Begin Loving Others Without Expectations
“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you” (Colossians 3:12-13).
Florence Allshorn was a missionary sent to Uganda by the Church Missionary Society long before the advent of jets that span oceans and continents before the sun rises and sets. A number of missionaries had been there before Florence, but all of them had given up and come back home. The problem wasn’t the climate or the cockroaches. Neither was it the headhunters or unfriendly natives to whom missionaries, especially female ones, were quite a novelty. The real problem was the senior missionary who was a strong-willed woman with a will of iron who had single-handedly stopped the plague by burning down entire villages.
Florence soon discovered the problem when she was shown to her quarters, which consisted of a house that had been divided by a curtain. On one side the senior missionary had a lovely flat furnished quite nicely. But on Florence’s half, the rooms were barren save a bed, a desk, and a chair. That was bad enough, but the real problem was this woman’s temperament. She was extremely temperamental and moody, going for days without even speaking to Florence.
Florence didn’t know the language, and she also knew that if she was to survive, she had to learn the language from the senior missionary. Quickly she learned why the people who had been there before her had soon given up and quit. She almost did the same thing, but then she remembered I Corinthians 13–the chapter on love. Could this possibly be a solution? “If God couldn’t teach her to love the other missionary, how could she ever love the people who needed her help,” she reasoned.
To put it to the test, Florence decided to read I Corinthians 13 every day for a year and to pray earnestly for the woman she had actually learned to hate. And what happened? The same thing that will happen to you if you read I Corinthians 13 for a year and earnestly pray for the person you now hate. Gradually–it didn’t happen on the third day of the experiment–she learned to see qualities that she had overlooked and eventually God taught her to love the person she hated.
In her diary, Florence Allshorn wrote this about the meaning of love: “To love a human being means to accept him, to love him as he is. If you wait to love him till he has got rid of his faults, till he is different, you are only loving an idea. He is as he is now, and he is to be loved as he is…I must accept the pain of seeing him with hopefulness and expectancy that he can be different. To love him with the love of Christ means first of all to accept him as he is, and then to try to lead him toward a goal he doesn’t see yet…”
If you wait to love someone until you have made them into the person who is your ideal–whether it is your mate or your teen-age son or daughter–you will probably never really learn to love.
One of the reasons that we aren’t very good mates in marriage is that we are trying so hard to get the other person to shape up that we don’t have time to concentrate on being the person we ought to be.
We suggest, then ask, then nag and complain, and either capitulate or else grow angry and bitter. “He’s just not the man I thought he was!” Or else we say, “I guess I really didn’t know her.” Being the right person is even more important than marrying the right person. Real love accepts the other with the expectation that God will make him or her into the person he or she ought to be.
Resource reading: 1 Corinthians 13: 1-13