We speak of love often in our conversation with others. We love people, animals, objects and activities and it is usually a love that is conditioned on a multitude of different factors. For example, we love those related to us in a different way than we do our general acquaintances.
We love some flowers and not others.
We love certain foods while others wouldn’t eat it or even touch it!
In our modern culture, we fall in love and things are heavy with passion and emotion. But, when difficulties arise or when someone younger/prettier/richer comes along, we fall out of love; and often there is just as much heated passion against the other party as there was when we fell in love in the first place.
The bottom line is that there is almost always self-motivated volition involved in human love. And, we consider love as an emotion, as something that we feel, and when the feeling is gone or when it is transferred somewhere else, so is the love.
But, not so with God. Scripture says that God IS love. It is one of the attributes of our God – it is part and parcel of His nature.
“Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.”
1 John 4:8
Indeed, we are COMMANDED to love the Lord our God, and not just a little bit or for a limited time! In Deuteronomy 6:5 we read:
“You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.”
Jesus reiterated this commandment in Matthew 22:37 and then He expanded the command in Mark 12:29-31 by saying we are to love God as commanded in Deuteronomy, but then we are also to love our neighbor as we love ourselves.
Jesus took love out of the emotional/spiritual world and puts it into the physical/material world. Love is action rather than mere emotion. We see our neighbor and we are not to have mushy, mind consuming passion for our neighbor; we are to love him/her.
The Apostle John elaborates on the commandment to love others when he says:
“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. …
We love him, because he first loved us.”
1 John 4:9-11, 19
There it is in a nutshell – we love God BECAUSE He first loved us. We cannot love Him on our own – we are sinners and He is holy. We can’t do anything spiritually to make Him love us — all our “good works” are like filthy rags in comparison to the holiness of God. See Isaiah 64:6. BUT, God Himself gave His Son so that we could approach Him, so that we could love Him, so that we could love others through Him.
Since we received love while we were undeserving sinners, we certainly should not have any trouble following the commandment to love others, whether they are loveable or not, whether they return the love to us or not, whether they like us or not, whether they can help us achieve some goal or not.
There should be no reciprocal obligation in our love to others. God’s love to us is one directional – He initiates it and gives it to us through His grace. Yes, we are to love Him in return, but the full commandment is that we love others as he loved us.
That is the way we are to love others, especially those who are of the family of faith. We may not agree with each other on various issues, but if we are Christians, if we have been adopted into the family of God, we are commanded to love each other.
“Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”
God loved us even when we were dead in our sin and unholy before Him. He sent Jesus Who walked in love and gave Himself to the death on the cross so that we could be accepted by God, so that our sin would be paid for, and so that we would be granted the righteousness of Jesus. When we understand the gravity of our sin and the holiness of God, we will see that we can and must love others unconditionally, because but for the grace of God we would be in the same condition before God.
Others will know that we have been adopted into God’s family by the way we love them.
In this new year, love others as He loved us. Unconditionally, whole-heartedly, and without judgment. Let our love for others be our witness of our love for Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Take love out of the world of platitudes and put it into action, real life, concrete, discernible and undeniable action.
Father, I pray that the meditation of my heart is acceptable to you this day. I pray that you would forgive me when I have failed to love others as You have loved me. And I pray that your Word would be used by the Spirit to illuminate the hearts of those who do not know You.