Ryan and I were travelling to Chicago for a wedding. As we took flight, I listened to a Bethel Podcast by Kris Vallotton titled Cultures That Cultivate World Changers. The question he asks is whether we surround ourselves by people who encourage us. Do we have people like Barnabas speaking into our lives? Do the people around us see through the spiritual lenses of the Father calling us into who God has created us to be, or are we surrounded by people who break us open with their criticism, expose our faults and partner with the enemy (sometimes unknowingly).
This alone is thought provoking, but the bigger challenge comes in the form of the opposing question: Are we being a Barnabas to others? Can we love like that? Calling people up to a higher place. Or are we people who hold people back through a narrow view of their ability? Can we bless others freely, as Jesus commanded us to in Matthew 5:44-45: “But I say to you, love those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven.”
I have learned that in spite of myself, the Father loves me, right now, just as I am. I know He has plans for me…to know Him, have a deeper revelation of His presence in my life and that I am renewed and transformed over time. I am in a process, but in the process, His love for me is unchanging. He doesn’t love me more or less depending on how I mature, or how much fruit I bear, or how quickly I transform into the likeness of the Son. He just loves me.
Equally true, His love is limitless for those around me…even those I find difficult to love. He will go on loving them, in the same way, with the same unchanging, compassionate grace He has over me. He invites me to be like a Barnabas…to speak life into the heart of His bride. For myself, I have learned this has involved giving up my right to choose who to love and who to withhold love from…because the Father’s love is unconditional. He has called me to that kind of love.
It is easy to love when there is no fear of rejection or hurt. Loving “lovely” people comes without sacrifice. I am grateful for those relationships where loving is easy with mutual feelings and intentions. Graham Cooke writes in his book Towards a Powerful Inner Life: “Our true self, wrapped up in the spirit and living in the love and pleasure of God, is completely unafraid of being hurt.” This love is the fruit of the spirit. Loving in the power of the spirit is open and does not fear rejection. Agape love does not wonder what it will get in return for its expression. Agape love, loves without strings, demands or expectations for getting a return for the effort.
I have read the Corinthians love chapter in seasons of my life when loving felt hard and wondered “how can I love like that?”
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonour others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 1 Corinthians 13: 4-7
The freedom to love someone in process comes when I remove myself from a position of being the author or agent of change and resist the temptation to partner with the enemy. In a quiet time, I often confess, “I know I am seeing this situation through my hurt or my disappointment. Open my eyes to see how you see, Father, to better understand how to love and show grace in this situation. How can I be your daughter of encouragement?”
Surround ourselves with people who believe in us and build a culture of encouragement. To hear more listen to Kris Vallotton here: