Confession: there are times when I find it very difficult to love those around me – perhaps not everyone around me, but undoubtedly some. I find my thoughts drifting to how poorly they have treated me. My heart is filled with pride upon consideration of how undeserving they are of my affections and grace.

Upon realization of these arrogant thought patterns, I often attempt to change my attitude. I remind myself of God’s command to love one another, to serve and do good even to my enemies, and especially my brothers and sisters in Christ. I challenge my mind to consider the good in those I am having difficulty loving – to be thankful for them and in all circumstances.

Still, even these good-natured efforts seem futile at times – the attempts to serve and love out of obedience seem to continue to come up short. Finally, it hit me …

These are not wrong or bad approaches, but I believe left alone, are missing a – in fact the – key element.

Listen to what the apostle John says in 1 John 4:

This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.

God is love.

We love because He first loved us.

Spend some time really meditating on these truths.

God is the Originator, the Creator, the Perfector of love. Love comes from God. I am able to love only because of God’s love for me. To truly love, I must know – really know, and experience – the love of God.

And how do I know His love? Through His Son. When I look at the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, I have a clear picture of love.

Love is a sacrifice. Love is undeserved. Love is redemptive. Love is preemptive.

These phrases and ideas – they are not new; in fact, they are some of the most repeated realities in Christian culture today. But have they become nearly encouraging taglines or feel-good lingo and somehow ceased to have the life-changing impact intended?

God loved me when I was living in direct opposition to Him and His truth. He loved me, even before I accepted His love. He loved me by making the impossible possible – true life, both now and for eternity – something I could never do myself. He loved me by giving Himself and allowing Himself to be limited, shamed, mistreated, and even taken advantage of, that I may have life – that you may have life. This is love.

I cannot conjure up feelings of love; I cannot empower myself to live a life of love. Yes, love is a choice. But it begins by choosing to rightly understand and live in the love of God.

Yes, love is a choice. But it begins by choosing to rightly understand and live in the love of God.

I know that when I more deeply and clearly understand the reality of God’s love in Christ, I can’t help but love others. When I struggle in this, I have lost sight of God. I have forgotten who I am – who I was – and the love I live in because of God.

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