Hi, I’m Mark. I’m a soldier in the love revolution. I’m committed to being a strong force of love in this world, rooted in the acceptance of an assignment given by Jesus. This is a non-violent revolution that has the power to literally change the world.
Here’s how it starts for me: I believe I am unconditionally, unfathomably loved by God. This outrageously free gift is not just for me, but for you, and for the whole world. Because of that, my mission is to declare how unbelievably loved you are, as well as everyone else on the planet. I hope you’ve gotten this message loud and clear through every bit of my writing and music endeavors.
How’s It Going?
I always thought that Christians would be the best lovers in the world. But it turns out many people seem to have very different ideas of what it actually means to love someone.
Can I make it simple? If the person you’re showing love to doesn’t feel loved by you, you’re probably doing it wrong.
How do you think we can be better lovers? I’d love to hear from you. Keep reading for some ideas from me.
What’s The Problem?
I get it. I have lived a big part of my Christian life convinced the best way to love someone was to point out the wrong, what I called “the sin,” in their lives. And then convince them they needed to change. The primary way I was supposed to love was by pointing out the things they were doing that I was certain would send them to my version of eternal punishment. It had nothing to do with actually loving them in the here and now.
This is rooted in the idea that God’s love (and acceptance into heaven or banishment into hell) is determined by our behavior. By how good or bad we are. Additionally, your level of faith or commitment to God can be seen by the good or bad stuff you do in your life. So, you better shape up—God is watching, churches announce.
Which means that in the church we end up with a whole bunch of people walking around trying to show how wonderful their life is, how they’ve defeated all of life’s demons, and are living in blessing and victory. This has never been my story, nor anyone who has ever been completely honest with me.
The result is that the most difficult struggles we face remain hidden from view, shoved into the closet, swept under the rug. People begin to think they are the only one struggling with doubts, addiction, or pain, and they can’t imagine sharing their vulnerable truth with anyone at the church. This would mean getting kicked off the worship team or the deacon council, removed from teaching Sunday school and immediately placed on the prayer chain—which basically means everyone will be talking about you behind your back.
The truth is that we are all convoluted messes of both good and bad behaviors, thoughts, and intentions. We all carry various degrees of fear, shame, and anxiety. Our faith levels vary from day to day…sometimes minute by minute. Most of us are just hoping to get through today, and can’t help but wonder what part God plays in it all.
And it turns out that my efforts to change me…to fix me…to make me better…are completely hit or miss. Some work, some don’t. But I have also felt my heart change in a supernatural instant from fear to love, from anxiety to peace, from judging to loving. I don't hesitate to credit God for those changes.
To love other people better we need to be able to see ourselves more realistically. Not as people who have it all figured out, but as messed up, in-process humans who are hoping to understand more clearly our own belovedness. When we see ourselves humbly and realistically, we can have more compassion and love for others. We can see ourselves in another person who is just trying to make their way, with whatever challenges have been placed upon them.
Actual love looks more like lending a helping hand, than shouting a proclamation for everyone to clean up their act.
If you’re struggling to know how to love someone, here’s a great starting point: Love is actually patient. It’s kind. It doesn’t envy, doesn’t boast, isn’t proud, doesn’t dishonor, isn’t self-seeking, isn’t easily angered, keeps no record of wrongs, doesn’t delight in evil but rejoices in truth, always protects, always trusts, always hopes, and always perseveres. Love never fails. (I Cor 13:4-7)
If you’re looking for ways to be a better lover, try out this list. Especially when you feel the urge to try to judge someone, or get them to change into someone who looks more like you think they should look. Take a deep breath, and remember how loved you are…exactly the way you are.
And never forget there’s absolutely nothing you can do about it.
My good & brilliant friend Marcia Ramirez wrote a powerful and extremely comprehensive essay about her journey toward becoming a more loving and affirming person, in particular toward her LGBTQ+ friends and relatives. It relates to my essay this week, especially when she quotes Bible teacher Beth Moore saying, "You can't shame someone into a transformation on the inside." And then Marcia continues, “Yes, you might shame someone into pretending for a bit that they aren't who they are so that they don't risk being excluded from their community. But shame only changes outward appearances, and usually only temporarily. No one can pretend forever without falling apart. Only the Holy Spirit can change someone's heart, if indeed it needs to be changed. Only the Holy Spirit can do the inside work. We humans don't have that kind of power.”
I know this is a highly controversial topic, but I also know many of you are looking for ways to be better lovers, like Marcia and me are aiming to be.
God bless you on your own journey!
one def'n of love, wanting the best for another