Coming from a society where it is much easier to receive than give, I took a different stand. I learned at an early age that if you are passionate about something, your actions had better show it. One of my greatest passions has always been people. Even before I really knew Jesus, He had been working on my heart. For as long as I could remember, I've said that I just want to love people. Simple. Being loved? It didn't come as easily for me.
I don't have much of an explanation for the reasoning behind my struggle with this, but it took me traveling to the other side of the world to find a solution. I have always considered myself a pretty secure person. I know my identity is found in Christ. I know God loves me. I know that I am His and that the greatest thing I will ever be is His daughter. I also took pride in being independent, though. I didn't care what anyone had to say about me. My identity was not found in that. I didn't need attention from anyone. I didn't need affection from anyone. I didn't need people to ever know that I didn't have my crap together. I never wanted to put that weight on someone else's shoulders. So I kept my mouth shut and my mask on with my back to God's love. This was all okay for me. I just wanted to love and worship Him. To love His people. I never wanted anything in return. God doesn't work like that.
I cannot count the amount of times I have heard I Corinthians 13:4-8 in church sermons. I knew it was true, but it hadn't yet been resolved with me. While sitting in a lecture during my Discipleship Training School (DTS), our speaker for the week had us open up to that exact verse. We read it out loud once, then the room sat in still silence for a moment until she told us to read it again. This time, she wanted us to replace the word "love" with "God," considering I John 4:8 declares that "God is love". It sounds like the most simple concept in the world, but in that moment, it all began to make sense.
God is patient. God is kind. God does not envy, God does not boast, God is not proud. God does not dishonor others, is not self-seeking, is not easily angered, God keeps no record of wrongs. God does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. God always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
The world today is so obsessed with finding love. We reject the love of God while looking for love in the most absurd places and the worst of forms. Why is it so hard for us to realize that He would rather die than live without us? Somewhere along the way, we became fearful of vulnerability. The world glamorizes independence… the idea that you don't need anyone but yourself. That means that at the end of the day, all that you have is you. Don't fall too hard or jump too high. Don't get hurt. Love your neighbor, but don't be loved. That's how you get hurt, right? We are shamed for having emotions, or even worse, allowing people to see them. But once you accept that God is perfect love and wants to give that to you, he takes you even a step deeper. You can't forget that "God created mankind in His own image." (Genesis 1:27) This means:
We are patient. We are kind. We do not envy, do not boast, and are not proud. We do not dishonor others, are not self-seeking, are not easily angered, we keep no record of wrongs. We do not delight in evil, but rejoice with the truth. We always protect, always trust, always hope, and always persevere.
We are fearfully and wonderfully made. The King that is more powerful than death, stronger than the grave, and conquered the cross loves us relentlessly. The first commandment is to love. The second commandment, however, is to be loved - just as important as the first. When we become insecure with this, we become orphans. There are so many orphans in the church. It's time to wake up and let Him love you. To let the love overflow and pour out onto others. Nothing we do matters if it is not rooted in love.
"We love because He first loved us." I John 4:19 (NIV)
Sierra Hifler/Christ Follower/Daughter/Worship Leader