Again Jesus said to him, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” Then Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.”John 21:16 ERV
In this scripture, Jesus makes clear to his friend Peter how much he values loving the people around you.
This is easier said than done, though. Growing up, my family moved around a lot, so holding onto friendships became hard to do. I learned to care for someone in the moment but not give my heart to the relationship long-term. In my mind, the friendship wasn’t going to last since I would be moving again, so why should I care?
At the same time, I convinced myself I really cared when I was just really being “friendly.” Being friendly – like opening the door for someone – is a behavior. Caring is about really loving someone and including them in your life.
It wasn’t until I studied the Bible that I learned what caring really meant. I learned it from the friends who took the time to show me what the Bible said and showed interest in and concern for me. I also learned love from Jesus’ example of dying on the cross for me. That was life-changing, as I never knew someone cared that deeply and personally for me.
To become a caring person, we must first identify what is holding us back from caring and then move on to learning what we can do to change.
Why can’t I care?
Remember this: There are some terrible times coming in the last days.  People will love only themselves and money. They will be proud and boast about themselves. They will abuse others with insults. They will not obey their parents. They will be ungrateful and against all that is pleasing to God. They will have no love for others and will refuse to forgive anyone. They will talk about others to hurt them and will have no self-control. They will be cruel and hate what is good.  People will turn against their friends. They will do foolish things without thinking and will be so proud of themselves. Instead of loving God, they will love pleasure.  They will go on pretending to be devoted to God, but they will refuse to let that “devotion” change the way they live. Stay away from these people! 2 Timothy 3:1-5 ERV
This is a great passage where we can identify what stops us from loving. While I can relate to all of areas above at different times in my life, I want to focus on three of them.
- “Love only themselves” – my feelings matter more than others’ feelings
- “Boast about themselves” – I am better than others
- “Refuse to forgive” – my comfort is more important than my relationships with others
Love only themselves
When I love only myself there is no room for anyone else in my heart. Growing up in a big family, I had to take what I could get. There was always a sister or brother I had to share everything with. I didn’t care what they went through, how they felt, or what they needed.
I looked out for myself and made it my business to mind my own business. I got by and survived by loving only myself. What was a protective mechanism became a disservice for the rest of my life.
Don’t be jealous or proud, but be humble and consider others more important than yourselves.Philippians 2:3 CEV
I try my best to be considerate of everyone’s feelings in all these matters; I hope you will be, too.1 Corinthians 10:31 MSG
Loving only yourself means you don’t consider other people’s feelings, and you are only focused on what you feel and look like. There is so much self-focus you don’t have room for God or others.
“Self” sins – like self-importance, self-indulgence, self-pity, and self-focus – are all-consuming. Even living for the approval of others may appear to be selfless, but our motives are bad – once again they are for self.
Boast about themselves
Another thing that stops us is our boasting. Boasting is talking with excessive pride. Some of us are outward with our boasting “I’m great” where others of us live for being great. Either way, it is pride that fills our hearts which leaves no room for care.
In his pride the wicked man does not seek him; in all his thoughts there is no room for God.Psalm 10:4 NIV
As this scripture says, pride squeezes out our care for God, and in turn, others.
When I did sports in high school and college, I got so many accolades both from my teammates and coaches, from my peers, and from the local newspaper. I even got voted “Most Likely to Be an Olympic Athlete” in my high school yearbook.
In college it was more of the same: MVP, team captain, and chasing Olympic dreams. I wasn’t much of an outward boaster, but I did live for the moments when I knew others thought I was great, it made me feel great.
I thought nothing could stop me, and I was too busy to care for the relationships around me, I was too focused on my dream and my talents. I thought I would get to caring about relationships, but it wasn’t until I got injured that I realized all that boasting came to an end, and I wasn’t close to anyone.
Without something to boast about, something else to make me feel special, I was empty.
Without something to boast about, something else to make me feel special, I was empty.
Maybe you are living for something else, something you can boast in, and you don’t realize it is taking up space where you can be caring for someone and getting close to people.
Refuse to forgive
Another thing that keeps us from caring is when we refuse to forgive. We hold on to hurts and we don’t care that we are distant. We care to be right.
