What do we do when we are unloving, when we sin? I (Mark) use the term “unloving” for a reason. When we talk about sin we often mean failing to live up to some standard. Romans 3:23, for example, reminds us that, “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” I have always understood falling short of the glory as not measuring up to a certain standard—failing to be that good disciple, that good Christian I was supposed to be. In this mindset, the focus is on me struggling to reach a standard; it’s about my performance rather than its effect on people. So I refer to sin as being unloving or as harming other people.
Being unloving has more to do with mindset and heart than behavior. After the Lord began to teach me about the conditional mindset (believing that we are loved based on our performance, a standard, that we earn someone’s love by what we do, who we are, etc.), I realized how much I applied that mindset to those in my relationships. I would put value on them based upon what they did, or had, or how they measured up to my particular standard of value. I would either minimally love someone or flat out ignore them. Instead of showing them value, respect, or care, acknowledging them in my words or actions, I sometimes would not even see them!
With this mindset I had to ask the Lord to change my heart. And here is how He did it. The mindset of the Kingdom, the mindset of the Triune God is that we are supposed to see one another as belonging to Him, and therefore treat one another with honor and respect. It helped me to start noticing others and thinking about them in the way the Lord thought about them. I would see someone and think, “There is God’s treasured possession!” Or, “She is the apple of His eye,” or “He is God’s joy and His crown,” or “That person is His beloved.” And as I practiced thinking about people this way, I found my interactions with them began to change, even at a minimal level. I began to see other people as His and learned to value them in the way that He did.
Then the Lord helped me to see something really radical: all these other people actually belonged to me, too! The amazing thing about being a Christian is that we have the same Father and therefore belong to one another. Born of the same Spirit, God’s DNA has been deposited in each of us! So when I look at other people, I see them as my brothers or sisters and my love for them should not be based on what they have or do. Just like God’s love for me, my love for them transcends reason and understanding—I just love them because they are mine and belong to me even as they belong to God.
I think this idea is why Paul brought up in 1 Corinthians 12 the analogy of being the Body of Christ. When I look at other people I am to remember that they belong to the same body that I do. They are a part of my body, a part of the Lord’s body. Paul also told us that God appointed each one to have a specific function. That function is important, necessary, and purposeful. It does not matter what our function is; we just need to rest in the fact that the Lord created everyone with a specific function and therefore everyone is equally important.
Father, I pray you change our hearts and minds more and more each day so we may see one another as you see us—your beloved, your joy and crown, your treasured possessions. Transform us into the likeness of Jesus so we may love others as He has loved us. Amen!