I want to be popular and successful. There you go, I said it. That means that I want people both to like me and to come to the church I pastor. This leads me to try and say things that they want to hear. This is not loving.
Because people who love us tell us the things we need to hear, not the things we want to hear. They want the best for us. If we truly love someone we will be more interested in their well being than our ego. True loving relationship is about putting the good of another above yourself.
Let me give you two examples of the way friends have loved me.
There was the time that a colleague, who used to be a doctor, loved me by telling me I was fat. He didn't put it that bluntly. He put it more bluntly! He said Daf you are in serious danger of having a heart attack. In other words you're so fat you're going to die soon! He then went on to say that I had four of the five most common causes of heart problems: I was overweight, I didn't exercise enough, I over worked and had a high stress life style. The only thing I didn't do was smoke. Though after that list I wondered if a quick fag would have helped calm me down. It wasn't a pleasant thing to hear, but I have no doubt that he told me because he loved me and wanted the best for me.
Then there was the friend who I emailed for advice about a job I was asked to apply for. I went on and on about my weaknesses and how useless I am, whilst secretly hoping he would email back telling me that I was fantastic and just the man for the job. He called me out! He emailed back a firm rebuke, telling me that my false humility was simply pride in a very bad disguise and that I should be ashamed of my motives in emailing him in that way. Again not the most comfortable experience of my life. But one I needed, from a bloke who loves me enough to pray for me every Monday.
Both of these men were behaving as Jesus did in Mark 10. A rich young man comes up to him and falls on his knees. He asks Jesus what he must do to inherit eternal life. This is a man who wants to please God. And he thinks he can pull it off. When Jesus tells him that he must keep the commandments, the young man replies: “Teacher,” he declared, “all these I have kept since I was a boy.” (Mark 10:20)
So Jesus asks him a question that proves that he can't even keep the first commandment. It shows him what is the first god in his life. His first love.
"Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven.Then come, follow me.” At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth. (Mark 10:21-22)
Because Jesus loves him he is willing to ask the one question that means the man will walk away. He is willing to face him with the truth, that money is his god, even though the result is that he turns away from Jesus.
Loving people means risking that they will reject you. Maybe in the short-term. Maybe forever. Because loving people means always saying what is best for them.