How to love like Jesus in five steps

I’m not a softhearted poet. I’m not a people-pleasing idealist.

I live with full-throttle ambition and no shortage of self-interest.

I’m impatient and sometimes insecure.

I jockey for position and I like exclusive privileges. I can be judgmental, insensitive, petty and resentful.

Oh, and I can be cheap and stingy.

But I want to love like Jesus.

Why? Because I know it’s the best way to live.

When we love like Jesus we are lifted outside ourselves.

We shed self-interest. His brand of love sees beyond the normal range of human vision – over walls of resentment and barriers of betrayal.

When we love like Jesus we rise above petty demands and snobbish entitlement. We loosen our tightfisted anxiety and relax in a surplus of benevolence.

Most of all, the Jesus model of love inspires our spirit to transcend who we are tempted to settle for.

It insures that we are following the best way to live, “the most excellent way.”

I want to love like that.

Getting Real

But can anyone really love like Jesus?

After all, He raised the bar of love to extraordinary heights. Love your enemies? Walk the extra mile? Turn the other cheek? Seriously? This is love beyond reason, isn’t it?

Of course. And that’s the point.

To love like Jesus we need to think and feel. We need reason and emotion. We need both our head and heart, working together.

It’s the only way to bring perfect love into our imperfect life.

Here’s the truth: when you open your heart, love changes your mind. Let that sentence soak in.

Your mind can do an about-face when it receives a divine impulse from your heart. Your mind can be transformed when it listens to your heart. You’ll experience a revolution in your thinking when you allow your heart to enter the conversation. It’s what Paul was getting at when he said, “You’ll be changed from the inside out” (Romans 12:1 MSG).

If you are looking for a reasonable love you’ll miss out on an extraordinary love. You will miss out on the power to find a love you didn’t know you had.

Five Practical Steps

I’ve been on a long quest, truly for decades. I’ve wanted to know how the ideal model of love could rub off on my imperfect life. And here’s what I’ve learned: Loving like Jesus is more obtainable than you might imagine.

His teaching and example reveal at least five distinct and practical qualities of His love:

If you want to love like Jesus, you’ve got to…

become more mindful – less detached
become more approachable – less exclusive
become more grace-ful – less judgmental
become more bold – less fearful
become more self-giving – less self-absorbed

Is this an exhaustive list of how Jesus loved? Of course not. But it’s a way to get an earthly handle on this heavenly ideal. Time and again, Jesus demonstrated these five qualities and spoke about them, not as unreachable ideals. These are doable.

The Payoff

One of my biggest concerns in writing about this is that you might feel that loving like Jesus means becoming a doormat.

A weak wimp. It’s a common misperception. And it’s not true.

Nor is it true that when you love like Jesus you miss out on all the fun.

Some people think that loving like Jesus means sacrificing happiness. They think it’s all about self-denial. They think it will squash joy.

They are wrong.

Numerous studies find that the ability to practice love in our daily relationships is the defining mark of the happiest of human beings.

When people engage in self-giving love by doing something extraordinarily positive, they use higher-level brain functions and set off a series of neurochemical reactions that shower their system in positive emotions.

God designed us to have a driving desire for happiness. It’s bred in our bones. It’s in our DNA. God wants us happy.

But too often what we think will make us happy, what will give us abiding joy, won’t.

In fact the great hindrance to true enjoyment is our willingness to settle for pitiful pleasures. We become accustomed to such meager, short-lived pleasures that we miss out on the deepest enjoyment of all.

I’m optimistic about you and me. I believe we can both become better at loving like Jesus.

Why? Because this love isn’t illusive. It isn’t pie-in-the-sky. It isn’t out of reach or relegated to untouchable saints.

It’s real.

Jesus gives us practical steps to love in extraordinary ways.

He calls us to embody these five qualities.

Are they difficult? You bet.

But not insurmountable.

Will you and I fail in living them out? Absolutely.

But don’t be discouraged.

For it’s in our failed attempts that we learn to better travel the most excellent way.

This article originally appeared on Ann Voskamp's blog, annvoskamp.com.