Not The Only Apple On The Tree
Last month, I spent some time reflecting on how much God loves us. In Zechariah 2:8, and in Psalm 17, we read that we are the apple of God’s eye. That doesn’t just mean that God has a warm affinity for you. It means that He wants to protect you from sin and He wants you to take on His nature.
Being the apple of God’s eye means I am covered by layers of His protection and love. As I grow, I should take on more of His God-ness.
But let’s go further with this.
God created me to live and love. He created me to worship and praise Him, to take on His nature.
And He did the same for you.
And He did the same for the barista that made your latte this morning.
And He did the same for your volleyball coach.
And He did the same for the homeless guy on the corner.
If you are to believe that you are a child of God - the apple of His eye - then you must believe that of others.
This is where it gets a little hard. Remember what it means to be the apple of God’s eye? How He desires to protect you? How He loves, and cherishes you? How He desires to see himself in you?
If He is doing all of that for you, then you must apply that to the people you encounter. So, how do you start looking at the people you encounter in your day to day life - no matter who they are or how they challenge you - as a beloved piece of God’s creation? As the apple of His eye?
In Ephesians 3, Paul instructs the church of Ephesus on the proper way to treat Gentiles...a people who were vastly different from the Jews (those who were “meant” to receive Christ’s message of good news). From Paul’s words, we find a few things to remember as we try to do the work of loving others.
Remember that you are only His beloved because of grace.
I became a servant of this gospel by the gift of God’s grace given me through the working of his power. (Ephesians 3:7)
You are not special because you read your Bible or because you go to church. Going on a summer mission trip will not make you more deserving of God’s love, nor will dressing modestly. We only experience God’s love because He has grace for us, despite our multitude of sins. If it were up to us and our works, we would never work our way onto God’s “good side.” You will never become more like Him if you’re just showing up to church to check it off of a to-do list. This will only happen when you humble yourself (see Philippians 2:1-11) and acknowledge how far you are from God when you try to go it alone.
Remember that God desires for others to know Him.
I can’t help but get excited with Paul when I read his words here. I have such mad respect for his humility and jealousy for his enthusiasm as he says:
Although I am less than the least of all the Lord’s people , this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the boundless riches of Christ, and to make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery, which for ages past was kept hidden in God, who created all things. -Ephesians 3:8-9
Paul is reminding the people of Ephesus that the Gospel of Christ is good news for everyone. The Lord desires for all people to know Him and His love, to be part of His family. It is not, and will never be, your job to tell someone they are not deserving of God’s love. You might encounter people who reject God’s love - and that will break your heart. But your only role is to demonstrate and offer love to people. No matter who they are. Or where you meet them. Or how they treat you.
Remember to plant yourself in love.
That last part - how they treat you - can be hard. If someone is unkind to you or to someone you love, you really don’t want to love them back. But towards the end of this chapter, Paul writes:
I pray that out of His glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through His Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith… -Ephesians 3:16-17
Be comforted - the power to love people the way Christ loves them will not come from yourself. It’s not up to you to summon this God-like compassion and love. In fact, your human eyes are not capable of seeing past the homeless man’s shaggy beard or the barista’s sarcastic attitude or your volleyball coach’s dismissal of your sore calves.
In order to express God’s love you have to literally plant yourself in His love! Verse 17 continues...And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power… Plant yourself in the Lord’s love so that you can extend that to others.
Remember that you are not alone.
And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge - that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. -Ephesians 3:17-19
You are not the only one who has chosen to plant yourself in the love of God. You are not the only one who will step out of your house on a Monday morning and practice extending God’s love to a cranky bus driver or classmate. And you are not the only one who will have to extend love to someone who looks down on you (maybe because you choose to plant yourself in God’s love). Allow yourself to be surrounded by people who will remind you what it feels like to experience God’s love...as you practice extending it out to others.
Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.
Remember that this daunting task of loving people as Christ loves them - the apple of His eye - will not be easy. And it will not be about you. Seek to love in a way that gives God the glory.
In closing, I would encourage you to read over these passages (Ephesians 3 & Philippians 2) and then pray through them. Ask the Lord to reveal people in your life that might need to be reminded how they are loved.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Mary Elizabeth has been doing life in Nashville, TN for five and a half years. She currently work for a faith-based nonprofit as an after-school program coordinator...and wearer of many other hats. Outside of work, she is known for her baked goods (it's been suggested that she start a "Muffin Ministry") and her tendency to disappear into the woods at random intervals.