5 Reasons to Work Harder on Becoming a Loving Person

Loving people in this world can be hard (see 5 Reasons Why It Is Hard to Love). We see things from our own perspective. Other people see things from theirs. This brings us into conflict with them. This inflicts wounds upon us. Why put in the work of becoming a loving person when it is often so hard to love?

There are plenty of reasons. The Christian faith offers us many motivations and reasons to work on becoming a loving person. In some ways, this is what the Christian faith is all about, helping us become loving people instead of selfish ones.

What are the reasons the Christian faith offers to work on it? The Apostle Paul wrote his famous “love” chapter in 1 Corinthians 13, but I think Romans 12 offers more insight into love, though it is less elegant. I want to look at the motivations that he offers there.

Reason #1: The love of God for us. When Paul tells us that we should love others, he begins with the love and mercy of God. “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God . . .” (Romans 12:1). If we have trouble loving, we should not first try harder. We should take a plunge into the infinite ocean of the love of God.

When we consider how little thought we have given to God and how much He has blessed us, it will motivate us to love. If God loved us, we also ought to love one another. God sought us out when we were going astray and didn’t even want to come back. How, then, can we not imitate our heavenly Father and show love?

Reason # 2: We are made for each other. We are not made to exist alone. We are social beings. We are made to work together and live together. When we don’t, we are living contrary to our nature. “So in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others” (Romans 12:5).

Paul speaks here of the body of Christ, but the same is true of humans in general. This is recognized more broadly in the Bible, but others have used the same metaphor. The Roman Emperor and philosopher Marcus Aurelius said, “For we are made for cooperation, like feet, like hands, like eyelids, like the rows of the upper and lower teeth. To act against one another then is contrary to nature and it is acting against one another to be vexed and to turn away” (Meditations, 2.1). We are made to love. To not love is to act against what we were created to be.

Reason #3: Being a jerk is terrible. This goes back to Romans 1: “They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy” (29—31). Living this way is terrible. So, why would we let the world drag us down to this level? If someone wants to be a jerk, they harm themselves. We should not let them harm us by turning us into jerks. We should learn to love, which is excellent and beautiful.

Reason #4: The judgment of God. Christianity does not say that revenge is wrong. It just says that we are not competent or authorized to carry it out. We leave it to God. When we let go of wrongs and learn to love, even when it’s hard, we are not saying that wrong is not wrong. We are saying that we trust God to sort everything out and deal with other people. “Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord” (Romans 12:19). We can release ourselves to love because we can be confident that God will deal with everything in a satisfying way.

Reason #5: It is effective. Love conquers. That’s why the Apostle Paul said, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Rom. 12:21). When we can respond with love when others don’t, it can shine a light that dispels the darkness. Martin Luther King, Jr. is a great example. He sought to bring whites and blacks together, but he also said that the injustice of the white community was wrong. He used non-violence to protest while not turning away from a relationship with them. The result was a radical transformation of our society. That’s what bold love can do (to use the words of Dan Allender and Tremper Longman III, whose book I highly recommend).

These are the central reasons in the book of Romans for working harder on becoming loving people. I hope that you feel encouraged to work on developing one of the most excellent virtues that you can have. You’re not in it alone, God stands behind you becoming a loving person! He’s for it. He is all in. That’s why He gives us so many reasons to pursue it.

Thank you for taking the time to read this blog post. I hope it was a blessing. If you liked it, please share or subscribe below. I hope to see you here again soon!


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5 Steps for Becoming a More Loving Person

You’ve tried it over and over again. You want to show more grace. You want to be patient with people. Then, you get out into traffic, and somebody cuts you off. There goes patience out the window.

How do we become loving people who can endure the annoyances of life? In my last post, I explained five characteristics of real love. But how do we get there? Let me give you five steps for doing so.

1. Pray. Have you actually asked the God of the universe to make you into a loving person? God’s grace is available. The power of Christ’s resurrection is at work in this world. The Holy Spirit works love in our hearts. But God wants us to ask! Have you asked? The Apostle Paul said, “And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight” (Philippians 1:9). Paul prayed that God would give the Philippian Christians more love and more insight into how to love well. And so should we.

2. Reflect on how you think about people. A lot of our reactions to people our automatic. We don’t understand well what we are really thinking. We need to examine our own thoughts and feelings. We can do this by journaling, praying, or talking with others.

To get you going in this, consider some of the following questions:

  • What do you think when people do something you disagree with?
  • When you see people on the street, what do you think of them?
  • When you meet new people, what is your thought about them?
  • What do you think and feel when people disappoint you?
  • What sort of expectations do you have for what people should do for you?

These and many other questions like them can help you think through how you view people. When you do that, you can take the next step.

3. Re-think how you view people. In Paul’s love chapter in Romans 12, he tells us that we need to be “transformed by the renewing of your mind” (v. 2). He teaches us that love begins in the heart. It needs to be sincere. How we think and feel about people is what is in our heart. What do we actually see when we see other people? Do we see them as God sees them? We have to think about what is going on in our hearts and minds and be transformed.

Here are a few ideas to get you going on re-thinking your view of people.

  • What do I think human beings are?
  • What do I think the possibility of connecting with people is?
  • What are some ways I could view people’s attacks that would make me less reactive?
  • How could I view the fact that people are different in a good way?
  • When people block my goals, can I view this in ways other than an attack?

