This is what real love looks like
“Can you two come over for dinner after church?” she asked.
We were caught so off guard we accepted without thinking about how awkward it should be. We were newly married, just moved into a new town, and first-time visitors. I expected polite smiles from the congregation, not an invitation to dinner on the spot.
That simple invite compelled us and forever changed our view of love. We had never seen that kind of love outside of family. I had never considered loving complete strangers. It resembled the radical love we see Jesus display in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, and still challenges us today.
In John 15:12-13, Jesus tells us to love each other as He loved us. “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”
Am I loving a person by my actions or simply tolerating or accommodating at them?
The Bible’s standard for love is greater than ours (1 Corinthians 13:4-6). When the Bible becomes our standard for love, we realize that what we’ve called love is really tolerance. Love goes beyond being polite to pursuing a relationship. It’s more than making a space for someone, it’s making them feel at home.
Since that unexpected dinner invite, I often ask myself am I loving a person by my actions or simply tolerating or accommodating at them?
How to Love Others Well at School
Loving people at school is asking the new girl to be your lab partner rather than the guy you've got your eye on. Love often goes a step further than we feel comfortable with. Love invites her to hang out with you and your friends (1 Corinthians 13:7).
Tolerating is refraining from gossip about the new girl or allowing her to sit at your lunch table. Accommodating is telling her about the Spanish club she would appear to fit into, but steering clear of inviting her to your church or, heaven forbid, your small group.
How to Love Others Well at Home
Loving people at home is asking your little sister to play catch or join you and your friends on a Starbucks run. As a parent, love is inviting your son to help pour ingredients and patiently letting him stir even though it takes twice the time. It’s listening to your sibling or child ramble about butterflies or basketball and asking questions to stimulate conversation rather than squash it (1 Corinthians 13:4).
Tolerating is letting your little brother come into your room unannounced without biting his head off. It’s allowing your child to watch you bake a dessert or sit with you during your show — as long as they are quiet. Accommodating is making spaces to keep kids busy, not taking the time to connect.
How to Love Others Well at Church
Loving people in the church is planning a place for nursing moms, providing wheelchair access to everything, sharing a meal with a single mom and holding the baby so she can eat without little hands in her plate (1 Corinthians 13:5).
Accommodating is finding a place for the wheelchair as if we've never encountered someone we've had to find a special place for, smiling and welcoming the mom struggling with her fussy baby without offering to help, or telling the single dad about another single parent he should meet.
Tolerating is inviting the man with mental illness to church but making faces when he makes noise or worships differently (Luke 6).
How to Love Others Well at Work
Loving people at work is listening and building real friendships regardless of rank. It is appreciating those who help you, noticing when someone is in need and caring enough to say an encouraging word, leave a note, or bring their favorite soda to their desk. Love goes above and beyond to make others look good rather than advancing yourself.
Accommodating is making sure everyone space and supplies to do their work. Tolerating is letting people speak ugly without challenge. Or allowing the single mom an extra hour or two from time to time to deal with unexpected situations but keeping score and using it against her later.
How to Love Others Well in Your Neighborhood
Loving our neighborhoods is mowing someone else’s lawn, leaving cookies on your neighbor’s doorstep, or inviting the widow next door for coffee and listening to the same stories over and over again. Loving is getting dirty and hauling moving boxes for someone who will never be able to return the favor (1 Corinthians 13:3).
Accommodating is ignoring a misplaced fence or when home modifications infringe on your space. Tolerating is keeping to yourself and not calling the cops when their July Fourth party includes firecrackers popping to all hours of the night.
How to Love Others Well in Your Community
Loving our communities is building genuine relationships with people who are different than us. Sharing real-life moments and stories. Inviting people into our homes to break bread with our families (Hebrews 13:2).
Tolerating is not opposing integration yet not supporting it either. Accommodating is creating spaces that promote separation rather than inclusion. It is smiling at the foster kids, but not inviting them to your child’s birthday party.
Real love steps into the messy rather than looking the other way. Love requires us to push past our own insecurity to trust the Holy Spirit’s prompting.
Praying with a stranger on the bus or hugging the sobbing lady sitting beside me in the doctor’s office may feel weird. But when we find ourselves in new places or standing in a crowd with our own tears streaming down our face, we are grateful for people who reach through their insecurities and love like Jesus.