What if throughout our spiritual journey, God leads us through three levels of love? When I first engaged with Him, I was told to love others because Jesus loves me. If others were going to see and feel God’s love, it would be because I obeyed Him and loved others. Love was what I was supposed to do for God. This is level 1 love.
As I matured, I learned that loving others was more than a duty . . . it was an opportunity. When I joined with God in loving others, it felt more natural, and I began to enjoy giving love to others by empathizing with their feelings and making sure I offered to help them whenever I could. By this point, God had led me to level 2 love.
But recently, I’ve experienced something new, deeper, and richer. When I’m prayed up and walking close to Him, loving others is almost a default setting. He enables me to skip over judging a people’s motivations or intentions and just love them in the moment. It’s not all the time, but when I sense His Presence in me . . . when I’m in Christ, loving people is joyful and effortless. This is the third level of love.
Here’s an example. Recently, Miriam and I ate at a restaurant with big, shared tables. On the opposite end of the table, facing me, was one of the most irritating and undisciplined 3-year-olds I’ve ever seen. Snarly, pouty, angry . . . ugh! Suddenly, without thinking, I made eye contact with her. We stared at each other. No smiles. Just a long stare. Acting without conscious instruction, my left eye winked at her. We continued to stare, and after what seemed like a minute, she crunched her whole face and tried to wink back. I couldn’t help but smile. She smiled back. Five or six winks later, we were friends. Her whole demeanor changed. She settled down, started talking nice to her mom, and was transformed right before my eyes.
I’m convinced the Jesus in me reached out and touched that child’s heart. I know it because the whole episode was unintentional by me but clearly intentional by the Holy Spirit living in me. Don’t get me wrong . . . I’m no saint nor spiritual superstar. But for a moment, by setting aside my judgment of that little girl’s behavior, Jesus got to do a tiny, momentary, faith-building miracle right before my eyes.
Scripture: But Jesus said, “Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to those who are like these children.” (Matthew 19:14 NLT)