Watching the TV images of thousands of displaced Ukrainians running for safety is another heartwrenching sign of the chaos in our world today. The Lord said there would be days when “You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come.” Yet, the uncertainty of war, fear of economic collapse, and the ongoing battle for the soul of our children are enough to make us all struggle to keep the joy of the Lord in everyday life. For myself, I know God is walking me through a season of learning what it truly means to be His disciple.
Last month I wrote about how the upheaval at our local School Board was a lesson in grace and the power of prayer. The Lord showed me that despite our conflicts, the follower of Jesus must remember the world is judging Christ by how we behave. As someone who spent decades in the “works-based” religion of Islam, my immediate inclination was that I had to try harder. If I could wake up each day intent on doing “better,” somehow I would start to manifest His attributes of kindness, compassion, and most of all, love. However, as a follower of Christ, striving in my own strength would never work. I soon learned that the starting point has to be with Him.
We all have heard that God’s greatest commandment is “Love the Lord your God with all….your strength and to Love your neighbor as yourself.” But in practical terms, I did not understand the “how?” Then I heard this excellent explanation of a pastor at my neighborhood church. The love of God is not based on emotions, and it is not something we can experience without the Holy Spirit. It is how a Christian draws closer to Him through His Word and is transformed.
In 1 Peter 1:16, the Apostle Paul reminded us of God’s commandment to “be Holy for your God is Holy.” He explains that if we purify ourselves by obeying Truth, we will love one another deeply, from the heart. We do not often hear holiness being associated with loving one another. Our instinct is to treat love as a transaction. We give love or withhold it because of how we feel towards a person or something they do, or do not do, for us.
Peter continues, “you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God.” So the love of God starts as that seed, the Spirit planted in us, that is nourished by the living Word. It’s an indestructible seed, but it can whither without nourishment. We cannot make it flourish on our own, and it does not happen by attending church once or twice a month. Deep, abiding love only matures when we spend time in the Scripture. “as newborn babes, desire the spiritual milk of the word, that you may grow thereby….” I Peter 2:2-3.
We have to crave the Word and grow from the inside out. It is incumbent on us not just for our own lives but also because we are the first impression people get of God. Unfortunately, believers are not reading the Bible nearly enough. A survey from 2021 found that only 11 percent of Americans read the Bible every day, and the majority of Americans never read the Bible at all. As a result, we see our churches torn apart by internal conflict and our communities riddled with hatred and malice.
If we find it hard to love one another, we need to ask ourselves if we are really saved? “If someone says, 'I love God,' and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen?” I John 4:20
Strong words, but God says it and exposes this reality to us for a reason. It should lead us to evaluate our behavior and our collective actions as the church.
The God of the Bible is different than any other faith. He is a God who speaks. He is relational and communicates directly to His children through His Word. It breathes life into us and makes us that royal priesthood, who love deeply despite all our differences or shortcomings.
So what do we do in these troubling times? I have by no means fully grasped what it means to “love deeply,” as Peter describes, but now I know the “how.”
Hedieh Mirahmadi was a devout Muslim for two decades working in the field of national security before she experienced the redemptive power of Jesus Christ and has a new passion for sharing the Gospel. She dedicates herself full-time to Resurrect Ministry, an online resource that harnesses the power of the Internet to make salvation through Christ available to people of all nations, and her daily podcast LivingFearlessDevotional.com.