Cultivating a Loving Attitude

Girl-Imitating-Adult

 

It was less than a year before my daughter started gabbing while holding items up to her ear. It’s amazing how quickly kids start to imitate their parents. It’s also terrifying when you see them start to pick up your bad habits.

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Everyone imitates those they admire. We are all like little kids stepping into our parents shoes, putting on our coats, and mimicking daddy’s goodbye rituals.

This truth is supercharged when it comes to our relationship with God. If we admire God and his love for us, then we will imitate it through the power he has given to us. This blog will walk us through 1) God’s great love for us, 2) recognizing and appreciating what God’s love does for us, 3) how this love practical changes our attitudes, 4) how this loving attitude acts, and 5) how we can maintain this loving attitude by remembering God’s great love for us.

GOD’S GREAT LOVE FOR US

Colossians 2:13-14   And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.

We have trespassed God’s law in a thousand different ways, but God’s law is not just about action; it is about desire and thoughts too. If we think angry thoughts toward someone, it is the same as murder in God’s eyes (Matthew 5:21-22). If we think lustful thoughts toward someone, it is the same as adultery in God’s eyes (Matthew 5:27-28). If we covet and desire for things that are not ours, we commit idolatry (Colossians 3:5). If we lie to ourselves, we have broken God’s command not to lie (1 John 1:8).

God “will by no means acquit the guilty” (Nahum 1:3). God counts every single sin against us, and none can defend against his justice (Psalm 130:3). The wrath of God fully rests over our heads, and the only thing that keeps us from plunging into his eternal judgment is the fact that he continues to hold his hand up, saying, “Give them a little more time to repent” (Romans 2:4).

In Ancient cultures, when crucifixions were performed, an executioner would take the charges of the crucified person and nail them to the cross. Colossians 2:13 says that our record of debt was nailed to Jesus’ cross. This means that Jesus’ charges were not his own, but were ours. God fully poured out his punishment for our sins on Christ, and “by his stripes, we are healed” (Isaiah 53).

BE WHO YOU ARE — CHOSEN, HOLY, AND BELOVED

Through Jesus’ crucifixion, we are forgiven for our sins. But because Jesus Christ was God’s beloved Son, we also receive his position as a child of God. In other words, we are not only brought from hostility to a truce, but we are brought from hostility to love. God actually makes us his child–set apart for him and absolutely loved.

Colossians 3:12a Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved

Chosen: God specifically had us on his mind when he sent Jesus to this earth. Jesus Suffered and died as a sacrifice especially for our sins. In much the same way that we might choose our spouse, God chose us, pursued us, sacrificed for us, forgave us, loved us, and united together with us. We are special and unique to God, because we have been chosen by God.

Holy: To be engaged to another person is to set one’s self apart for them only. Christ died on the cross in order to “present us blameless and holy and above reproach before him” (Colossians 1:22). God has cancelled the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. Through this legal working, we are set apart as holy to God.

Beloved: Being loved is one of the core needs of humanity. In Christ, God has loved us faithfully and passionately. His love can never change or fail. We are absolutely accepted and loved in Christ.

PRACTICAL OUTWORKING

Colossians 3:12-17 Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.

Paul is saying, “Think about how much God has loved us! We must allow that love to take seed in our hearts until we become loving in our attitudes.”

Attitudes: Compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience are all attitudes, not actions. We do not say “do humility, do kindness, do compassion, do meekness, or do patience,” but instead we say, “be compassionate, be kind, be humble, be meek, and be patient.” These are attitudes to acquire. God wants us to see Christ’s compassion for us, Christ’s kindness to us, Christ’s humility in saving us, Christ’s meekness in sacrificing for us, and Christ’s patience and forgiveness until we become like him.

The imitation rule is supercharged when we admire Jesus Christ. When we have been profoundly impacted and changed by his great love for us, we begin naturally to imitate that same love, not from a heart of obligation or duty, but from a heart of love and purity.

Outward Actions: What do those attitudes look like?

  • “Bearing with one another” – It looks like someone who puts up with someone else’s faults/sins/idiosyncrasies, rather than harboring bitterness or anger against them.
  • “Forgiving one another” – It looks like someone who readily and freely forgives someone else instead of hold grudges or making the other person earn their forgiveness.
  • “Harmony” – It looks like loving, harmonious relationships

MAINTAINING THE ATTITUDE

How do we obtain and maintain an attitude of love toward others? Paul follows up his teaching and commands with a few ways that we can remember and enjoy Christ’s great love, which cultivates in us a heart of love for others.