You can use these directions to begin to re-think your conception of people.

4. Put new thoughts into practice. It’s not enough to think about things. We have to put them into practice. For me, I noticed that my anxiety would go up when I wasn’t achieving a goal. Then, I would often be short or terse with people. I recognized that this is not how I wanted to live. I drive Uber. I often have a vision of how it will work out. Regularly, a wrench is thrown into my plan. Sometimes, it is because of the unwitting action of my customers. For example, they may change their trip and make it less profitable for me. They are not trying to do me harm. They are just trying to figure it out. But this can make me upset, and I can show it in subtle ways. I have begun to practice not getting upset at this and just responding with kindness. This practice will have effects in other areas of my life.

5. Keep doing it. Perseverance is key. Character does not change in a day or a night. Even big and sudden breakthroughs take time to transform our thoughts and hearts. We have to keep going. Being a loving persons is one of the highest and most important goals we can achieve. It is worth working at it. We should keep praying, keep re-thinking, and keep practicing. This is how character and virtue develop.

That’s the method for character change. There’s no better time to start working on it than now. It is our destiny to be transformed into loving people. That’s what God is doing in this world. It is one of his highest priorities. That should motivate us to give ourselves to this work and keep at it. With His help, we can expect real progress in this life.

Thank you for reading this series on love. I hope it was a blessing to you. If you liked it, please consider sharing it and subscribing below. I hope to see you here again soon.

5 Characteristics of Real Love

People often talk about the “will of God.” Is it God’s will for me to move somewhere, marry someone, or start a business? These questions are legitimate, and God certainly has something to say about them.

We should also remember, though, that what God wants us to do is clear. His greatest priorities are very clear. He wants us to be loving people. He wants us to love God and our neighbor. If we learn to do that, then we are doing what God wants the most. Becoming lovers of God and others will keep us busy and give us great fulfillment.

But what does it mean to love others? There’s a lot of fake love. There are a lot of misconceptions about it. It’s hard to show real love for a lot of reasons, but one of those reasons is that we haven’t been taught how to love. We need to think more clearly about what love actually is.

The Apostle Paul gave an explanation of what love is all about in Romans 12. His more famous chapter on love is 1 Corinthians 13. 1 Corinthians 13 is more inspiring, but Romans 12 might have more solid instruction on what it means to really love. Let me show you five characteristics of real love from this chapter.

1. Real love is sincere: it starts in the heart. In Romans 12:9, we begin a long list of commands or rules. The first is, “Love must be sincere.” It must not be hypocritical. What does this mean? We can act like we love (“Bless our hearts”) and not really have that love in our heart. It is an act. We show kindness in our interactions but do not have it in our hearts. We have all known people who acted like they wanted to be with us but who ended up not having any real interest in us. It was a mask. We have also done this to others. It hurts when we discover it and when others discover it in us. This is insincere love.

What this means positively is that love begins in the heart. It is not enough to show it on our faces. We have to have it in our hearts. How do we really think and feel about people? That’s where love starts. Love is a genuine affection of the heart that desires union and communion with others.

2. Real love is attentive: it takes an interest in anybody it meets. Philostorgos is a Greek word. Paul uses it in Romans 12:10, and it is the only place we find it in the Bible. It is love like parents have for their children. It’s hard to translate into English in one word. Love takes an interest in other people’s well-being. Parents generally seek the well-being of their children in a way that simply gives. We need to learn to take that love and extend it out to others. Continue reading “5 Characteristics of Real Love”

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”

5 Steps to Grow in Faith, Hope, and Love for Greater Joy, Peace, and Hope

Key thought: when we grow in the characteristics of faith, hope, and love, we will have greater joy, peace, and hope. But how do we do it?

Over the past couple of months, I have explained that the book of Romans is a book that is designed to lead us to greater joy, peace, and hope. As Paul wrote, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (15:13). This was Paul’s prayer for what this letter would accomplish.

The key to growing in joy, peace, and hope was greater faith in what God had done in Christ to forgive us and will do to transform us. The key was greater hope in a brighter future for ourselves individually and for the world. The key was greater love that would love others better, even when it was hard. The key was growing in the virtues of faith, hope, and love.

Becoming people of greater faith, hope, and love is much harder to do than to say. So, how do we do it? I want to conclude this series on Romans with an explanation of how to grow in faith, hope, and love so we can feel greater joy, peace, and hope. I hope that this will serve as a guide for you to study and review the principles of this great letter to the Roman Christians. This advice is derived from what the Apostle Paul is doing in this letter.

If you want to read the rest of the series, you can read part 1 here, part 2 here, part 3 here, part 4 here, part 5 here, part 6 here, and part 7 here. You can read part 8 here.

How to Grow in Virtue
1. Pray specifically to grow in faith, hope, and love. This is what Paul is doing at the end of his letter in the blessing he declares over them. He is asking God to increase the faith of the Roman Christians. That’s what we should do. We have not because we ask not. Ask, and it will be given you. God delights to give us the gifts of greater faith and love. Pray specifically each day that God will give you faith, the gift that opens the door to all other gifts. Continue reading “5 Steps to Grow in Faith, Hope, and Love for Greater Joy, Peace, and Hope”