Five Reasons Why It Is So Hard to Love

Everybody thinks about the love they need. Few think of the love that others need.

Most of the songs we enjoy are about our own need for love and not about the love others need. I was trying to think about a song that was about the joy of loving others. My mind went to Jefferson Airplane’s “Don’t You Want Somebody to Love?” Then, I read the lyrics. The song is more about a person who has made a wrong romantic choice about the author of the song. Sure enough, Darby Slick had just experienced a breakup before writing the song. The person who is addressed is being rebuked for choosing the wrong person. They messed up. Not as noble as it first may sound.

The problem is that we all have trouble loving others. Parents may show real love and concern for their children but moving beyond that is very difficult. Why is loving others so hard? Let me give five reasons.

1. Our natural perspective is to see ourselves first. There’s nothing we can do about that. We see things from our own perspective. We see our own needs. We see our own inner world and no one else’s. We are always present to ourselves. There is a natural focus on self that is simply impossible to avoid, but it creates an obstacles to seeing the perspective of others. It will require more work.

2. Our natural self-perspective becomes exaggerated. We not only have a natural and legitimate focus on self, but it becomes illegitimate in all of us. We worry too much about ourselves. I would suggest that this is rooted in our alienation from God and our tendency not to trust Him as the source of love and provision. Without this anchor for our soul, our anxiety about our own needs runs wild. Continue reading “Five Reasons Why It Is So Hard to Love”

I Was Scared in March 2020. Here’s What Happened and What I Learned.

There is no question that I was scared in March 2020.

As Covid-19 began to spread out over the world, I was scared of the suffering and dying that could take place from this awful virus. I heard the reports from Italy and saw how quickly it could take over a community. What would happen if, or probably when, it came here? I thought.

I was scared at would happen to our economy. As March went on and people began to stay home, what would it mean for our way of life? Would it lead us to a Great Depression? A friend told me it was unclear what was going to happen to our banking system because nothing like this had ever happened. So, what was going to happen?

I was scared for our communities. As Covid-19 began to spread, the leaders in our church made certain decisions that we believed would protect our community. Not everyone agreed. Covid-19 became a significant source of controversy and got entangled in our political polarization. This was an issue that cut through people on the conservative side of the spectrum. What would be the result? I wondered. Would this tear our church and other churches apart? Continue reading “I Was Scared in March 2020. Here’s What Happened and What I Learned.”

Community Building: Humble Respect (1 Peter 2:11-17)

[Listen to an audio version here.]

In Seattle’s so-called autonomous zone, they claim they have eliminated the need for cops. Looking closer, you find that they have what they call “sentinels.” These are people, sometimes armed, who enforce basic rules and try to keep order. So, whatever they say, they have replaced the cops with . . . their own cops.

House churches are similar. They say that they are just informal gatherings. However, I’ve always found that one person becomes the de facto leader or pastor. They are just churches meeting in a house, whatever they think of themselves. They haven’t escaped structure or organization or being an institution. They simply emphasize meeting in homes.

Why do I bring this up? Here’s my point. All communities will have authority structures and hierarchy. Continue reading “Community Building: Humble Respect (1 Peter 2:11-17)”

How Risky Is It, Really?

Bears are much scarier than cars. You will pass hundreds of cars, if you drive through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. You may see a bear, but you very well may not. I could only find one instance of a bear killing a person in the GSMNP (on May 21, 2000). However, in 2019, Nine people were killed in car wrecks in the GSMNP.

Some things are scary that will not harm us. Some things will harm us that are not scary. Actual rather than perceived risks to life and health are what we should be most concerned about. So, how do we get past what is scary but what is not risky? How do we learn to take precautions when things are risky but not scary? In other words, how can we be sure that we are doing the right things to keep us safe and healthy? That’s what David Ropeik’s book, How Risky Is It, Really? Why Our Fears Don’t Always Match the Facts is all about (New York: McGraw-Hill, 2010).

What Ropeik does is try to help us see what makes things feel risky or scary to us. Then, he provides advice on how to get better at evaluating actual risk.

Ropeik suggests that there are eleven things that make people, situations, or things more scary.

  1. Trust. When trust is low, fear is higher. For example, if we don’t trust our government, what they tell us to do feels scarier, even if it is not. The converse is also true as well.
  2. Loss. This is complicated, but if the potential loss is great, then it feels scarier, even if it is not a great risk. Losing a house to a tornado feels scarier than having credit cards, even though the latter is more likely to bring you to financial ruin.
  3. Control. If we feel in control, we feel safe. Airplanes are much safer than automobiles. However, in an automobile, we feel more in control. Continue reading “How Risky Is It, Really?”

A Christian Response to Two Very Scary Things

Right now, we are dealing two interrelated and very scary things: a deadly disease and an economic depression. Both are extremely scary, and both are real threats.

How do we as Christians respond to these two very scary things? We can think of this on two different levels. How do we respond in a godly way to the scary things? And how do we respond to the scared people?

