My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. (John 15:12-14)
Max Dunn (1922-2017) was a retired executive and a committed Christ-follower. I never met Max, but what I’ve read tells me that he practiced Christ’s love commandment. Into his nineties, Max volunteered to provide transformative counseling for men at a Salvation Army rehabilitation center in California. Max dealt with addicts, giving them his undivided attention, counseling, mentoring, and intercessory prayer. Max cared deeply about the men he served and was deeply invested in their successful recovery. Out of his own life experience and heart for ministry, God used Max to bless men from very difficult backgrounds. Max helped the addicts turn to Christ from idols to serve the living and true God and to watch and wait for the return of Jesus, our Redeemer and Rescuer.
Drawing on 1 Corinthians 13 (the Bible’s “Love Chapter”) this continues our series on “Jesus-like Love.” I number headings for ease of discussion. If you missed them, you can read Part 1 and Part 2 here.
5. Jesus-like Love Is Not Proud, Arrogant, or Puffed Up.
Proverbs chapter 6 lists seven things that the Lord hates and proud eyes tops the list.1 Pride is an attitude that makes us overestimate our self and discount others. Being puffed up is thinking more highly of our self than we ought.2 Humble love acknowledges that God’s providence and help is the source of all our accomplishments, skills, brains, and beauty. How can we ever be conceited when we understand that everything worthwhile in our life is God’s gift to us? Thankfulness cures pride; we can’t practice both at the same time. Grateful people find much that unites them and arrogant people find that everything divides them.
Helen Roseveare (1925-2016) was a medical missionary in Africa who learned Christ-like humility. Helen was the only doctor in a hospital, with constant interruptions and shortages of medicines and supplies. She was getting edgy and irritable with everyone around her. So one of the African pastors wanted Helen to have a little retreat, two days of silence and solitude to pray and to be alone with the Lord until her attitude was adjusted by God. For the first day and a half Helen struggled. She prayed, but her prayers seemed to bounce off the ceiling. On the second night, she confessed to the pastor that she was stuck. He drew a long straight line on the ground. He said, “Here is the problem, Helen. There is too much ‘I’ in your service. Ask the Lord to cross out the ‘I’ and make you more like Christ.” Now the pastor drew a cross in the dirt and Helen remembered Jesus’ love commandment. She realized the privilege of helping others, releasing her ego, and letting go of “I.” The stairway to ministry is not going up an elegant staircase, but a back stairwell that leads down to the servants’ quarters.3
Christ says: Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world [advantages, affluence, education, opportunities, privileges, success], and yet lose or forfeit their very self?4
Humility doesn’t mean we think less of ourselves than is true. It means thinking of ourselves less. See also Tim Keller’s The Freedom of Self Forgetfulness: The Path to True Christian Joy.
I ask thee for the daily strength, to none that ask denied,
A mind to blend with outward life, while keeping at thy side,
Content to fill a little space, if thou be glorified.5
6. Jesus-like Love Is Not Rude, Unmannerly, or Demeaning.
Love makes us behave courteously and decently toward others. Good manners show that we respect and value people. Civility shows a sensitive awareness to others’ feelings. We are all busy and ave lots to do, think about, and take care of. But there’s always time to be gracious and polite. Alfred, Lord Tennyson said, “Courtesy is the fruit of a loyal nature and a noble mind.” Christ-like love is respectful, thoughtful, and considerate of others.
At age sixteen, George Washington (1732-1799) copied out 110 Rules of Civility and Decent Behavior in Company and Conversation. Some of these rules seem fussy and silly by modern standards, but don’t miss the gold in this little book. The common theme is caring for other people, more than for our own selfish interests. The rules are about small sacrifices we should be willing to make for the good of other people and for the sake of living and working together with them. Washington’s Rules are about showing respect for others, which in turn gives us healthy self-respect. George Washington honored everyone, so it’s no wonder that everybody honored him!
Some time later, Samuel Miller (1769-1850) of Princeton Seminary wrote Letters on Clerical (Pastors) Manners and Habits. Miller recognized that a pastor’s whole way of life (in little and big details) often makes or breaks his influence on people. Miller urges us to be examples of kindness, goodness, considerateness, and cheerfulness in Christ, imitating Jesus’ meekness and humility, and making the gospel of God our Savior attractive to others. All Christians must live this way, not just pastors.
Scripture says: So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets….Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves….In everything set an example by doing what is good….Show proper respect to everyone….Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor….Do not cause anyone to stumble…even as I try to please everyone in every way. For I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so that they may be saved.6
In service which thy will appoints there are no bonds for me;
My secret heart is taught the truth that makes thy children free;
A life of self-renouncing love is one of liberty.
Prayer: Holy Father, you teach us that love is the fulfilling of your law. Help us to love you with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength and to love our neighbor as our self. Keep us from pride and rudeness and help us to practice Christ-like humility and civility in our dealings with others. You have begun a good work in us, now carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus’ return. We pray in His name. Amen.
Notes (various translations): 1 Proverbs 6:16-19. 2 Rom 12:3. 3 Edmund P. Clowney (1917–2005). 4 Luke 9:23-25. 5 From the hymn “Father, I Know That All My Life is Portioned Out for Me” by Anna L. Waring (1860). 6 Matt 7:12; Rom 12:10; Titus 2:7; 1 Peter 2:17; 1 Cor 10:33.