Today’s post is from my new book Love Like Jesus: How Jesus Loved People (and how you can love like Jesus). Last Saturday we posted Chapter 10: Jesus And The Fluid Life. Love Like Jesus is due to be published in January of 2020.
Love Like Jesus: Guard Your Heart Like Jesus
So he came to a town of Samaria called Sychar . . . Jacob’s well was there; so Jesus, wearied as he was from his journey, was sitting beside the well. It was about the sixth hour.
A woman from Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” (For his disciples had gone away into the city to buy food.)
How Jesus Loved People: Diet, Rest, And Exercise
Jesus took care of Himself.
“What’s that?” You’re asking, “Jesus took care of himself? So what? What does that have to do with loving people?”
That’s a great question.
Here, in this passage of scripture, we see Jesus, the Son of God, the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation, taking care of himself. He’s just finished exercising if you will, as he walked to the town of Sychar. He’s about to take in fluids, as he asked for a drink of water. He’s mindful of his diet, as he sent his disciples to buy food. And he’s resting, seated by the well. (Colossians 1:15)
It is a rather curious thing to see he who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty, taking care of himself.
How to Love Like Jesus:
Maybe you’re like me and you feel like taking care of yourself is selfish. If you are you might be interested in this story.
When I was in my early 40s, I wasn’t living like Jesus. I wasn’t taking time to go for a walk through Samaria because I didn’t have time to walk or exercise. I wasn’t taking time to ask anyone to refresh me with water. I didn’t send anyone to buy food, I was living so fast, I only had time to hit the drive-thru — for fast food. I wasn’t taking time to sit down by the well, I wasn’t resting.
I was full of energy and bent on squeezing every minute out of my schedule every day. I took on extra responsibility at the fire department, I signed up as an elder at my church, I hosted a home church group, I taught a men’s bible study on leadership once a week, I built a house and contracted it myself, my wife and I started a vacation rental business, I went to school for my Bachelors in Fire Administration, I started writing a book.
I was working hard to get things done. Diet, exercise, rest? “I’ll worry about those things after I’m dead,” I always thought.
Well — death was very nearly the result of that lifestyle. One night after a Fire Administration class in Portland, Oregon, I was crossing the street to go to the Lloyd Center Mall. Suddenly I found it hard to breathe. I honestly thought I walked into an invisible hazardous materials cloud of some kind. The only problem with that theory was, nobody else around me was having a problem.
Next thing I knew, I’m in the hospital for a double bypass operation.
God decided to downgrade my level of capability.
It turns out it was a big downgrade. Gone was all that energy. Some days I felt completely exhausted by ten in the morning. But do you think I changed my approach to life? I took a promotion at work. I continued to pursue my Bachelor’s degree. I bought another vacation rental. I continued my involvement at church. I finished my book.
Needless to say, things didn’t work out very well. Drained of my physical and mental resources, I had trouble just functioning, let alone performing at a high level. I fell into a depression, which of course, made things even worse. I struggled in every area of my life: spiritual, work, family, all of it. I suffered, and so did my relationships. I wasn’t loving people like Jesus. I simply didn’t have the energy to.
I wonder how things might have been different had I taken care of myself.
Jesus didn’t live like I did. Jesus, the Power of God and the radiance of God’s glory, walked. (1 Corinthians 1:24, Hebrews 1:3) He took fluids. He ate. He rested. He observed the Sabbath. He even took naps. (see Luke 8:23) The emphasis of this chapter is on the physical, but Jesus guarded his heart in other important ways also. He surrounded himself with people who loved God with everything they have. He spent time in lonely places going deep in his relationship with our Father in heaven. He spent time in the scriptures. He prayed for, and followed the leading of, the Holy Spirit. These aspects of guarding your heart are covered in other chapters. The point is Jesus made sure he was in good condition to love people. Jesus followed the wisdom found in Proverbs 4:23 (NIV):
Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.
Maybe The Most Undervalued Verse In The Bible
The writer of Proverbs chapter four is sharing wisdom with his sons. He spends much of the chapter admonishing them to listen to his words and to value wisdom highly. Then toward the end, he writes, “Above all else, guard your heart . . .”
