Love bears all things...

We cannot avoid relationships. Every day we are in contact with other people - family, community, parish, friends, people at work, those who serve us and those we serve. So let's look at the way we relate to the other people in our lives, and see what difference our renewed Christian faith has really made.

LOVE is a way of life

Our claims to be filled with the Spirit have no meaning if our attitudes and behaviour do not show love. Love is not just a feeling - it's an outlook, a way of life. It's the mark of the true disciple of Jesus Christ. Love bears all things, believes the best, and holds on even when people let me down again and again (1 Cor. 13). If we are perfect in doctrine, abundantly gifted by God, but lacking in love - then we have failed. Just as love lies at the heart of God's relationship with us, so love is at the heart of our relationships with each other. It's easy to maintain a loving relationship at arm's length - to meet on a rather superficial and trivial level. But when we get close and involved with each other, we soon discover how strong our relationship really is.

As Christians we must always be aware how much people need to be loved. We need to recognise the cry for love behind all sorts of strange behaviour, just as Jesus did. We will still find it difficult to relate to certain people, and this is where we need to turn to God for help. But we need to be sure that we have a loving relationship with Him before we can expect His guidance or help.


When we invite the Holy Spirit into our lives, one of the first things He does is to reveal Jesus as a Loving Lord in a new way. Often the excitement of this present-day, miracle-working Lord who dwells inside us has been missing - our eyes have been on the historical figure of Jesus and His earthly ministry. There are still many Christians who try to handle all their relationships and problems in their own strength. But there are others who have realised they have a loving relationship with Jesus. They know they are helpless, but with God present inside them, heaven's power has come to earth and can be effective in transforming them. This inside life, us in Jesus and Jesus in us, is what the Holy Spirit will make effective for each of us-if we allow Him. It will transform our behaviour, our way of thinking, and all our relationships (Rom. 12:2).


The simple truth of the Gospel is that the Father loves us so much that He sent His Son to die for us. If we are to grow in our relationships we must start by accepting ourselves and believing that we are loved, even though we may find it difficult to understand how Jesus (or anyone else) could ever find us lovable. Everyone needs not only to love, but to be loved. We need to feel we are important both to ourselves and to others, otherwise there is always the danger of emotional breakdown.

Love expresses itself in giving and receiving, and the greatest characteristic of love is its willingness to accept all people as they are, including myself. Jesus clearly tells us we must love God and our neighbour as ourselves. Why? The answer is very clear: "On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets" (Matt. 22:39-40). In other words, without these two, nothing else will work properly.

The Gospel is not an abstract concept - it comes alive when Jesus Christ meets the needs of others through you and me. When I have a living faith in Jesus I can expect Him to work through me. I can also turn to Him for help with those particular relationships where I know I am failing. I'm usually the one who needs to change so that my love is like the Lord's - unconditional.


I'm a new creation (2 Cor. 5:17), so I have only to offer myself and be willing to be changed. He provides the love and the power. This means that I must rely more on God working in me than on my own efforts to be better. It's a completely new approach to life, not just a few changes made in the old way. It demands that I surrender control to Him, so that my actions proceed from the life He plants within me. That life will produce fruit that lasts, and then there will be evidence of real growth in my relationships. So we must never forget that to be filled with the Holy Spirit is to turn from works to faith, and from self to God. It is to realise again that in all our relationships we are to live, not out of ourselves and our own efforts, but out of God's provision of life and power in Jesus Christ.