up to your church and people aren’t friendly, that’s obviously a problem. But as followers of Jesus, we should also not see our church’s friendliness as some kind of reason for feeling impressive.
Instead, Jesus said that the world will know we are His disciples by our love (John 13:35). And by love, Jesus was referring to something much bigger than mere politeness or neighborliness. The love which Jesus taught and lived was sacrificial. It went the distance with people who were tough to love. Jesus-style love was determined to be more stubborn in giving out love than the hostile world was in throwing back hate.
This stubborn love is most definitely not the kind of love that comes naturally.
“This stubborn love is most definitely not the kind of love that comes naturally.”
This isn’t the bubbliness that comes from being the extrovert in the room or the loyalty that comes from being one of the gang. Rather, it’s a love that must be learned and relearned and recommitted to. It’s the kind of thing that outlasts the many experiences of rejection you meet out there and the many experiences of resentment you feel in here.
So as Christians who want to love big, how do we start cultivating and encouraging this kind of love to grow? Especially when the only native thing to grow in such time-starved schedules and individualistic cultures are cactuses that warn people to admire from a distance and not get too close?
Well, based on many years of learning and relearning how much I need God, my suggestion is that we pray. In fact, there are four prayers in this 4-part series which build on each other and, when I pray them, I find myself finally growing in love. Here’s the first prayer that I want to encourage you to pray with me.
A Prayer that I See God as God
Again, all four of the prayers we’re going to look at in this series build on each other so that, by the end, we are poised for serious growth in big love. Here it is: First, we pray that God would open our eyes so that we could see God as God.
Seems fairly basic. After all, seeing God as God sounds about as straightforward as seeing a chair as a chair. Yet, if we’re honest, there are often times we’ll find ourselves seeing God as something less than God.
Often this happens when we make something else more important than God in our hearts and minds. It can also happen when we read God’s Word and think we know better. It can also happen in the many moments in which we find ourselves, by our choices, practically denying God’s goodness or God’s wisdom, as we think to ourselves, God’s way isn’t as good or wise as the way that I’m going to take. So, this first prayer might seem basic, but it’s the kind of basic that we find ourselves needing constantly—kind of like air, water, and food.
“Seeing God as God sounds about as straightforward as seeing a chair as a chair. Yet, if we’re honest, there are often times we’ll find ourselves seeing God as something less than God.”
So, there you have it. I encourage you to join with me in praying this first prayer.
God, open my eyes so that I can see You as God.
Seeing God as God is crucial to so much of our maturity and, as we will see in future articles in this series, it’s also fundamental to our ability to love big.