“I’m the only kid in our town who doesn’t fight with his brother,” Peck declared to my friend. “The secret is to love each other.”
“And be thirteen years apart,” I whispered to her. But later as I thought over the exchange, I realized that his innocent statement held a deep truth. Loving each other is the secret to getting along with others. The second part of Philippians 2:2 commands that we do so.
“Then make me truly happy by agreeing wholeheartedly with each other, loving one another, and working together with one mind and purpose.”
However, loving others is one of those things that is easier said than done. A variety of people comprise the body of Christ. We click with some of those people right away. Others, not so much. Differing backgrounds and interests make connecting difficult. If we are being honest, some people are down-right annoying. How are we supposed to love someone we don’t even like?
Love is Not a Feeling
Everyone asked has a different explanation of the word “love.” It certainly has different connotations depending on the context. It could describe the relationship with our spouse or with peanut butter. Perhaps that’s one of the reasons why it can be hard to love others. We’re not exactly sure how to apply the term. It’s certainly hard to view your neighbor, who mows his lawn at 6:30 AM on a Saturday, the same way you view your child.
Since this passage is directed at the church, let’s look at how the Bible defines the word. I Corinthians contains the “love” chapter. Here is a portion:
Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance. (I Corinthians 13:4-7)
You might notice that this passage doesn’t use the word “feel.” According to the Bible, love is not an accumulation of warm, fuzzy emotions, but instead a series of actions. You can be patient with the person who is always late. You can be kind to the person with awkward social skills. You can be polite to the senior citizen, who tells you the same story over and over. You can love someone you may not like. When understood as an action, loving others becomes much easier.
It’s Not about You
Loving others also means putting others’ need on par with your own. In fact, Jesus related that as part of the greatest commandment. “A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ “(Matthew 22:39) In Matthew 7, the concept is worded this way: Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you.
You don’t need to feel love for someone to treat them with the same respect you desire. Instead of jumping to the front of the line at the pot luck, show love by letting others go before you. Sit by the air conditioner vent, so someone else can have the warm spot. If you think about it, many conflicts in the church come from people trying to get their own way—This is the music I like, this is the curriculum I like, this is the way I like to run a meeting. Philippians 2:3 urges, “Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves.” Showing love means asking, “What do you like?”
A couple of years back, I drew a woman for secret sister, who I only knew by name. I had no feelings for her because I didn’t know her. Through the weeks of selecting gifts tailored to this woman, I developed affection for her. That’s another secret of loving others, do the actions and the emotions follow. If there’s someone in your congregation you have trouble liking, love them actively. Be patient and kind; put their needs ahead of your own. After a while, you may find your feelings have changed.
It turns out Peck was 100% correct when he said the secret was to love each other. When we act in love and put others’ first, we fulfill Christ’s words, “Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.”