John 15:17 “These things I command you, that you love one another.”
The command to love one another causes me to pause in my tracks. I know, that I have not perfected this directive and so I am hesitant to write on something in which I fall woefully short. I aspire to love more like Christ so I’m pressing on that I may grow in this area.
Love is the very embodiment of God Himself.
Do I sufficiently represent God in such a way that brings honor to Him? One that truly reflects the magnitude of His love? Sadly I must recoil and say no, I do not love like He commands me. To my shame, I am far too impatient when I drive, far too short with those I disagree with, and I am far too harsh with the hypocrite….I have a lot of growing I need to do. This brief look at love is as much for me as anyone.
Lack of love in the world
The news today can be downright depressing.
Hatred for one another seems to be the norm. The left hates the right or vice versa, there’s hatred for police, hatred for politicians, hatred for those not wearing masks or those who wear them improperly, there’s hatred for so many things that it can be hard to see beyond the haze of indifference. If we are not careful, we might get caught up in this pattern of darkness and allow it to infect us as well. So let’s do a brief survey and see what stands out…
1 John 4:7-8 “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God, for God is love.”
A defining quality of a follower of Christ is love. If we are filled with the Spirit of God, His attributes will manifest through us as we walk in Him. The foundational attribute of God’s character is love, and the definition of that love is embodied in Jesus Christ. If we call ourselves ‘Christians’, what we are saying is that the love of Jesus has transformed our lives and we want to love like Him! If all that is comes from my life is anger, bitterness, hatred, apathy or any other character defect, I must bring into question where my heart really is.
Love in God’s Kingdom
*What does God’s love look like in His Kingdom?
1 Corinthians 13:4-7 “Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”
Wow…every time I read this chapter I am confronted by my insufficiency of meeting this standard. We would do well to read this in the morning when we arise and in the evening at the conclusion of our day. Did we really show love today? Did my responses reflect the love that God has shown me and has placed within me, or did I react according to my flesh? These questions are asked far too infrequently.
When I love others, I am loving God.
Jesus said…”If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word. My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him.”
This scripture in John 14 is not an indictment against us but a promise and a hope for those who love the Lord. If we truly want to abide with God, we will keep His Word. Keeping God’s Word not only reflects our love for Him, it reveals to the world our testimony….Christ in us.
The testimony of God’s faithfulness is the drum beat of His people, if we love Him we march to His lead and His call resonates in us….Love one Another!
John 14:24 “Whoever does not love Me does not keep My words. The word that you hear is not My own, but it is from the Father who sent Me.”
*The entirety of God’s manifold wisdom is contained within His moral law. The way we show love for God and love for others is in keeping it. Jesus summarized the full meaning of His moral law.
Mark 12:29-31 Jesus replied, “This is the most important: ‘Hear O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is One. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ No other commandment is greater than these.”
Jesus was not referring to the judicial law, although good and wise, those were meant for society and how to maintain order. He likewise was not referring to the ceremonial laws, these were designed for practice within the temple. The giving of the Moral Law, (the 10 commandments) were the reason why God told Pharaoh to let His people go. At the mountain of the Lord, Mt. Sinai, He delivered to the people the reason why they worship Him, how to worship Him, and when to worship Him.
The answer as to when we worship God is —Always!
Proverbs 3:1-4 “My son, do not forget my law,
But let your heart keep my commands;
For length of days and long life
And peace they will add to you. Let not mercy and truth forsake you;
Bind them around your neck,
Write them on the tablet of your heart,
And so find favor and high esteem
In the sight of God and man.”
Why do we give ourselves reminders? Is it because we have too many things to remember? Is it because we are too busy or constrained by our schedules? In my case, I get way too distracted and forgetful.
The Lord recognized this less than desirable trait of forgetfulness in us, so He gave us tips on how to remember. If I forget how to love, I need to write it down, place reminders for myself in strategic locations, in essence, inundate my world with signs that keep my thoughts clear on what is truly important. If I don’t remind myself, I’ll come to the end of the day with another set of regrets.
I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of having regrets. I am done with feeling like I once again did not measure up to the standard of righteousness I want to live by.
There are many people who do not seem lovable, particularly those who hate me. In my selfishness, I want them to feel bad for hating me, I want to show them they are wrong. If I live by what I believe, my approach toward loving others looks quite different:
Luke 6:32-36 “But if you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. And if you lend to those from whom you hope to receive back, what credit is that to you? For even sinners lend to sinners to receive as much back. But love your enemies, do good, and lend, hoping for nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High. For He is kind to the unthankful and evil. Therefore be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful.”
There are many people I do not agree with politically, and yet, I’m called to love them. What does it look like to love them? Do I gloat over a candidate I supported that got elected or show rage over one who didn’t? Do I bash a leader I dislike or over exalt one I do?
*If I am identified by my political aspirations and not by Jesus Christ, I have ruined my testimony.
If my parties allegiance takes precedence over my allegiance to Christ in me, I have failed as an ambassador of Christ’s love for the world. It’s time for the people of God to live with an eternal perspective and not a temporal objective. We destroy the image of Jesus when we directly associate Jesus with a political candidate, especially when that person does not embody the love of God.
Expression of Love
If I show disdain for someone because of their religion, lifestyle, or their affiliation, I do not love God. I’m not saying we affirm anything that is contrary to God’s holiness, I’m saying we love the person regardless of what they represent. It is God who brings judgement upon the unrighteous. Jesus made it very clear what love looks like, but what about what it doesn’t look like?
Matthew 5:21-22 “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment.’ But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment. And whoever says to his brother, ‘Raca!’ shall be in danger of the council. But whoever says, You fool!’ shall be in danger of hell fire.”
Love expressed is only as valuable as the intent of the heart.
If I do a kind deed but I don’t have love, my insincerity undermines the act. Sure, there are those on the receiving end who may appreciate it for the moment but eventually the lack of love is reflected in the actions of the giver. I know from experience, it’s very hard to sustain a sense of giving when love is not the foundation of why I give. I grow weary and burdened by simply acting, serving out of necessity, or out of responsibility and not because I truly love the ones I serve.
1 Corinthians 13:1-3 “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, [it profits me nothing.]”
What do we lose when we act in a way that mimics love and yet is born out of pride, guilt, or pain? We simply lose God’s reward. The reward that God has set aside for the faithful is manifold, there is both joy now and there is joy to come. How God goes about rewarding His people is as bottomless as His grace…there is simply no end.
There are many that think they are expressing love, serving in the church, or being righteous, when all along they have been lying to themselves.
Matthew 7:21-23 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!
Lawlessness! That is the conclusion that brings condemnation from Jesus. This lawlessness is again the importance of understanding and following God’s moral law. Not to be justified, His grace alone is sufficient, but to express love to God by truly loving other people.
Remember, love is of God and love is born of God, when we express true love it is an expression of God’s love through us. When we truly love, we act in accordance with His will and His direction. He pours His love into our hearts and then directs us in how to exercise it.
Those condemned, do not act on His love but on what they deem as an appropriate expression of love. God’s love is agape love, they may express Phileo love, but it’s the intent of the heart that condemns.
We, in ourselves have no goodness. We cannot be ‘good’, outrightly on our own. Romans 3:12 “They have all turned aside; They have together become unprofitable; There is none who does good, no, not one.” The ability to truly love come from this source of goodness which ultimately, is God Himself.
*Consider what love truly looks like, consider how it is expressed in your own life and then look to the source and you will find an endless reservoir from which to draw from.