“Above all else,” he wrote.
This instruction, which at the very least is the most important part of Proverbs 4, is something I’ve overlooked until recently. It’s something you can learn right now. You don’t have to wait until you’ve damaged relationships and have a health crisis like I did.
I used to spend a lot of time focused on being productive, at work, at home, in every area of my life. And while there’s nothing wrong with being productive, too often, at the end of the day, I had an impressive number of items completed from my to-do list, but my heart was depleted. It was so depleted, I was unable to even begin to reflect Jesus in my relationships. In some cases, I caused serious damage to relationships, usually without realizing it until much later. The reason I failed God, family, and friends in this way was that I didn’t guard my heart as the writer in Proverbs instructs us to. “Above all else,” he said.
Here’s what I failed to do.
I didn’t spend enough time in community with people who loved Jesus with all their hearts, and all their minds, and all their souls.
I didn’t spend enough time alone with Jesus in prayer.
I didn’t give thanks enough. (see Philippians 4:6-7)
I didn’t spend enough time in God’s word.
I didn’t spend enough time sleeping. (Remember, even Jesus took naps. (Mark 4:38))
I didn’t eat a healthy diet.
I didn’t spend enough time exercising.
I didn’t build margin into my schedule.
I undervalued the Sabbath rhythm God wants us to enjoy.
And I’m sorry to say I’m not alone. The Christian community is full of people who live the same way, and what flows from our hearts is profoundly affected.
Everything Flows From Your Heart
“Everything you do flows from it.” Everything you do flows from your heart, the writer of Proverbs says. When you don’t guard your heart, the people around you drink in whatever flows out of it. If your heart is bitter, the flow is bitter. If your heart is angry or toxic, the flow is toxic.
The sad part is, I used to think I could fake it. “If I say the right things,” I thought, “If I smile,” I thought, “If I pretend to be attentive,” I thought, “If I drink enough caffeine!” Then I can get by, then I’ll be okay. But I was wrong. I’m embarrassed to say that it wasn’t that long ago I realized most people can tell when you’re not authentic. I learned from my own mistakes in this area, if you’re perceived by someone to be inauthentic, it becomes impossible for that person to feel loved by you.
In other words, nearly everybody can tell when it’s not from your heart.
When you don’t guard your heart, Jesus, who lives in the heart of the Christian, becomes unrecognizable to others.
It’s Not Easy Being Me
My heart is particularly difficult to guard. I know people with hearts that seem to pour out Christ’s love even when they’re exhausted, or hungry, or too sedentary, or even in a very difficult circumstance that would cause most people to fall into depression.
I’m not one of those people. (And I’m guessing you’re not either. That type of person is rare.)
If I don’t spend time with people who love Jesus with everything they have, if I don’t spend at least one half hour a day alone with our Father in prayer, if I don’t give thanks often, if I don’t study God’s word, if I don’t sleep enough, if I don’t exercise every day I’m not fit to be around people, let alone love like Jesus.
How To Love Like Jesus
We live in a culture where busy-ness is worshiped. So if you feel like taking care of yourself is selfish, you’re not alone. And it is true, it is selfish to maintain yourself — when maintaining is your end goal. We see many people today who are obsessed with their diet or their sleep rhythms or their exercise.
But the point of taking care of yourself is so you can love God more deeply. The point of taking care of yourself is so you can love people more fully. So you can do more for Jesus. So you can become a sharper instrument to be used, by Him, for His purposes. So you can love like Jesus loved:
That’s not selfish.
You and I might think we’ll bear more fruit for God by using every minute we can to be “productive”, but that’s a trap. When I’m too busy, or too tired, or too burned out, I don’t love well.
It’s better to do less and reflect the nature of Christ, than it is to accomplish more in an un-Christlike manner.
All Jesus had to do was save the world within about a three year time period, yet there’s not one verse in the bible describing him as in a hurry.
Jesus guarded his heart.
“Above all else,” the writer of Proverbs said. Prioritize it, he said.
Prioritize the guarding of your heart.
Guard your heart.
Guard it diligently.
To love like Jesus, do whatever you have to, to guard your heart — so what flows from your heart is the love of Jesus.
It’s one of God’s most important instructions.