Red Letters

We don’t want our Christian life to be a ritual, a chore, or a duty. And certainly we would not want love to become a chore–like making your bed or brushing your teeth.

Or do we?

This weekend, Sam Bradford made his NFL debut for the St. Louis Rams.
This young rookie has a lot of expectations on him. Having been the #1
draft pick and handed a $50 million contract, many people have high
expectations for the young quarterback. In his post-game interview, he
talked about how he was “thinking too much” in his first game, and that led to some errors on the field.

Bradford knows that on the field his training combines with his
instincts. He has to make decisions about what to do with the ball in mere milliseconds. If he starts to actually THINK about what’s
happening, he’s dead meat.

Professional training takes hours of physical drills, memorizing plays, watching game tapes, reading
books, working out, going to practice. We only see the 60 minutes of
game time each week–not the mountain of hours spent in

If this is the key to peak athletic performance in the NFL…then why not love?

With Christ in our lives we can train ourselves to love so that when our instincts start to guide us, we know exactly what to do, and how to do it. You might use a different word, but I will call this a habit…even a chore. If you can train yourself to make a bed or pick up clothes when you see it is out of order–you can train yourself to respond to the needs of others when you see that they too are out of order. But that kind of life doesn’t just happen.

Loving others does not come by accident.  It comes through discipline and, yes, through our own works. The response to my redemption is to build habits into my life where God’s commandments are written on my heart…that I know them “by heart.”  (Like I know exactly what to do when I see that unmade bed or messy closet floor.)

Let me make an important distinction: I am not talking about making our Christian life a mundane list of “to-dos” and “to don’ts.” I am talking about training your mind and spirit to love habitually and automatically. The same willpower that we use to train ourselves in the mundane is useful for creating habits of love. We use that pattern of ritualization for many activities where we want to see progress–diet, exercise, school, being an NFL quarterback…to name a few.

Why not love?

As a Christ-follower, I must cultivate the “habit” of loving God and loving others–the two commandments called “the greatest” by Jesus.

We are naturally turned toward ourselves and our own ends. We shun discipline in every sense of the word. We would prefer to not “have” to do anything we don’t want to do. And, we don’t want to be “disciplined” for being wrong. In response, we begrudgingly do our “duty,” accept our “responsibility,” meet those “expectations,” and complete those “chores.”

This is not the abundant life Jesus came to give us. It is our selfish response. It is our heart saying, “I prefer to serve myself, not others.” But instead of just saying that, we mince words and play semantics. “I don’t want love to be a chore because then it would be empty and hollow.” Or perhaps, it would mean that we have to stop serving ourselves to serve others in love.

If we aren’t committed to training, our instincts will only carry us so far. We may know what to do, but fall short on the ability to actually accomplish it.  Like the great athletes train for 60 minutes of play time, can we not train ourselves to love one another?

Can we train ourselves to love? And if so, how?

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