It’s such an incredible privilege to live each day to love with Jesus. Having our minds renewed to think like Jesus thinks, frees us to get into the flow of His love for those He puts in our lives. Rom. 12:2, a familiar verse on the importance of renewing our minds, calls us to be transformed by the renewing of our minds. It reads:
“And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.”
Our daughter, Amanda, born with a condition known as Down Syndrome, has been a tremendous blessing to our lives in many ways. There have been challenges, of course, but the fact is, we have received much through her to make our lives fuller and richer. Within the first year of her life, I asked the Lord to help me understand His love. I settled on four new thoughts for me in the months following her birth. Over the next four months, I would like to share those thoughts with you. To have a change of mind that comes from the truth and Spirit of God is a gift. The Greek word, metanoia, conveys this truth: Meta means to have a change, and noia is the word for mind, thus, “to have a change of mind.” So let’s unpack the first of four new love thoughts that hopefully will help us renew our minds so we can think like Jesus thinks about relationships and live to love with Him.
Love Thought Number 1: The value of a person isn’t what you can get from them.
As our family began to embrace the gift that God had given in Amanda, it became painfully and convictingly obvious that I had based the value of my wife, children, and others completely on their ability and willingness to give me what I wanted, like I wanted it, and when I wanted it. I’m embarrassed and ashamed to say that I had that attitude, but it is why I needed to be saved and renew my mind. As long as I could use people or they made me happy, they were of value to me. Even though I had grown up in church environments and knew I was supposed to love God and others, I was still programmed by the sin nature to love like the world does.
What do you call someone who does what you want, like you want, and when you want? Most people call them friends. From the earliest years of social interaction, our prevailing motive when it comes to choosing friends is the question of how useful they will be to us. I doubt that many people know this about themselves. I certainly didn’t. But as I began to see this motive in my heart, I was ashamed of how little I truly loved people, especially my wife and children. I couldn’t think of a time when I thanked God for Alma when things weren’t going like I wanted them to go between us. For the first time in my life, I began to realize why there was no freedom or joy in my relationship with Alma. I had given her the power to make me miserable by basing my happiness and comfort on her and what she did or didn’t do. The sad fact was, I was a user instead of a lover. Furthermore, if and when I did give anything to her, it was usually with the hidden motive of self-gratification. The even more troubling revelation was that I related to God the same way I related to others. He was only of value to me when He did what I wanted and made me happy. Not only did I not love my wife, although I said I did, but I also didn’t love God when I thought I did. I used Him just like I used my wife—for selfish reasons. Perhaps you can relate to my experience.
I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one who has done this. Doesn’t everyone naturally think that others are only of value if they can be used somehow, primarily to deliver comfort and happiness? If people are an inconvenience, trigger us in some way, or if we consider them “expensive,” we avoid them. If they are a drain on our emotions or our schedule or on our personal resources, we pull the plug on the relationship. Maybe that’s why God describes us as useless. Adam’s sin ruined us all and, as a result, we are all relational consumers.
I hope that we’ll examine our mindsets toward relationships and bring our thinking in line with Jesus’ attitude toward us. If we are going to live to love with Jesus, we have a model at which to look: Look at the way He has related to us. If we want to live to know God and love with Jesus, then we’ll have to examine ourselves to discover the basis for our relationships. Do we only thank God for someone when they make us happy? When was the last time, if ever, that you thanked God for your spouse, parents, children, or work associate when they disappointed or hurt you?
Thankfully, our value to God was not determined by our behavior. That’s clear from Romans 3:10-12 which describes us this way. “There is none righteous, not even one; there is none who understands, there is none who seeks for God; all have turned aside, together they have become useless; there is none who does good, there is not even one.” Then how are we valuable to Him? Upon what does He base His relationship with sinners? What makes people who are fallen, triggering, disappointing, and hurtful valuable to us? We’ll answer these questions in next month’s blog. Perhaps this month you might rethink what makes a person valuable to you. Invite Jesus to teach you about how He loves people like yourself, and let Him renew your thinking about relationships.