I’m currently in a History of Christianity class, studying the steps from Reformation to today. If you don’t know what Reformation is – the long story short is after Jesus’ day, the “Christian church” was either Roman Catholic or Orthodox, the two separating in 1054 AD. At that time, the Catholic church hadn’t allowed Bibles to be distributed to the masses, so members followed the church blindly. When Martin Luther was able to read a Bible he realized many of the teachings of the church were heretic, and Luther nailed a document to the church door on October 31st, 1517, citing 95 theses statements that he felt the church was wrong about. From that day just over 500 years ago, many different denominations have been birthed including the Christian groups we are familiar with today.
I had expected to learn a timeline packed full of historic events, but was pleasantly surprised to learn something that would alter my own thought process so drastically, and yet so simply.
What caught me off guard was a simple Latin description that Martin Luther used for the word “sin”. Martin used Latin to described sin as ‘love “incurvatus in se”‘ or simply put, love turned in.
It hit me like a ton of bricks in that moment. Isn’t all sin really just love turned inward? When we begin to think about our own wants, or desires above what’s best for others, that’s when pride, greed, lust, gluttony etc. all take over our minds and fill our hearts.
We live in a society where love incurvatus in se is preached on almost every advertisement! If you want – go get it! After all, you deserve it! You do YOU! Your life, your way!! We hear more often then we should encouragement for us to scratch the selfish itch that we carry in our hearts, and the more we hear it the more itchy it gets!
The debt load of North Americans is crazy and a lot of that is from feeding the me, me, me mentality. We have to go on that vacation, because they went there before us, or buy that name brand car, because they have one too. We can’t have a house within our means because our friends have better.
And this plays into things that don’t cause us debt, but just cause us to live selfishly. We ignore our neighbor because our time should spent exclusively on our own selves. We don’t stop when we see someone stranded because someone else can help, or surely that person has a phone and can call whomever should actually help them.
We have become a culture of people who love inward.
Thinking only about ourselves ruins every relationship we have in some capacity. A marriage doesn’t work when one person loves their spouse, and the other spouse loves their own self. Parent-child relationships fail when you forget to love the other in the same way you love yourself. Friendships that become one sided often end quickly (or what can seem like not quick enough to the friend who doesn’t really matter), and even coworkers can’t get along when one is trapped in the endless cycle of trying to put themselves first.
So what is the remedy? How do we love outward?
“Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.” – 1 Peter 4:8. This means forgiving others for their faults. Remembering that not one of us perfect, and when we mess up we would love the same forgiveness that we offer to others, so show outward love by forgiving.
“For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”” – Galatians 5:14. Paul is talking here about the law given by Jesus, who said the greatest commandment is to love the Lord with all of your heart, soul, and mind while also loving your neighbor in Matthew 22:36-40. Even for those who don’t have a personal relationship with God, the very idea of loving one’s neighbor is still important. I remember when I gave birth to my first child, I realized at some point we were all babies, and most had a Mom who held us and loved us the way I held and loved my baby, and it made me realize the depth of love I have for my child, others have for theirs. This helped me to see that all people are of extreme value. All people are loved even deeper by God, so why wouldn’t I want to extend love to my neighbor? And by neighbor I mean co-worker, acquaintance, spouse, sibling, friend, or even the people that disagree with me. Love them all.
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” – John 13:34. This is Jesus speaking, asking his disciples to love others the way that he himself had loved – sacrificially. Jesus emptied himself from the glories of heaven to come to earth, dying in a painful manner because of love. He didn’t have to, and in fact he had the power of God in him and could have avoided the painful death all together. Not to mention, he could have traded it for all the kingdoms in the world as offered by the enemy, and yet, he doesn’t. He presses on, he remains faithful. He loves. And oh, how he loves. You don’t truly know love until you connect with the heart of Jesus, and there is no greater example of loving outward then there is in Jesus.
“Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.” Romans 12:9-10. Paul writes this because he has encountered the love of Jesus and it changed him from a law abiding overly zealous religious man to a changed creation, longing to help others. Paul’s transformation teaches us the value of real, deep, and genuine love. When Jesus transforms Paul, he is driven to show others the love of Christ, knowing when they experience it their only regret was that it wasn’t theirs soon enough!
Most importantly, and most basically – consider yourself: Are you loving outward? Or, is your love turned inward?
Sometimes it’s a simple sentence in a classroom about History that makes you reassess yourself and your own choices. All week I have been trying to consider this one simple statement. I admit, it’s easier to love inward, but it’s far better to love outward. That is where the world is changed.
Also, that is where I am changed. When I think of me, it never ends. My husband can’t do enough for me, my children are selfish for not thinking about me, my parents are not doing enough for me, my friends aren’t building me up enough, and it just goes on and on until you feel so depressed running in circles trying to figure out why other’s don’t see your value.
When I think of others, my entire mindset changes. I’m grateful that my husband did a chore I was dreading, that my children are getting along with each other, that my parents answer my calls with glee, that my friends are so encouraging and doing so well in their own lives. Suddenly, I find myself smiling, grateful for the beauty that surrounds me in the hearts of those I’m blessed to associate with.
The best antidote for a heart turned inward, is to love outward instead.