To love one another is a common command in Scripture. In fact, if you were to ask any Christian what a core principle of following Christ might be, they would no doubt probably mention loving others. Just consider the following verses…
A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another (John 13:34-35).
Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law (Romans 13:8).
Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart (1 Peter 1:22).
Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God (1 John 4:7).
But what does it mean to love others? Though there are many things that could be written, I just want to mention one idea that, for me, is important to consider. And it is this: be interested in others!!!
The idea of being interested in others moves loving others from the abstract to the concrete. For me, it’s easy to love others from a distance. To get up close however, is altogether different. To know another’s story and to be responsive to it is where love moves from the classroom to the field.
So how do we love and show interest in others? Here are a few thoughts…
1. Realize that people are interesting!
There are no boring people! I know that’s hard for some of us to imagine, but it’s true. C.S. Lewis writes that “there are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal.” He reminds us that “the dullest and most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would strongly be tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare.”
2. Understand that it’s not all about you!
There is a tendency in us to find our jokes funnier, our stories more interesting, our days busier, and our pain and hurt more severe than those around us. So as a result, since we are the “life of the party,” its important that others make way for our schedules and listen to what we have to say.
We have to be reminded therefore, that we are not the center of the universe. God is! And since it’s not about us, but about Him, then humility should characterize our life. We should have the mind and attitude of Christ who gave himself up for us. Our lives should be one of self-sacrifice.
Paul wrote: Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross (Phil. 2:5-8).
3. Ask “How ya doing?” and then listen!
When we ask how those around us how life is going for them, is it just chatter? I know many times asking “How are you?” can be a greeting in which we really do not expect an open and honest answer (Therefore, maybe we should come up with a different way of greeting others and save that question when we really desire a response).
As we do ask “How are you?” to others, however, are we ready to listen? And I mean really listen. I think we might be amazed at how many of those around us are just wanting to be heard. So listen to them. Be patient. Hear their stories.
4. Be careful not to devalue the response of others.
Have you ever had a conversation with someone and were excited to tell them something that had happened to you only to have them say, “Oh yeah, I’ve done that!” or “Yea, that happens to me all the time”?
Or, maybe you are talking about some calamity (maybe how you broke your arm) only to hear someone say, “Oh yeah! You think that’s bad, you should hear what happened to me!”
You probably have not only encountered such interjections by others, but have done them yourself. Our fallenness always seems to want to one-up everyone else and when we do, we devalue not just their story, but them. It’s as if we are saying to them, “Your story or what has happened to you is not that big of deal…at least not compared to my life.”
5. Pray for others.
You cannot love others without praying them. If you are really interested and concerned for those around you, praying is one of the best things you can do for them. This is not a revolutionary idea. Nonetheless, it is vital. Plus, when you pray for others, you might discover that you want to know more about them so you can pray more specifically.
Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others (Philippians 2:3-4).