When I came to know God as a teenager, I kept hearing a phrase in Christian circles: “Love is a choice.” I was told our emotions and situations aren’t always going to cause us to feel like loving others or God, but we just need to push through and do it. So, I thought I should just grit my teeth and do it even when I didn’t feel like it. I was also told, “You don’t have to like them, you just have to love them.” This became a phrase that I would find myself advising others with, but never really believing it to be true. Sometimes we find ourselves saying these “good” phrases out of habit, without stopping to think about the implications. In this light, to love is a begrudging, irritating obligation.
The problem with this was that I would constantly find myself falling short.
I couldn’t muster up enough love within myself. I would regularly enter a cycle of trying my best, getting it wrong and feeling disappointed in myself. How could I possibly love anyone by gritting my teeth and choosing it? I started to wonder if there was something truly wrong with me. I thought I maybe I just wasn’t as good of a Christian as others.
Then I read a verse in the Bible that caught my attention, that sent my stubbornly-set ways flying out of the window. “God is love.” Simple, and yet I’d completely ignored the meaning of it. It doesn’t actually say that ‘I am love.’ Love is in God’s nature, not mine- it certainly doesn’t come naturally to me. As I read that verse, I realised that I actually don’t have the ability to love out of myself. I can only love anyone because of God’s Spirit in me. “We love because God first loved us.” Forcing it or mustering it up will always fall short and never last. On the other hand, God’s love endures forever.
Everything God does is out of love and His nature has come to dwell inside of us. We are continually being transformed into God’s likeness by His Spirit. I now know that the only choice I have to make is to be led (in love) by His Spirit.
Loving others shouldn’t be a stressful or pressured thing; it is an area where we can rely on God to help us.
When an apple tree bears an apple, it certainly doesn’t stress about it. It just happens because that’s what it was always intended to do. We were created out of love, in the image of our loving God, with the purpose of loving. We can do it in freedom, without worrying, through the Spirit of God within us and by knowing God’s purpose for us.
I no longer view loving others as something I have to do alone. Loving others is actually a joy for me. I not only draw closer to God’s heart through doing it, but I also reflect Him to others by loving them too.
by Lorna Kidd
YWAM Newcastle Staff
Lorna (UK) has been on staff with YWAM Newcastle since August 2015 and is currently working in our Student Communications Department. She loves spontaneous adventures, people, soccer, and can be often found with a cup of tea in her hand.
This post is the first in a blog series on the fruits of the Spirit by YWAM Newcastle staff and alumni. In the series, each author shares how a specific fruit of the Spirit has impacted their understanding of God’s character. Through these blog posts, we hope to encourage you to look for examples of the fruits of the Holy Spirit in your own life.