“For God did not give you a spirit of timidity but of power, love and self discipline.” 2 Timothy 1:7
Jesus told us “love your neighbor as yourself.” I know what he means. He means that he wants us to love others the way we would want to be loved. Did you ever stop to think though that you probably are loving your neighbor as yourself right now but not in a good way? Here’s what I mean by that. It’s is difficult if not impossible to love others more than we love ourselves. If you are unrelentingly judgmental of yourself, you will have a difficult time being anything but judgmental of others. If you only care for yourself when you accomplish great things, you will have difficulty loving others unless they are high achievers. If you love yourself for how you look, then you will struggle with loving others who don’t measure up in being attractive.
For us to love others unconditionally with what the Bible calls ‘agape’, then we have to come to a place where we realize that we are unlovable. We must grasp that God loves us out of the goodness of who God is, not because there is something about us that is lovable. God loves us despite our sin. God loves us despite our disobedience. God loves us even though we can’t doing anything for God that God can’t do for Himself. We really have nothing to offer except perhaps gratitude. We are unacceptable, yet accepted.
If you believe otherwise you will never grasp the depth of God’s love for you. Your grasp of God’s love is only as deep as the grasp of your undesirableness, what theologians have called “your utter depravity.” As long as you think that you are only partial depraved, you will only know conditional love and it is all that you will have to offer others.
Lastly, I am not sure that the gift of love that we get from the Holy Spirit is a direct gift but rather a by-product. As holiness grows within you, you become painfully aware of just how unholy you are, of just how unlovable you are. When that reality becomes undeniably real to you, then you will be able to truly realize and receive love from God as unconditional. And then, you will be able to love others not for who they are, but out of who you have become, a person forgiven and accepted unconditionally.
Holy Spirit, in the light of your goodness may the darkness of my depravity become undeniable to me, so that I can accept others with humility and grace. I confess that most of my love at some level is motivated by what appeals to me. I like someone; so, I love them. But Jesus made it clear that virtually anyone can love the people who love them. The challenge is loving enemies. That’s what he did. He loved the enemy and truth be told, I need to accept the fact that I was/am that enemy. I mock him. I crucify him. I betray him. I do these things each time I sin. Forgive me. Cleanse me. Receive me, that I might love others the way you have loved me, unconditionally.