11 Ways To Be a Better Lover
Throughout life, we are always learning new things, achieving new goals, and obtaining new skills. You and I were made to grow and mature, or else we start dying. Over the last few months, it has been a great joy to see my son learn new skills, like crawling, then pulling himself up, and now doing my taxes for me. While recently researching and writing on 1–2 Thessalonians, I was struck by how much Paul expressed his desire that Christians grow and mature in their love.
"About brotherly love: You don’t need me to write you because you yourselves are taught by God to love one another. In fact, you are doing this toward all the brothers in the entire region of Macedonia. But we encourage you, brothers, to do so even more." — 1 Thess. 4:9-10 HCSB
"We ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers, as is right, because your faith is growing abundantly, and the love of every one of you for one another is increasing." — 2 Thess. 1:3
In another letter to a Macedonian church, Paul said.
"And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ," — Phil. 1:9-10
I'm intrigued by this because Philippi wasn't exactly a hateful church. Elsewhere, Paul praised them for their love as exemplified in their generosity, even in spite of their poverty (2 Cor. 8). In other words, the Philippians may have been the poster children, the flagship church, for Christian love, yet Paul encouraged their love to grow and mature.
How might we get our love to grow more and more? Let me suggest 11 ways, a checklist if you will to perhaps diagnose what is lacking now so that our love might be blameless when Christ comes.
- Be patient with those around you. You would want people to give you a break if the roles were reversed. We are often impatient with others when they aren't to a level we expected them to be, but we want others to cut us some slack when we underperform. Love is patient.
- Look for opportunities to show sincere kindness to others, especially to those closest to you. My dad used to say, "We tend to hurt the ones we love the most." The closer you or I get to someone, the more their flaws will show, and the more difficult it is to love them unconditionally. We should be proactive in showing kindness to the people closest to us.
- Affirm your love for others with words. No other phrase can so instantly lift a person’s spirits as the phrase “I love you.” I realize that it isn't macho to say this to another man, but all the same, these words are powerful. You may have grown up with a father whose attitude was, "I love you, and if I change my mind, I'll tell you." But though the Bible encourages us to love in word AND deed, let's not neglect the word part also.
- Be OK with the gifts/talents God has given you vs. what he has given others. Look for ways to use what you have/do not have to God’s glory. Love is not jealous, Paul says in 1 Cor. 13. But our love for one another can short-circuit when we are always focusing on what God has given others vs. us. Be thankful for your blessings and seek to use them to God's glory; your love for others will grow.
- Be OK with not always getting your way. How many times have you gotten your way, and it turned out to be a bane, rather than a blessing? Garth Brooks' song "Unanswered Prayers" touches on the idea of being thankful for what you haven't gotten. Love is not selfish, and does not always insist on having its way. Our lives might be happier if we gave in to people more and ourselves less.
- Learn the love languages of family and friends; speak that language, rather than communicating love in your “native language.” Obviously, I'm refereeing to "The 5 Love Languages." This is has been an ongoing struggle between Sara and I. Her love language is very different from mine. Hers is giving gifts while mine is not hogging the covers at night. It is selfish to demand others speak our language without trying to speak their own. This principle works in all relationships, not just marriage.
- Fight the urge to one-up others. You’re already special in God’s eyes, so no one else’s matter. One of the most powerful verses my dad shared with me is from Romans 12, the command to rejoice with those who rejoice. Against this is the real temptation to rain on someone's joy and achievement by one-upping them, celebrating what I have done to the denigration of their own accomplishment. I'm working to remind myself often that God thinks I'm special as it is, and nothing else really matters.
- Give others the benefit of the doubt. Take into account everything you hope they would take into account if the tables were turned. For me, I'd want people to remember who my parents were, how I was raised, how I was terrible at kickball in the 3rd grade and people made fun of me, and who my friends were at 11, and what happened when I was 19, and then again at 27. I'd want them to take everything into account. So why don't I give others the benefit of the doubt. Why do I assume the worst, even about my fellow Christians? Love bears, believes, and hopes all things!
- Smile. Biblical hatred is more than an intense dislike; it is the absence of love-in-action. I've often heard, "I have to love them, but I don't have to like them." Gently, that's a cop-out. An excuse. When the Bible says we cannot hate, it means we cannot justify an absence of love. And there is no difference between loving and liking someone. Rather, liking someone is the concrete expression of love's abstractness. If I seemed to enjoy your company, or brought you special gifts, or did acts of service for you for no reason whatsoever, then you'd start to think that I liked you! Like is the greatest expression of love. And maybe the best expression of love we can give is smiling once and a while!
- Turn loose of grudges. If you don’t, you burn the bridge over which you too must pass. We all know of people who have carried into their 60s and 70s bad things that happened to them in their teens and 20s. How tragic to carry the burden of anger and bitterness that long! Love does not keep a record of wrongs!
- Celebrate God’s victories; it will change your attitude when a rival falls. All of us have felt just a twinge of joy when something bad happened to an "enemy." But when we learn to look at all things through God's eyes, we (like Him) will take no pleasure in the terrible circumstances of the wicked. Love thinks no evil, but delights in the truth.
What are some other ways we can all grow in our love? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.
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