Let the peace of Christ rule your heart 

Colossians 3:15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.

As we rest in the truth that we are absolutely loved by God and make that our central identity, we have lasting peace. Because we know that we have peace–not war– with God through Christ, we also have peace within ourselves. Peace vertically brings peace inwardly.

Vertical and inward peace can be extended horizontally–to our relationships. A fighting, bitter, argumentative person is never at peace with God. The natural by-product of peace with God is peace with our relationships. Romans 12:18 reminds us that it “takes two to tange” and sometimes it is out of our hands, but we should do our best to live at peace with everyone.

Let the message of Christ dwell in you richly 

Colossians 3:16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.

These words have clear implications about church involvement. As we meet together as a church, we sing with one another, teach one another, admonish one another, and thank God together. These things can and should happen outside of church ministries (ie more organically), but our church ministries must include these things.

Since we desperately need to remember our salvation in order to cultivate loving attitudes, our church ministries have the gospel as the focus in our songs, teachings, prayers, testimonies, encouragements, and serving opportunities. Church is a group of people who join together to love Jesus Christ and help one another love Jesus Christ. If we let the message of Christ dwell in us richly, then the soil of our hearts will be cultivated for loving fruit to grow.

Prioritizing Jesus in everything

Colossians 3:17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

This is just a catch-all for us. Through this command, he reminds us to make Jesus first place in everything (Colossians 1:15-20) and to set our minds on him (Colossians 3:1-4). This is a mental discipline that takes time to develop. The more we understand that, through Christ, we are chosen, holy, and loved, the more we will be loving in everything we do.

1 John 4:7-12 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.

This Momentary Gift of Marriage

Many of the insights into these passages are from John Piper’s book This Momentary Marriage.

Have you ever seen a plaque on a kitchen wall that says, “Marriage is Forever” or “Love is Forever” or “Family is Forever.” These platitudes have beautiful sentiment. Family, love, and marriage have a way of getting us through the tough times and help to keep us anchored to things that are more important than money, houses, and jobs.

But are those plaques accurate? Unfortunately, they are not completely true.

Matthew 22:30 “For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven.” There will be no marriage in heaven. I do think that we will know our earthly spouses, children, friends, and loved ones, but ultimately, these earthly relationships will pale in comparison to our relationship with Jesus. Blood may be thicker than water, but the common bond in Christ is thicker than anything.

Paul knows that future day is coming, and therefore he says in 1 Corinthians 7:29-31 “This is what I mean brothers: the appointed time has grown very short. From now on, let those who have wives live as though they had none, and those who mourn as though they were not mourning, and those who rejoice as though they were not rejoicing, and those who buy as though they had no good, and those who deal with the world as though they had no dealings with it. For the present form of this world is passing away.”

Does this mean we should ignore our spouses and become a monk? I don’t think so, but I do think it means that, while we are united to our spouse in love, we also hold everything on this earth loosely, because all of our possessions, all of our earthly work, and all of our earthly relationships are passing away. Only eternal possessions, eternal work, and eternal relationships will last. And so we hold our spouses tightly, and loosely.

This is what Jesus means when he says in Luke 14:26-27 and 33, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciples … So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.” This does not mean we should despise our spouses, any more than it means we should despise our own life. This word refers to preferential treatment.

For example, if I offered you $100, would you take it? Of course you would. In fact, you are probably already planning what you would do with it! What if I also offered you $1,000,000, but only on the condition that you cannot take the $100 too. Would you cry about the $100 that you lost? No! Because you have something much better. Jesus is telling us that we need to choose him above all else, which does not mean that we literally need to grit our teeth and despise our spouses. God gives the good gift of marriage. He expects us to love our spouses and enjoy our companionship, but he wants the greatest gravitational pull on our lives to be him. This means that, even on our wedding day when we hold one another tightly and enjoy our first married kiss, we hold our spouses loosely, knowing that there is an infinitely better day coming.

In Luke 18:29-30, Jesus says, “Truly I say to you, there is no one who has left house or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, who will not receive many times more in this time, and in the age to come eternal life.” We are not promised more spouses in heaven because we chose Christ over our earthly wife or husband. We already learned that in heaven we are not married. This means we will receive rewards that are far better than any earthly relationship could offer.

Christianity calls marriage a wonderful gift, an amazing responsibility, and a treasure to be held loosely. Love your spouse, but through your relationship with him/her, set your mind on eternal things.

Colossians 3:1-4 says, “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.”

Tightly, but loosely.