We Americans say we love everything! We love pizza, football and our country. We love Mom, apple pie and American Idol. We love whatever is good and wholesome. But when we say we love everything, we really don’t love anything. That cheapens love and puts everything on the same level. Real love is sacrificial and costly, it is unconditional and unselfish. It is for the good of the other and not for our self. This kind of love is commanded by God. Jesus said in John 13:35: “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” Deuteronomy 6:5 and Matthew 22:37 say: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.”
Where does this supernatural, unconditional, other-centered love come from? It certainly isn’t something we can just decide to start doing one day. Human love is conditional. We love “if” and “because.” To love in spite of comes from God. It is a fruit of His Spirit (Gal 5:22-23). He produces it in us as we let Him fill us and control us. It comes from Him. It is a response to His love. We love Him because He first loved us (I John 4:19). Loving God is one thing He can’t force us to do. It’s a free will choice we make and that’s why our love is so important to Him. Still, His Spirit is the source of the love inside us.
I Corinthians 13 tells us that love is the greatest of all attributes. That’s why it is listed first among the fruit in Galatians 5:22-23. All these fruit (not fruits) describe one character, and love is the predominate trait in that character. That is God’s outstanding quality and that is also reflected in Jesus’ life. Donald Grey Barnhouse puts it this way: “Love is the key. Joy is love singing. Peace is love resting. Long-suffering is love enduring. Kindness is love’s touch. Goodness is love’s character. Faithfulness is love’s habit. Gentleness is love’s self-forgetfulness. Self-control is love holding the reins.”
“Joy is love exalting and peace is love at rest. Patience, love enduring in every trial and test. Gentleness, love yielding to all that is not sin. Goodness, love in actions that flow from Christ within. Faith is love’s eyes opened, the loving Christ to see. Meekness, love not fighting but bowed at Calvary. Temperance, love in harness and under Christ’s control. The Christ is love in person, and love, Christ in the soul.” (Missionary Dr. Kenneth Moyner).
It’s all about love. Joy is love rejoicing. Patience is love enduring. Peace is love trusting. Kindness is love serving. Goodness is love reaching out. Faithfulness is love proving. Gentleness is love touching. Self-control is love restraining. It’s all about love. Love is the greatest!
“If love is the soul of Christian existence, it must be at the heart of every other Christian virtue. Thus, for example, justice without love is legalism; faith without love is ideology; hope without love is self-centeredness; forgiveness without love is self-abasement; fortitude without love is recklessness; generosity without love is extravagance; care without love is mere duty; fidelity without love is servitude. Every virtue is an expression of love. No virtue is really a virtue unless it is permeated, or informed, by love.” (Richard P. McBrien) To be like Jesus means to have His love flowing out to others. He makes it available for His people. It’s free for the asking – but you have to ask.
1 Corinthians 13:4-8, 13 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. … Love never fails. … And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
Read the above verses again, only instead of the word ‘love’ insert ‘Jesus’. Does that describe Jesus?
Now read it again and insert your name or ‘I’ for the word love. How does it sound that way? How well does that describe you?
Do those you minister to you know you love them? Would they use ‘loving’ as one of the first words they choose to describe you?
Pick out 1 or 2 of the places where you need improvement. Spend a few minutes praying about them, asking God to make you more like them. Plan some steps you can take to become more like Jesus in these areas.
(If I can answer questions or offer personal counsel, or if you would like a free copy of my Spiritual Warfare Handbook, email me at Jerry@ChristianTrainingOrganization.org or download it from http://sw.christiantrainingonline.org/. My next book, Spiritual Warfare in the Bible, which is a more advanced treatment of spiritual warfare, is also available there for free.)