I’m sure you’ve noticed that every human relationship involves imperfect people. There are endless opportunities for conflict, offense, hurt and division in our relationships, yet the Bible teaches us to love one another, to turn the other cheek, to “always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love” (Ephesians 4:2).
How do we learn to love others well, to practice what often cuts across our human nature and our instinctive reactions?
Do we really know what love is? Or to rephrase the question, do we really know WHO love is?
The Bible says that God is love. We learn a lot about God’s love from His Word. We learn of the largeness of His love toward the world, that loving us cost Him dearly, and that He continues to love us despite us being undeserving of His love (John 3:16; Romans 5:8). From just two Bible verses we have already discovered that real love is generous, sacrificial and unconditional. But wait, there’s more!
We can all admit that, often, in our efforts to protect ourselves from hurt, failure or disappointment, we demonstrate the opposite characteristics of genuine love. To reverse this habit we must operate in faith, under the premise that God is love, that He loves us greatly and therefore His boundaries (commandments) are healthy and for our benefit. The Bible provides us with clear boundaries for success across many different relationships, including husband/wife, parent/child, brother/sister-in-Christ, employer/employee and even how we should treat our enemies.
Jesus said, “If you love me, obey my commandments” (John 14:15), and it follows that there must be consequences for disobedience. Stepping outside the boundaries damages our relationships, with God and with people. However, God’s Word encourages us that the damage isn’t irreparable. “But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins” (1 John 1:9). It is vital that we offer to others the same kind of forgiveness that we freely receive from God (Matthew 6:12). Asking for and offering forgiveness is not easy. Trusting God, we need to allow loving, godly boundaries and forgiveness to work in tandem in our relationships.
In a nutshell, God is love and His Word is our relationship handbook; to love well takes faith, and when we fail, forgiveness provides healing.