In the school where I worked in the role of a classroom tutor, we had a five-point strategy to encourage good citizenship and kindness in our students. Different goals, such as “soaring to success” (academic excellence), “act responsibly” (good stewardship), and “be respectful” provided our classroom the words and benchmarks to encourage one another forward.
As a grown woman, I wonder how many people know what it is to be respectful. But not just that. Apart from complacently neutral, past the boundaries of pleasant contempt, who knows what it means to honor others?
If respect is the bare minimum allotment of honor, what does it mean not just to respect, but to honor our elders? To honor our husbands or wives? To honor our family and friends?
If love bears all things and believes all things, hopes all things and endures all things, how can we ignore this requirement?
The Lord does expect us to love one another. In Romans 12:10, Paul tells us “Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.” To be perfectly honest, I have not yet researched what the word “honor” means in this context, in Paul’s letter. Yet from what I do know about God, it sounds a lot like Ephesians 5:22-33, which commands husbands and wives to love and submit to one another. Out of abundance instead of hunger, we are called to build one another up.
The love of God is tender as much as it is kind. As God will glorify his children in the second coming, and vindicate his family on that day of judgement, so he gives us reason to be still because of himself. There are many angry people these days about the state of our families, marriages, and civic institutions, but few fulfill what it means to love one another.
In a perfect relationship, it is not a burden to be a woman. The man that loves his wife as he does himself honors her, and makes her happy to be married. He takes care of their children. He does not act as though he himself were a child. Instead of seeking his own interests, he seeks the welfare of his family. Like Jesus being willing to go so far out of his way for us and sacrifice for what we could not do on our own, the equipped man of Christ has everything he needs to fulfill his calling. God is able to equip each of his servants (male or female) for the love he has set before them. Contrary to popular ideology, marriage really is a blessing.
Historically, I have held many strong opinions. I get angry, though I try to contain it. I have been one to feel hopeless. I have been one to feel alone, and the Devil certainly used that in seasons where I was convinced nobody wanted me.
When you go to the Lord with your full heart and he restores those empty places, a funny thing happens. It’s not that your opinions become less valid. Or that you start to feel bad for holding them. It’s that you have less need to insist in your own way and be right about everything. Love does not insist in it’s own way, and as we become more satisfied, being right is no longer the priority.
There are some people that become bolder through the love of God, but I am not one of them. As a kid, I was prepared to raise hell at all times. In all my classes, I have never been shy to share my opinion. I am not often afraid in an external sense, but fear hits me internally.
I know that each person is different. In my case, the love of God made me rest more. It made me happy. More peaceable. Less alone. It gave me words to express mourning and hope for better. It gave me the sense that God does not abandon us when we are angry, but provides us the tools through faith to fight for justice. His love helped me make sense of my life, and use it for better. He constantly provides for me out of my need, and gives me very practical help in times of trouble.
God helps in unexpected ways. For example, making the decision that I will start tithing with my first paycheck this August gives me a sense of stability. This year will not be living off of abundance, but giving God my best gives me the peace of knowing he will provide for me. God also strengthens my body when I give thanksgiving for the food I receive. I have seen it happen, and I have seen this act of thanksgiving radically change my mind and body through the power of God’s Holy Spirit, when we live in relationship with him in thanksgiving. I am well aware that my last claim sounds crazy, but I invite anybody willing to thank the Lord for your food on a consistent basis and see if he doesn’t strengthen you (I’m talking physical strength).
So many good things are already prepared and provided to those willing to allow Jesus to change their hearts. You don’t have to live in bondage forever. To live enslaved long after you’ve been paid for is to miss the entire point.