I say to the LORD, “You are my Lord; apart from you I have no good thing.” Psalm 16:2
I am happy to say, that I cannot love you.
Please hear me out. I have finally come to realise that I cannot love anybody as they deserve to be loved, not anyone. I’ve finally come to truly see the FACT that nothing good dwells in my flesh (Romans 7:18).
In my ‘self’ – I am so full of flesh and the capacities of the flesh which are profoundly faulty and lacking, no matter how hard I try, what counselling training and courses I do, studies, reading, the company I keep, no matter how much I pray and read the bible. My flesh will always be just that, flesh.
For so long I have bought the lie from that tree of the knowledge of good and evil, that if I did all these things above, coupled with being raised by a loving Christian family, that I automatically have the capacity to love. It is definitely living from the wrong tree.
When I’ve been confronted by your quirks and perks, the things about you that rub me up the wrong way, I’ve only just tried to love you more. But this has failed and turned into frustration and offense, offending you and me being offended. In my efforts to resolve this I’ve turned to my own resources to do the right thing. I’ve stayed in touch, I’ve continued to pray for you, I’ve kept up ‘godly’ behaviour of “do unto others” in your company, at times silently confessing my un-forgiveness and then my forgiveness. All the while I have thought this was good. I have thought this was loving you, how I should.
Sure, I could laugh and smile with you, genuinely enjoy your company, listen to your stories, enquire of your wellbeing and make small talk, perhaps even pray with you or engage on a deeper level of communication with you. Still, judgement, criticism, self-righteousness, pride, prejudices, stubbornness and offense have remained in my heart to varying degrees and at different times. I have to admit this if I’m to be brutally honest.
I started off saying that I was happy to say that I cannot love you. Well, you see at one time, all of this would have been confessed to my utter shame. However, in recent times, I’ve learned to turn to the Lord and ask Him to love through me because I was beginning to see I wasn’t able to love well. My true belief was that I just wasn’t all that good at it, not that I actually couldn’t! Therein, lay the problem and in the answer to this problem, lies my happiness.
You see, I thought having to turn to the Lord for Him to love through me and instead of me, was to my shame. I thought it was an admission of weakness, slackness and defeat. I believed that by doing this, I was admitting that I wasn’t a good enough Christian, all of which I now see is completely and ironically, liberatingly true.
On one hand such an admission seemed to me that I was buying into Satan, the Accuser of the Brethren’s, lies. To believe I wasn’t a good enough Christian and couldn’t love people properly seemed a dreadful accusation. I saw it as condemnation from the enemy for the purpose of keeping me naval gazing into my own failure and sin. So I consciously rejected the thoroughness of this admission.
However, I instinctively knew (and they say that one’s spirit is the place of intuition) there was some truth in this but at that point any truth was to my shame. For me to feel shame over this, indicated I wasn’t yet convinced of my total inability. There remained still some self-belief that I was able to love but that I was not living up to my abilities, hence the shame. That is, until today.
When I prayed today and asked the Lord to help me to see others through His eyes, I discerned this sense of admission of weakness rise in me from deep within and I didn’t like it. Then I didn’t like the ‘not liking’ it. So the Lord was beginning to show me that I still held some portion of belief in my self to be able to love. Yet my experience was telling me the opposite. My experience was that I nursed judgements, criticisms, anxiety and offense. However, my core belief was that I should and could overcome these negatives but my experience proved that I could not.
I cannot. I can’t.
These are not popular phrases in the pop culture environment of many believers today. Yet they are words that are completely theologically and biblically sound and are in fact the words spoken by this Jesus of ours, Himself. The very One who was showing me my incapacity and revealing to me the subtleties of the enemy’s lies, this very One, this same Jesus, said those same words about Himself! How can this be?
Jesus said “By myself I can do nothing” – John 5:30
And Jesus gave them this answer: “Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does”. – John 5:19
To us, Jesus said “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” – John 15:5
Paul said “For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.” – Romans 7:18
But then Paul also said “ I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” – Philippians 4:13
T. Austin Sparks writes;
In the case of the Lord Jesus there was all the time an underworking to get Him to adopt the contrary course, to act without inquiry of His Father, without direct leading from His Father; to act in His individual capacity as though He were His own Master, as though He had not to make appeal elsewhere. (By T. Austin-Sparks from: Excerpt from The Risen Lord and the Things Which Cannot Be Shaken – Chapter 3).
I see this same underworking in my life, to try and convince me that I don’t need to make appeal elsewhere. Yet, Jesus Himself had to make appeal elsewhere, to His Father. What a fool to believe otherwise of myself. It seems pretty clear and to be said on the highest authority that exists, that outside of Christ, I cannot love.
So why does this make me happy? Do I offend you by this? Perhaps, if we only know one another according to the flesh and not in accordance with the Spirit, this will indeed offend you. Perhaps also, it is because of only knowing you according to the flesh that I have tried to keep my lack hidden from you and to keep up appearances in what I now recognise as something utterly impossible.
But does all this mean that I do not love you? Of course not! I simply can’t! I don’t have the capacity. My love fails. But, I want to… I want to love you and this is why I’m so happy. You see now, I can love you perfectly! – that is, through the One who IS Perfect Love. It’s no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me (Galatians 2:20).
You see, I no longer have to strive in my incapacities and weakness or my anxieties over my failing efforts and works. I can now simply abide in Him who IS Love and therefore He gets the room and the expression in my life to love you perfectly, as you deserve, with His love which does not fail.
For His love is…
…patient, His love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. His love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres (1 Corinthians 13:4-7).
See, I can’t love you like that, but Christ in me can. Christ in me, Christ in you, Christ in us, we in Christ. In Christ. Christ is the key.
That makes me happy.