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Did you know that as a Christian you are obligated to love people? Not just supposed to, but actually obligated to do so?
“Owe nothing to anyone –
except for your obligation
to love one another.”
~Romans 13:8, NLT
Simple verse, right? Or is it?
That’s some seriously hard stuff right there. Love is an obligation.
This is one of those mindset rocking verses, at least for me.
I always thought it was enough to be kind and show people “God’s love” by meeting needs, not being a jerk, that kind of a thing. Then my pastor preached a sermon that left me shaken.
It turns out that not only do I have to love people, but I need to like them as well. I’ve been reeling ever since.
And now this.
What is an obligation?
First of all, it says that as a Christian you have an obligation to love people. What on earth does that mean? If you flip through the dictionary or use Google, you’ll see several explanations. Three of those are duty, being bound to something, and a debt of gratitude.
An obligation is a duty.
A duty is something you’re required to do. You are responsible for making it happen.
The Bible is pretty clear in 1 John 4:7-8 that Christians are to love one another because love comes from God. If you love people, you are born of God and if you don’t love people, you don’t know God because He is love.
You are, as a child of the King, duty-bound to love His other children. Every single one of them is made in His image and precious to Him. And He desires for all who love Him to love those He loves.
An obligation is something we are bound to do.
When you hear the phrase “it was bound to happen,” what do you think of?
Probably the inevitablity of it, right? If you truly love God, it should be inevitable that you will love people. Ouch. I’ve got some heart-work to do.
What about you? Is love your default? If it’s not, pray about that. Ask God to change your heart.
An obligation is a debt of gratitude.
Oooh, now this is some good stuff right here. If you are overwhelmed with gratitude for salvation and thankful for His love, then you will want to love others.
Have you ever been so overcome with joy at an awesome gift that you shower the giver of said gift with hugs, kisses, and effusive words of thanks? That’s how we ought to respond to God for salvation.
Except instead of showering Him with your affection, He wants you to shower the world with it.
This is how the world will know you are His (John 13:35).
What does it mean to love one another?
So how exactly do you love one another?
1 Corinthians 13:4-7 says that love is patient, kind, not jealous, not selfish, not braggy, truth-loving, and forgiving. That’s a pretty good summary, don’t you think?
That’s how I love my husband and my kids. Maybe a few carefully selected friends (and I’m an introvert, so I do actually mean few).
But certainly not the rest of the world. Not even my church community. Certainly not relative strangers.
And definitely not those strangers or acquaintances who act so darn unloveable and foolish.
I was once asked how many people I liked and I said, “Oh, about ten.” The look of shock on the person’s face who asked me was priceless. Just sayin.’
Related: When Christians Need To Shut Up
I didn’t mean that I hated the rest of the world, but I just don’t get to know that many people well enough to genuinely like them. I’m someone who makes deep connections. I invest my time and attention into getting know people.
To me, there’s those people you like because you know them well. Then there are those you don’t know well enough to form an opinion on. And lastly there are those you’ve met and just can’t stand.
Can you relate? Or are you like one of my best friends who smiles at perfect strangers and then basically adopts them as long lost family? She is really good at this people thing.
The Bible says we have to love people. And like them.
I get that some people can have coffee with someone once and go, “You’re my new friend!” Totally not me.
I’m more of, “We’ve been hanging out for a few months and I like what I see. We should become friends.” kind of a person.
So these verses are wrecking me.
Maybe you’re better at this than I am. But I think this is hard.
And if you’re like me, let me offer you some hope.
If God has called you to do it, He has equipped you for it.
You are made in His image. And He is love.
He has called you to love people; it is your obligation as a Christian. Therefore, He gives you what you need to do it.
Galatians 5:23 says that that fruit of the Spirit is Love. Fruit is cultivated, nurtured, tended. It grows over time. God plants it in you, and then it grows.
Related: What Kind of Soil Is Your Life?
I love this thought by Sarita Hartz:
“But what happens as we fall more in love with God, is we fall more in love with people and the desire to see them walking in freedom grows. But the work doesn’t depend on us, the work depends on God’s spirit. Our job is to be little love bubbles that burst when other people rub up against us.”
Be little love bubbles, sweet friend. You’ve got this. After all, you are made in the image of God.