Lessons of Love
By Maria Fontaine
I went through a period a few years ago when I threw myself into my work like never before. Most of my coworkers were away at lengthy meetings, so I had a lot of time to myself and worked almost from the time I woke up until the time I went to bed.
There was a newer member of our staff, Matthew, who was helping me with paperwork while the others were gone. I dictated my work notes to him as much as possible because I knew that face-to-face communications would lead to lengthier discussions and I was determined not to be sidetracked.
A week before my coworkers were to arrive home, Jesus spoke to me. Matthew was part of my staff, yet I’d never had any in-depth contact with him. This was a golden opportunity to get to know him better. When the others got back, there would be many more demands on my time.
“But Lord,” I protested, “You know how big my workload is and how it takes all of my time and strength. Please don’t make me get sidetracked!” I felt very strongly about it.
However, after much prayer, I came to the conclusion that it was the Lord’s will for me to have more interaction with Matthew, and I invited him to my office to talk. I ended up doing most of the talking, however, including telling him at length about how important my work was and how spending this time with him was a sacrifice. I didn’t even realize how arrogant I was acting!
During the week that followed I began to see that this time with Matthew was mostly for my benefit. Jesus started zeroing in on me and exposing some places where I was not on target in my thinking. He finally managed to get through to me and show me that I needed to start living His love. He wanted me to practice what I was preaching. If I didn’t love the person right in front of me, how could I, through my writing, love others from afar?
He wanted me to set aside my schedule and take time to learn firsthand the importance of the individual. Even though my work was important, it was not so important that I couldn’t stop and care for the individual.
I also became aware that I had a rather condescending attitude toward Matthew. Jesus admonished me through the verse, “No longer do I call you servants, but I have called you friends” (John 15:15). The application was obvious: “Be a true friend to Matthew and stop this condescending attitude.”
Jesus not only exposed my self-righteousness, but He also showed me how my attitude toward some people—in this case Matthew—was off because my perception of them was tainted by negative things I had heard about them in the past. When we label people with a certain problem, we usually fail to take into account that they may have made great progress in overcoming that problem and changed. Needless to say, I felt very bad for having misjudged this dear man.
Jesus taught me several major lessons that week.
He helped me straighten out my priorities. I was focused on my service, when He wanted my love first of all; He wanted me to show Him love by showing love to His loved one, Matthew. “Inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me” (Matthew 25:40).
He wanted me to get more in touch with people, and He reminded me of the importance of getting to know people through listening to them. We can have much more understanding and sympathy for people when we take the time to find out what they’ve been through to get where they are now.
He taught me the importance of seeking Him to find out how He sees people and situations. He helped me understand the importance of not jumping to conclusions, as well as the hurtfulness of labeling people based on their past problems. He reminded me of the need to look at people’s hearts and try to understand their motives. Often what we see is how far people still have to go, and we fail to see the much greater distance that they have come already. This is what the Lord looks at and what we need to learn to look at too, if we are going to see people as He does and love them with His love.
He worked on me and my self-righteousness. It was wonderful practice in honestly sharing my own failings and in being willing to be humbled in that way, which I finally realized I needed. I must not lose sight of the fact that I am often guilty of the same faults and shortcomings that I see in others, or worse.
So as you can see, what I had initially considered a waste of time turned out to be a valuable time of learning. The Lord certainly got a lot of mileage out of that week through the many lessons He taught me—things that He couldn’t have taught me any other way! And as always, the most important lesson was love, that we should have His love for others. If we fail to love, we fail Him, we fail others, and we fail ourselves. If we don’t see people through the eyes of love, then we don’t see them accurately. And the only way we can have that kind of love is to ask the Lord for it.
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