When we were born again the Holy Spirit poured God’s love into our hearts. (Romans 5:5) As we follow Jesus because of His love for us we see how His love can touch and change the lives of other people we know and meet as we share His love with them in so many ways.
I have discovered that the longer I walk with Jesus and follow Him the less I focus on this love and simply take it for granted. I have also discovered that spreading that love to others who do not know Him becomes less and less of a priority as I begin to take His love for granted and life continues on as before. So then I find myself needing to “grow a heart of love” towards the lost once again. In other words, going back to the basics of the faith – loving people enough to tell them the Good News of salvation through Christ’s life, death, and resurrection.
To being regrowing a heart of love for those who are lost, broken, and wandering far from God, we can pray that God will give us a heart like Jesus’ heart towards those who are still living on the borderlands of faith. Pray for God’s love to fill our hearts to overflowing.
But be warned: this prayer is dangerous.
It’s risky to pray this because when we ask God to give us His heart, we know that this is one prayer He is always willing to answer. His love will help us feel on a new and deeper level. Jesus wept over Jerusalem (Luke 19:41). God loves people with absolute desperation. If we have even a small fraction of God’s heart for people, tears will flow, compassion will grow, and hearts will break. We will never be the same.
Another way we can grow our heart for those who are spiritually disconnected is to study the life of Jesus. As we discover how the Saviour related to those who were deep in sin and spiritually lost, we can gain a vision for connecting with others that will shape our hearts and our lifestyle choices. Jesus talked with and let His heart be touched by an adulterous woman (John 8:1-11), a dishonest businessman (Luke 19:1-9), “sinners” (Matthew 9:9-12), and a broken woman (Luke 7:36-50). Jesus’ example and his love for people, even the ‘tough people,’ can inform our priorities and help reshape our hearts into ones that look a lot like His.
One additional way we can grow a heart for people on the borderlands of faith is to notice and connect with people who are far from God. Jesus had a way of seeing the sick, stopping for the broken, making space for children, touching those who had leprosy, and connecting in an authentic way with people many others in the religious community avoided.
We can develop a discipline of noticing and making space for those who are spiritually disconnected and often marginalized even by Christians. As you spend time with these people, God will grow new love within you.
As we prepare the soil of our hearts for the work of outreach, it is critical that love rules the day. Love brought God from Heaven. Love put Jesus on the cross. Love offered salvation to you and me. And love will drive us to our knees in prayer and then into the world searching for those who are still lost. When we love God and our hearts are captured by His love, we are compelled to reach out to those who are still far from Jesus.