Has your understanding of love expanded since you started your journey as a Christian?
Our understanding of the Father's love has definitely expanded and continues to change in our lives. We've come to understand that the Father’s love is so much deeper and more real than what we thought, and it isn't based on works or performance – it's based solely upon who He is.
Marc: My understanding of the Father's love has changed a lot. Although I grew up in a Christian home with loving parents and attended a good church, there was a disconnect in the way I understood the reality of the Father’s love for me, resulting in a distorted view of His love and a works mentality. I thought that I needed to prove myself to the Father, that I needed to earn His love and approval, and I spent a lot of time doing that through church involvement. This also opened up the door for guilt and condemnation to come in and further distort my view of love. But I'm now understanding that the Father loves me so much, and this love is endless, and there is nothing I need to do to earn His love. His love for me is based on Himself, His goodness, His character, and heart towards me as His child. Before I ever came into being, He knew me and loved me just because He is love. I'm learning I can just be and rest in His perfect love that is complete and available to me.
Diane: I grew up in an environment where there wasn't a lot of love and affection. I grew up without my father and with a mother who struggled with mental illness, which resulted in me spending a good part of my childhood in and out of the foster care system. Eventually, my older sister and brother-in-law took me in, but even then I didn't really receive the love that I longed for. Since I got saved, it’s been a journey to understand that God loves me, but He has always been faithful to show His love for me. One of those ways was through the birth of our son Levi. He put the desire in my heart to be a mother, and answered so many prayers concerning Levi, all the way down to his love of drumming. The fact that He's mindful not just of big things, but even small things that might seem silly, continues to shows me how much He loves me and that I am a daughter of the King. I'm not just a mom or a wife, but I'm first beloved of the Father. I'm His special girl.
John 15:13-14 talks about making great sacrifice to show and give great love. What does it mean to lay down your life for the people around you?
Laying down your life means considering others before yourself. It means going above and beyond what you're called to do. It can look like many things, but it always first goes back to love. Jesus said in verse 12 of John 15, 'This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you." If we're going to lay down our lives for others, we need to first love them the way that Jesus loves us, and as we do that, the rest will come. We can't give something that we ourselves don't first have. If we understand the Father's love for us, we can show that love for others, and lay down our lives for them. So going the extra mile to help someone in need, putting someone else needs before our own, or even just being there for someone isn't hard, but a natural byproduct of the Father's love for us.
Do you think it takes courage to love in the way the Bible tells us to? Have you ever feared showing love towards another?
It absolutely takes courage to love the way that Jesus calls us to, and lots of it at times. Whenever we open ourselves up and love others in the way that He tells us to, we make ourselves vulnerable to possibly being hurt. Jesus came to a world and to a people that would reject Him, but He came anyway, not holding back the love that would ultimately save us. So when the Bible calls us to love, we shouldn’t fear the outcome so much that we never allow ourselves to be conduits of God's love to others. There are so many around us who are desperate to receive the love that we carry within us. We need to press in and be obedient to the call of Christ to love others, and trust that He will do the rest.
How has relying on God’s love shaped the way you live?
Relying on God’s love has allowed us to stop striving to attain the Father’s love and approval through our own works. He's already given it fully – He already loves us completely – and there's nothing that we can do that would ever change that. We can walk in love and grace, and know that should we stumble He's right there to pick us back up. We can be who He's called us to be, to each other and to those around us. That's pretty freeing.