'You leave this world with what you were born with: nothing'.
This is partially true; we don't take anything of a material nature with us when it is our time to pass through the pearly gates, but what about relationships? Christian family, friends and acquaintances will be coming to Heaven with usâincluding those we do not get along with so well!
Jesus says the greatest of God's commandments is, 'To love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: "love your neighbour as yourself"'.
It is easy to overlook the second part of this verse, but it has eternal significance. As Christians we will dwell with our Lord God for all eternity, but we will also dwell with each other.
Equal in Christ
So often we place others above and below ourselves, and we treat them accordingly. We look up and down our imaginary scale and judge those who we perceive to be above or below us. We focus on our surface differencesârace, creed, colour, education and family connection. Even within the Church we can sometimes aggressively divide ourselves according to understanding or denomination.
God challenges us to view everyone equallyâas a created child of God. For Christians, we are told to forget our divides and remember we are all one in the body of Christ. Galatians chapter three reminds us we are all in Christ Jesus and therefore there is no cultural divide, no racial divide and no gender divide defining us. The defining factor is our relationship to Christ.
How do we love those we dislike?
It is a challenge to love our neighbours as ourselves, especially when we do not like them!
How can I love someone who is stabbing me in the back? How can I love someone when they have cheated on their partner? How can I love someone who has just hurt someone I love? How can I be near, let alone love, someone who smells bad? These are just some of the difficult questions I have posed to God over the years while trying to learn how to love.
Marriage and family life has practically taught me how to love unconditionally: to not walk away when the going gets tough and to put my family's needs before my own. My relationship with my wife and children helps me see God's love for us.
Living as Jesus lived, loving as Jesus loved is much trickier than it sounds, and is impossible under our own steam. During his time on earth Jesus lived a perfect life and was unfairly abused, to the point of deathâand yet he loved others perfectly.
Jesus was both human and God incarnate. He was able to see the people he created in a way that we can't. He made love personal. As John says, 'God is love...'
Unfortunately, you and I are not love. We can love, but we can't seem to do it perfectly. We see others faults, imperfections and stubbornness. When we remember the wrong doings they have done to us, a small part of us can't seem to completely forgive them. We refuse to make ourselves as vulnerable as Jesus did because we know we'll get hurt again. We love and at the same time, we hold back.
Yet Jesus tells us to love one another as he loves us: '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'.
So, how do we do something which we are incapable of doing?
Jesus tells the story of the vine and branches, he shows us how to put this kind of love into action. 'Apart from me you can do nothing', he says. This means we cannot do anything in the Christian life on our ownâto truly love others we must cling to Christ.
This continual act of surrendering and abiding is only possible through the power of the Holy Spirit. He dwells in us, guides us and gives us the grace to trust God.
How do we abide in Christ?
Reading the Bible, praying and spending time with fellow believers are good ways to keep our focus on Him. When it comes to a practical outworking of our relationship with Christ we are to love othersâexercising patience, love, care and attention to our brothers and sisters in Christ. The greater our trust in Christ, the greater our compassion will be also. Abiding in him is what matters.
My prayer for all Christians to learn to live this truth so we can begin to love like Jesus. I consider myself God's 'work-in-progress', anything more is prideful deception. I am not totally there but, God-willing, I will become more like Christ every day.
I imagine we would have a hard time in heaven if we were to go the opposite way of love! I personally can't wait to worship and fellowship together in Heaven, stripped of all the things holding us back in this world as a result of the fall. I imagine it will be pretty awesome!
Michael Dahlenburg is an Electronics Engineer currently working in the ATM industry. He is non-denominational and has previously been involved in Church plants and assisting those in ministry. His interests include; enjoying family, home DIY, gardening, all things tech-related and driving his wife crazy with a constant stream of inventions! He lives with his Wife Michelle and 3 children in Gods own land of Southern Adelaide, Australia.
Michael Dahlenburg's previous articles may be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/michael-dahlenburg.html