The answer to the first is courage, and you can read a summary of what courage means in this situation here.

The second question is more difficult. Here’s why. When we are scared, we have laser focus on the thing that scares us. We also want others to focus on what scares us. This helps make us feel safer.

When there are two scary things, it’s hard to focus on both and easy to want to focus on one or the other. Different people feel more scared about one or the other of the scary things and to different degrees. There is a spectrum of fear or concern on one side or the other. When someone doesn’t focus on the scary thing we’re focused on, it’s easy to feel threatened. This can lead to anger, accusations, and polarization.

So, how should we as Christians respond in this very difficult situation? Let me suggest four things: listening, humility, patience, and service.

1. Listening. The Lord commands us to do this, “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry” (James 1:19) This means that when we see someone who is scared, we should seek first to understand and then to be understood.

But it means more. It means we should listen not only to people. We need to be open to reality and the best sources of information wherever they may lead us. That is what it means to be a good listener in a more profound sense.

Let me give you an example. I am one who has been concerned about COVID-19 and has even said that the lockdowns are helpful. However, various people have brought Sweden to my attention because they are the one country in Europe that is trying to take some precautions but not asking people to shelter in place. Life is going on (with some qualifications). Some predict that the results will be an historic massacre. Maybe they are right. So far, we have not seen it. If Sweden does as good or better than those countries that locked down, then we will have some evidence that the lockdowns were not needed. That will be painful to admit, but we need to be open to it. That’s listening. That’s being open to reality.

2. Humility. We need to have a high value of others, even those who disagree with us. This is especially true of those who are in authority or those who have expertise. That doesn’t mean we should agree with everything they say. We just owe them respect and honor.

In these times, we as Christians are going to have plenty of opportunity to show honor to authorities with whom we disagree. Here’s a couple of examples. Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida decided to open the beaches last week. Many people were outraged and attacked him because they were scared of the virus. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer gave quite a few regulations in her state that many people thought were too restrictive or even unconstitutional. People were outraged and attacked her because they feared an excessive lockdown. Now, you may disagree with those governors, or you may really like what they did. You may feel the need to protest, or you may feel the need to cheer. Both are fine, but either way, we have an obligation to disagree respectfully with everyone we disagree with but especially governing authorities.

A classic statement of the faith, The Heidelberg Catechism, captures this well. It asks, “What is God’s will for you in the fifth commandment [“Honor your father and your mother”]?” That I honor, love, and be loyal to my father and mother and all those in authority over me; that I submit myself with proper obedience to all their good teaching and discipline; and also that I be patient with their failings—for through them God chooses to rule us.” We can show by patient and respectful honoring of our leaders that we honor God. We have that opportunity in this time.

3. Patience. “Love is patient.” Says the Apostle Paul in his famous chapter on love (1 Corinthians 13). Patience with other people recognizes that people are at different places. We come to different conclusions based on different experiences at different times and at different rates. That is O.K. Patience is a willingness to allow for this difference and accept others where they are.

In 1 Thessalonians 5:14, the Apostle Paul has a great statement on the different places people are. “And we urge you, brothers and sisters, warn those who are idle and disruptive, encourage the disheartened, help the weak, be patient with everyone.” Notice that he distinguishes the different ways that people can struggle. He even says you have to warn people sometimes. However, he says that with everyone, “be patient.” That’s what we need right now, too, patience, to allow people to work through these two scary things in different ways and at different paces.

4. Service. One problem with getting too focused on our fears, whatever they are, is that we can miss opportunities to serve those around us. Excessive anxiety can keep us from loving service. When we can overcome our fears and anxieties (not deny them!), then we can move outward in service. It also works the other way. When we move outward, it can help us overcome our anxieties.

The Christians in the early Church in the Roman Empire were well known for this. They went and served those dying of the plague when no one else would. We may not do that without taking some precautions that they did not know to take, but could we be known for that today? They will know you are Christians by your love, Jesus says. If we keep asking, who needs love? Who needs care? Who can I serve? What are my opportunities? It will keep us focused on the right things.

What a powerful thing it is to see Christians in a variety of ways stepping up to serve the people of their church and those around them. We need to lean into this in this time. We have a unique opportunity to show the power of God’s love in the face of fear through serving others.


These are scary times. It’s OK to be scared, but, as Christians, we can’t let it overwhelm us or keep us from loving other people well.

I commend to you listening, humility, patience, and service as four characteristics that can help us navigate a time when there are a lot of scared people. It’s not easy. The fear takes hold, and we want to run away or lash out.

But we’re not alone in trying to do this well. We have the Spirit of the risen Christ with us. We have the Church. We have innumerable examples of believers and Jesus Christ Himself who’ve walked through the toughest times and loved God and others well through them. That is our heritage, power, and opportunity.


Photo by Anastasiia Chepinska on Unsplash