“THIS is the kind of love I expect you to walk in…love that sees things from My point of view. So when I say study (love), I mean study Me. Learn what I feel in each situation-what I say and what I do-because I am love. I. AM. LOVE.”
–God (to me)
In studying Love, I of course am spending time in First Corinthians, chapter 13. One of the first things you see that love does not do is “parade itself.” (KJV “vaunteth”) Most of us don’t literally walk around saying, “Look at me! I am too good for you!” Clearly, this is a heart condition more than outward action. We may not parade around openly, because we know it’s unacceptable, but it’s what our hearts do that God sees.
One thing our hearts do, when they are not filled with love, is label people. We say, “She’s so OCD that I can’t stand to be around her.” We cannot truly exalt ourselves; only God can do that. This technique, however, effectively puts the other person on a level below us – in our own minds – and makes us feel better than them.
One who walks in love will, instead, use love labels, thinking things like, “Her faithfulness humbles me. Her attention to detail is amazing. She so clearly gets fully into everything she does.”
When we intentionally put love labels on people, we raise their value, their worth, in our eyes. We begin to see them as God sees them, and we see ourselves more clearly as nothing more or less than their fellow brothers and sisters in the Lord. When we intentionally put love labels on people, we instinctively begin to treat them differently, to esteem them, to show them the love that John 13:35 is talking about.
When we intentionally put love labels on people, we begin to act like Jesus.
Everyone seems to have a few of “those people” in their lives. You know the ones I mean. They’re the paranoid person who constantly complains about all of the plots people are hatching against them, the OCD person who has to carefully script every conversation, the one who is always asking for your help but never offering theirs even when they can clearly see you need it… It seems they have only one things in common; they can rub you raw… and if they’re Christians, they can REALLY rub you raw.
The Word of God says, in Proverbs 27:17, that “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” When I said they rub you raw? There is a reason. God often puts people like this in our lives for this very purpose, to teach us what it is to truly love as He loves.
It is easy to love those who treat us well, who love us the way we expect to be loved or at least behave the way we expect them to act. That type of love is good, but if we aspire to love like Jesus loved, we must go further – a lot further. One step along that path is to learn to love “those people” – to genuinely feel compassion for the one who is so consumed with paranoia that all of their conversations center around the enemies that surround them. True love listens, true love responds by encouraging them in the Lord and giving them the Word of God to stand on, and true loves prays for them with a heart that genuinely cares for their well-being. Yes, frustration may enter in – we see in Scripture that even God got frustrated on occasion – but true love responds as God is inclined to respond, with mercy and compassion.
If we genuinely wish to learn to love as God loves, we should thank Him for putting those people into our lives and let Him use them to push us closer to Him.
To continue my previous thoughts, I return to Matthew Henry.
Our love to one another must be free and ready, laborous and expensive, constant and persevering; it must be love to the souls one of another. We must also love one another from this nature, and upon this consideration – because Christ has loved us.
Just as Jesus told us when the widow gave her two mites, Matthew Henry reminds us that true love costs us something. It is easy for me to hug a friend and tell her I love her; it costs me something to take time out of a busy schedule to run her on errands when she can’t drive herself.
We should also love our brothers and sisters in Christ genuinely, as the individuals they are with all their faults and failures. I like how he puts it: “to the souls.”
Finally, he points out that this showing of love isn’t merely to be something we do, but it is to be part of our very nature because Christs has loved us.
Part of our nature…
Observe, we must have love, not only show love, but have it in the root and habit of it, and have it when there is not any present occasion to show it; have it ready.
When our brethren stand in need of help from us, and we have an opportunity of being service able to them, when they differ in opinion and practice from us, or are any ways rivals with or provoking to us, and so we have an occasion to condescend and forgive, in such cases as this it will be known whether we have this badge of Chris’s Disciples.
It’s a challenge; there’s no doubt about it. Even so, it is the love Jesus demonstrated for us, and since He said we can do all He did… We can do this!
So, as Matthew Henry points out, Love is much more than hugs and words. Love requires more. Love requires action. 1 John 3:17-18 (CJB) says…
If someone has worldly possessions and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how can he be loving God? Children, let us love not with words and talk, but with actions and in reality.
I know a man who is astoundingly generous. he is one who would literally give the shirt off his back. Clearly, he has grasped this concept: “God so loved the world that He gave…” and God openly rewards him for his consistent generosity.
In studying the Jewish roots of Christianity, I have discovered tzedakah. Tzedakah is about performing acts of kindness, giving to those who cannot give back to you. If I remember correctly, the widow dropped her two mites into the tzedakah box…and we all know that Jesus noticed. No matter how little we have, if we determine to sow into the lives others, God will provide the seed. That seed may be money, but it may also be mowing a lawn, helping someone move, tutoring a child, or giving a caregiver an hour of respite. This…all of it…is love.
I asked myself, in Part 1, “If this were a test, would I pass?” Love is so much more than what the modern world makes it–what the church makes it.
One of the last things Matthew Henry says about this passage speaks a hard truth to us today.
That, if the followers of Christ do not love one another, they not only cast an unjust reproach upon their profession, but give just cause to suspect their own sincerity.
Let’s go beyond the obvious challenges of the church as a whole, with its denomination-based divisions, past the bickering that takes place within denominations themselves, into the heart of the local church, that one small part of THE Church. How many in each body genuinely love each other even in the most commonly accepted sense? When you consider how many show up at the last minute and leave at the first, never taking time to even get to know the rest of their church family, how can they love…really love? And the rest of us? I shudder to think how few of us love as completely as Jesus loved. I will be the first to confess that I don’t; if I did, He wouldn’t likely have led me into this study.
This is the livery of his family, the distinguishing character of his disciples; this he would have them noted for, as that wherein they excelled all others–their loving one another.
At one time, every wealthy family had its own livery, or uniform, that its servants wore. If a carriage drove up, anyone watching had a pretty good idea of who was inside simply because of the driver’s uniform. This is His desire for us, that our love for one another would be just as obvious to anyone who watches us, that it would be clear that, when we arrive, He has arrived as well.