How Do We Love?

heart perspectie“God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them.” (I John 4:16)

I don’t believe that there is any segment of Christianity that would deny the fact that love is a defining element – if not THE defining element – of our faith.  But I’m not sure that all of us are on the same page when it comes to what love is and what it looks like in action.

Love is selfless.  I John 3:16 says, “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down His life for us.”  In this, through Christ’s example, we see that love is self-giving.  Jesus taught that “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:13).  And He lived out that ultimate expression of love – sacrificing oneself for the benefit of another.

Because love is selfless, it is best expressed in our relationships with one another.  Paul told the Romans to “be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves” (Romans 12:10).  John indicated the selfless nature of love when he admonished believers that if we see someone in need and have the means to help, but we ignore them, then we do not have the love of God in us (I John 3:17). Love is selfless.

Love requires obedience.  In the Upper Room, Jesus told His disciples, “If you love me, keep my commands” (John 14:15), and He went on to say that “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching” (14:23)II John 2:6 tells us, “And this is love: that we walk in obedience to His commands.” By these instructions we know that love requires obedience.

There is a sort of allergy in our Christian culture to talk of obedience, because when we talk about obedience, it seems to smack of earned salvation or salvation by works.  Make no mistake about it: we cannot earn our salvation through our good works.  There is nothing that we can do that can assure our place in the Kingdom of God.  But Scripture is very clear:  God does command us to love, and love requires obedience.

For too many, love is a feeling – a warm sensation.  But obedience does not always produce such a good feeling.  Sometimes obedience is tough. There may even be times when God’s commands don’t make sense or seem to serve no purpose.  But we obey, because obedience is what love demands.

Evaluating our love  How do we know that we are living in love?  Some time ago Dr. Sam Kamaleson spoke in our Sunday School class at Wilmore Free Methodist Church.  He pointed us to I Corinthians 13:4-7.  He said, as you are assessing your love, look at this paragraph, and every time “love” is the subject, replace it with your name.

{Matt} is patient. (I’m in trouble already!)  {Matt} is kind.  {Matt} does not envy, {Matt} does not boast, {Matt} is not proud.  {Matt} does not dishonor others, {Matt} is not self-seeking, {Matt} is not easily angered, {Matt} keeps no record of wrongs.  {Matt} does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  {Matt} always protects, {Matt} always trusts, {Matt} always hopes, {Matt} always perseveres.

Test yourself with that paragraph, as often as you need to do it.  I think, if we’re honest with ourselves, we’ll know if those things ring true.  And we’ll know if we are really loving as God would have us love.

~ Matt Kinnell, NHIM Board Chair

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