What has love got to do with it? The simple answer is everything. If it was not for love there would be no redemption, reconciliation, forgiveness, fellowship, intimacy, empowerment, discernment, guiding, leading, and the list could go on. How often do you sit back and reflect on how much we are loved? There are billions of people all around the world that are incapable of loving. At this point we need to define love though. If your definition is it is an emotion or something you like/enjoy, then the above statement is false. There are billions of people that love food, friends, and family, but is this Godly, biblical love or something else? In the English language we use love to mean a lot of different things.
I love my wife, she is the most beautiful and amazing women I have ever met. We just celebrated the most wonderful nine years of marriage. I also love sports, a good bacon cheeseburger, and running. If I were to say to my wife that I love her like a bacon cheeseburger, this would be so beyond inadequate. My wife is gracious enough to take it as a compliment (I really wouldn’t say this though), but is it the same love? I love each and every one of you reading this letter, but I don’t love you the same as I love my wife or my children. I do love you more than baseball or an ice cream sundae though. Lucky for us the Greek language has multiple words that are translated love. Four of these words are eros (passionate, intimate love), storge (affection, parental love), phileo (friendly, brotherly love), and agape (unconditional, sacrificial love). Occasionally, phileo and agape are used more like synonyms, especially in John’s writings. If I was referring to my wife it would be more in the eros sense. If I was speaking to my children it would be in the storge sense. If I was talking to you it would be in the phileo sense. Over and over we are commanded to “love one another” with what kind of love though? Let’s look at this a little further.
In 1 John 4:7-21 it says “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us. By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother”.
1 We are to love (agape) one another, with an unconditional, sacrificial type of love. Do we love our brothers and sisters in Christ like this?
2. Love comes from God, apart from God we are incapable of loving (the way God does). This is why billions of people are incapable of loving or showing love (in the spiritual since).
3. If we can love, it is evidence that we belong to God. Only God’s redeemed children are capable of accomplishing the commandment to love one another or to love our enemies.
4. God is Love. It is the essence of who He is. Love is not God, but God is love and if God were removed then so is love.
5. God loved us so much that He sacrificially sent His son to be the propitiation (appeasement of God’s wrath) of all of our sins, even those that have not accepted. I encourage you to take some time to reflect on this, just how much God loves us.
6. Since God loved us sacrificially and sent His son, our response should be to love one another. Is this response in any way unreasonable?
7. No one has seen God, because He is spirit. As Christians God abides with us and He is seen in our word and deed. What a responsibility, God is seen through us and our love for one another.
8. God’s love is perfected in us. We are the instrument used to demonstrate love and then to convey it as well.
9. The Holy Spirit indwells us, if this was not so we would be incapable of fulfilling any of God’s commandments.
10. John repeats again what he just said. God is love, it is perfected in us, those that are in Christ abide with God and He with them, but the difference is why? So that we can have confidence at the Day of Judgment. We can have complete confidence when we stand before God, because we belong to Him and nothing can change that.
11. Perfect love casts out fear. We have nothing to fear, but too often we do. In those moments we are not abiding in Christ.
12. We love because he first loved us. If it weren’t for God we would be incapable of love. He is the author and initiator of love.
13. We cannot love God and hate our brother. The two cannot coexist. Our relationship with God is affected by our relationship with people. There is always a vertical (relationship with God) and a horizontal (relationship with people) component and you can’t be wrong in one and right in the other.
14. If we love God, then we must love our brother. You can’t have one without the other.
In my experiences, the church gets this wrong far too often. Sadly, there can be so much discord and dissension among the body. It is common place where believers think that they are alright with God, but have many broken relationships and an unwillingness to forgive and restore their relationships with others. Loving one another is not an option, but practically a lot of people act like it is. How are you doing in this area? Do you have that one sheep that gets under your skin and you try to avoid? Do you have favorites? Do you have those that you like and those that you don’t? What about the people you lead? Do they think loving one another is optional? What are we doing to help them grow in this area?
I in no way have this figured out myself. Something that has helped me over the years is when I am in a situation where that I really don’t “feel” like loving them, I think about God’s love for me and what He did to display it. Pride is a huge factor in us not wanting to love others. So humility is always a good thing. When God loved you, what were you like? Were you this prized possession that didn’t have any flaws. Do we place conditions on our love? Does God? I am so grateful that God loves us unconditionally. When I reflect on God’s love and allow the Holy Spirit to work through me it so easier to love others, even the “unloveables”. Let us love the way God does. Let us be “salt and light”. “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35).
May God Bless each and everyone of you, your families,