By Randy Kosloski
How is it possible that some of the nicest people are not Christians? The first book of the Bible answers this question, “…in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them” (Genesis 1:27). So, we are all made in the image of God, and whether it is a Christ-follower, who embraces that image every day, or it is someone who never even considers God, we are all capable of reflecting His goodness. Yet some attribute that goodness to themselves, while others rightfully attribute it to the work of God within them. That distinction has big implications in many areas of life, including what kind of partner a person might be.
We honor God when we do good deeds in His name. But when we draw from our own flawed ability to do good deeds, we are limited by our finite, human capacity. Only by seeking goodness through God can we unconditionally love and ultimately do good things. Only through God can we find the capacity, freedom, strength and courage to love and to be kind when it makes no logical sense to do so.
A friend of mine named Maurice needed to understand this concept. When he first visited me, he was urgently seeking a wife. He had just ended a relationship with a young woman that he once believed he would be with forever. In the wake of this break-up, he felt lost, alone and desperate to meet someone new. He never said what had convinced him to break up with his girlfriend, but given his current state of despair, I knew he must have felt he had no other choice, or else he simply would have endured the relationship.
This dire condition led Maurice into a whole slew of problems, one of which was a hatred for the same woman that he once loved. He blamed her for wasting so much of his life. But if Maurice could have been honest with himself, he might have realized that it was his choice to spend so much of his life in a relationship with her. Since he took so much time to realize the way he was unduly suffering, he should have been mad at himself. And in many ways he was.
Maurice’s desperation was causing him to become attracted to many women he would not have previously considered. Maurice was a Christian but he began looking at non-Christians as potential mates. He was afraid that if he limited his choices to Christians only, he might miss out on “Miss Right.” He defended his choices, saying, “But they are good people, even though they are not Christians.”
When Joseph was sold into slavery by his own brothers, he was made to suffer. God lifted him out of his suffering and blessed him with wealth, responsibility and wisdom, in part because Joseph remained faithful, loving and kind throughout that suffering. Eventually Joseph’s brothers came to him begging for salvation from famine. It might have been a natural response for Joseph to think that it was his time for revenge—what goes around comes around. Instead Joseph chose to respond in selflessness with God’s love.
If we attribute our goodness to ourselves then we can only go so far. If we attribute our goodness to God then we can give love that is without limits because that love comes from God, who is limitless.
While in a relationship where both partners are seeking Christ, when one feels limited in their ability to love, the other may be able to compensate by continuing to love unconditionally. This give-and-take builds infinitely stronger relationships.
Giving love to a non-Christian may be a concern, but receiving love should be as well. If we look to receive love that love will ultimately fulfill us, we are mistaken.
In his book Cries of the Heart, Ravi Zacharias devotes a chapter to relationships called “The Cry of a Lonely Heart,” in which he explores an idea illuminated by many authors, such as D.H. Lawrence and C.S. Lewis, which says that there are depths to every person that love cannot reach. He explains that the human soul is so deep that its outer regions can only be touched by God. If we expect to be filled by the love of our mate, we will be disappointed. This, in turn, can cause us to become angry and bitter. In worse case scenarios, when we continue to pursue love to meet the spiritual needs of the soul, we may become addicted to drugs, sex or who knows what else.
Maurice did not believe that something like this could happen to him. Hopefully, Maurice realized that things don’t have to reach that extreme to hinder our Christlike transformation.
Everyone fails as a partner at some time, whether we are Christ-followers or not. Christians, however, are called to become more loving and to increasingly do good works. The person who attributes their love and goodness to themselves can never freely receive love and never freely give love. True freedom to love is found in God alone.