There are different ways to love people. Jesus was the expert at them all, and none was His equal.
Loving people requires a keen understanding of what their needs are at what time — the psychology of humanity laced with spiritual understanding only the Holy Spirit can truly provide. I have played the piano most of my life and still dabble at playing. Knowing what way to love someone at what time reminds me of perfect notes played on a keyboard. We may have the mechanics to love someone. But if we don’t have the right intuition, we will play the wrong song and sour the entire thing.
Sometimes people will need to be loved by our silence. Not a word spoken but simply an outstretched hand or being held while they cry. Sometimes they will need words, and we gravely need the Spirit to give those to us, especially when it gets tricky and we are out of our pay grade in a situation we have no personal experience. Only God knows how to compensate and make us wise, despite ourselves. Sometimes they need our presence over time, knowing we will not leave no matter how tough they make it on us. Sometimes they need food. They need us to give their dog a bath. They need us to have a talk with the teenage son they are having a hard time reaching because maybe someone else’s influence will help.
Sometimes a friend may need us to love her through her anger over a divorce, even when we have history with both parties involved. Sometimes people need us to love them by hanging in there when they leave our church, and we feel awkward about that. Sometimes they need us to love them enough to walk out of a room when someone starts to gossip about them, even when we would like to stay and listen to the rest. Sometimes love looks like not being mad at them for not answering our text, forgiving them for what they said that hurt us, encouraging them when we’ve encouraged them a hundred times and it’s never done any good.
Love looks different at different times, and we need to know which song of love to play when.
John 8 is a master class in this kind of insight. Jesus loved the woman caught in adultery in beautiful ways, more than just one, and He loved all of us at the same time — because what He did for her then is exactly what He does for us all now. He went out on a limb because love always does:
The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery, and placing her in the midst they said to him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. Now in the Law, Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?” This they said to test him, that they might have some charge to bring against him. (John 8:3–6 ESV)
Jesus wasn’t concerned about what could be done to Him. His focus was on being what this woman needed. When we spiritually mature into this type of believer, the world will look different.
Jesus held His tongue. He wisely knew when to speak and when not to, in this situation and so many in the Word.
Sometimes holding our tongues is the most loving thing we can do.
It is the perfect song to play in a situation, and we will need the discernment and power of God to be able to pull it off. Verse 6 continues, “Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground” (John 8:6 ESV). Later Jesus would speak, but at this moment, He spoke loudly through silence.
Jesus spoke up on the woman’s Behalf. Coming to the defense of this woman was a loving act of a loving God, and He did not hold back or do so with passivity: “And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, ‘Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her’” (John 8:8 ESV). In so doing, He said to the woman: “I love you.” The precious gift of defense should speak to our own hearts, not only to remind us of how God handles us, but to inspire us to follow His lead. There come times when we need to speak on behalf of others, and this is a rare commodity in a world that will fight for its own rights but will rarely be found defending the rights of others. Let Jesus be our example.
Jesus forgave. I can’t think of anything more stunning than forgiveness. What is more loving than expunging sin? The mistreatments and injustices piled against us may seem unforgivable, but when we look at Jesus, we know there is nothing we cannot forgive. I know some reading this may bristle over the idea, for some things are hei- nous and don’t deserve our grace. I agree. But in the face of love and Jesus, where else is there to land? “Jesus stood up and said to her, ‘Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?’ She said, ‘No one, Lord.’ And Jesus said, ‘Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more’” (John 8:10–11 ESV).
Love is indeed bigger than life. It is bigger than our anger. Bigger than fear, bigger than resentment, bigger than law. Different songs of love may be played, but love will be the constant. It is why Jesus came; it is why He died; it is why He stays with us even today, when we have done our best to run Him off.
We are forever safe with love. May we constantly choose love over judgment in this Jesus-over-everything life. With Jesus in our hearts, we literally have it in us.
Excerpted with permission from Jesus Over Everything by Lisa Whittle, copyright Lisa Whittle.
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People need all different kinds of love. We must learn to listen to the Holy Spirit and respond with compassion and action in step with God and without judgment. How have you seen love over judgement change lives? Come share with us on our blog. We want to hear from you!