Living together in unity requires agape love, an unselfish love that plays second fiddle. You really do not get to know someone until you live with them. It is easy to love someone at a distance, but it requires a great deal of patience to live with others who have issues. And we all have issues. But love is patient - at least that's the ideal. We all know people in our lives whom we claim to love, but living with them is a totally different story. But the truth is, living with others reveals the extent of our patience and love.
My wife and I will be celebrating 19 years of marriage on June 30. The oooey, gooey, lovey, dovey feelings of love lasted for all of about four hours on the way to our honeymoon destination. Then, I found out the truth. That truth was that my love for her was based upon my shallow expectation that she was supposed to meet all my wants, needs, and desires. I have painfully discovered over the years that true love does not begin until selfishness hits the road.
Love is something that cannot be mustered up within us by our own willpower. The Bible tells us that love is a fruit of the Holy Spirit's presence in our lives. When the Holy Spirit is at home in us, then the supernatural overflow of his presence will be love. Over the years I have heard many people make the comment, "I just don't love him/her anymore." In reality what they are saying is that the Holy Spirit is not residing in the center of their hearts, because when the Holy Spirit is present, love is present. Love is not just about having good feelings toward another person, but rather it is more about choosing to consider the well-being of others before your own.
In my opinion, love can be summed up in one word: unselfishness. When Jesus commanded his disciples to love another, he was telling them to live together unselfishly. Living unselfishly requires a great deal of humility. But most of us are naturally selfish and we demand to get our own way. Most parents never have to teach their children how to be selfish, at least in my experience. We are the Burger King generation; we want to "Have it Our Way!"
Our Father in Heaven is pleased when we choose to get over our selfishness and live together in harmony. Getting over our selfishness is not easy, and unfortunately, it is not a one-time experience. Every interaction we have with others is an opportunity to lay down our own agendas and seek to put others before ourselves. I'm still looking for the easy button.
Jesus said that if we want to follow him, we must say no to self and yes to the cross, everyday. Ouch! That, my friends, is no easy button. But what joy comes when we learn to get over ourselves, and allow the Holy Spirit to show us the Father's love and express his love to others through us. Unity will be result of our unselfish commitment to love one another, in spite all of our issues.
Michael Hutcheson is the Director of Father's Heart Outreach Ministries, a local non-profit ministry dedicated to sharing the Father's love with everyone in Rockdale County. He can be reached at email@example.com.