Whenever I refuse to forgive, it is usually followed closely with self-righteousness. I don’t focus on any ways that I have hurt the relationship, only the wrong that has been done to me.
What that leaves me with is a hardened heart. If you refuse to forgive long enough, it deadens any feelings you might have for a person. You become unfeeling, numb, and justified. Without God and the Bible, it is hard to penetrate a heart that refuses to forgive.
In prayer there is a connection between what God does and what you do. You can’t get forgiveness from God, for instance, without also forgiving others. If you refuse to do your part, you cut yourself off from God’s part.Matthew 6:14 MSG
In marriage, it is easy for me to cast the blame and focus on how I am hurt and shut myself off from my spouse’s feelings. Years of this built up before I even realized or was aware of what was going on in my heart.
We couldn’t figure out why we were so distant, so comfortable with it, so accepting of sin and not helping each other to change.
Bitterness was the culprit. We had to learn to trust again, had to put care and concern back in where so much hardness had been. We had friends help us identify it, show us scriptures to change it and do our own spiritual work praying through it.
I am glad I learned to let go, and it is a process that I have to practice often. I learned that holding on to hurt and pain is not worth it if I want to build a meaningful and lasting relationship. After all, I had my own share of hurts that I’ve dished out over the years, and have needed plenty of forgiveness myself.
- Where have you been loving only yourself?
- What boasting do you do (outwardly or inwardly)?
- Who do you refuse to forgive? Why? How can you begin to let go?
God teaches us how to care for people
Now there’s no need for us to send you instructions on caring for your faith family because God Himself has already taught you how to love outside yourselves.1 Thessalonians 4:9 Voice
I am grateful that God not only decided to show me love but he also teaches me to love. This is a lifelong journey for me to learn and I believe is an important mindset for us to have.
Each day we will make mistakes in our relationships. We will get selfish, get angry and be prideful at times. But at the same time, each day we can learn and become more loving.
Let’s learn to love together. To do that, I want to highlight two different ways God teaches us to care.
Learn from Jesus’ example
This is how we know what real love is: Jesus gave his life for us. So we should give our lives for our brothers and sisters.  Suppose someone has enough to live and sees a brother or sister in need, but does not help. Then God’s love is not living in that person. My children, we should love people not only with words and talk but by our actions and true caring.  –  This is the way we know that we belong to the way of truth. When our hearts make us feel guilty, we can still have peace before God. God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything. 1 John 3:18-20 NCV
Jesus giving his life for you helps you to know what real love is. Caring is love in action. God teaches us to love, and when we put love for others into action, we will care for others. If I am thinking about myself all the time, there is hardly room for me to care about other people.
There sometimes is room enough for me to say that I care, but my insecurity and guilt can crowd out the loving actions that would show my friends that care. When we feel bad about ourselves, we don’t want to help our friends.
Caring is love in action.
Learn to purify your heart
Now, because of your obedience to the truth, you have purified your very souls, and this empowers you to be full of love for your fellow believers. So express this sincere love toward one another passionately and with a pure heart.1 Peter 1:22 TPT
When we obey the Bible we become empowered to love others. This is how we learn to care. We don’t wake up caring for people, it needs to be built inside of us. I never learned to truly care for someone until I studied the Bible and someone taught me to love God.
To get a pure heart, a clear conscience and genuine faith, we not only need to listen to the Bible’s instructions, we need to get rid of sin in our lives.
Until I read the Bible I didn’t see the jealousy and envy that was rotting me on the inside, especially toward my sisters who seemed to get everything they wanted. I didn’t even see how sour it made me with them.
Sin will be rampant everywhere, and the love of many will grow cold.Matthew 24:12 NLT
When asking my 7-year-old son why people stop caring, he said “we stop caring because we are being mean, maybe someone is being mean to us and so we are mean to others.” Kids keep things simple.
We stop caring because we get mean. And according to this scripture we are mean because sin in our life increases. Isaiah 59 talks about how sin separates us from God. Sin is the great divider and it makes our hearts cold and uncaring.
- What do you need to get off your conscience? Pray about it and talk to a friend about it.
- What is making your heart cold?
- Who can you care about today?