This blog focuses on the quest to know and please God in a constantly increasing way. The upward journey never ends. My prayer is that this blog will reflect a heart that seeks God and that it will encourage others who share the same heart desire.

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Why Love Matters

People want to be loved. This universal desire includes children and adults, men and women, Christians and non-Christians. Clearly, the deepest fulfillment is found in  the love of God. Additionally, God expects His children to express His loving nature through their own lives. For many reasons, it is important that Christians show love.

In reference to God, Christianity without love is disobedient.
The expectation to love is ubiquitous in Scripture. "Bear one another's burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ" (Galatians 6:2). Jesus pointedly revealed the necessity of love by commanding His followers, "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another" (John 13:34). This essential command to love one another is repeatedly referenced in Scripture (I John 2:7-11, I John 4:21, II John 1:5-6). If a Christian refuses, or even neglects, to love others, he is directly disobeying the primary commandment of the New Testament.

In reference to genuineness, Christianity without love is contradictory.
Love is such a crucial aspect of Christianity that the absence of love calls into question the legitimacy of one's claim to be a Christian. "The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love" (I John 4:8). God clearly states that His children take on His nature. If they do not love others, it is because they do not personally know His love. The opposite is also true; if one does know the love of God, he will be able to love others. "Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God" (I John 4:7). For a Christian, loving others is proof that he has experienced the love of God and shares the divine nature.

In reference to self, Christianity without love is legalistic.
This concept begins with love for God. "And He said to him, 'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind'" (Matthew 22:37). If one does not fully love God, he is merely going through the motions of Christianity. This man gives the appearance of serving God and living uprightly, but he does so without a true heart motivation. The same concept transfers to the treatment of others. If there is no love at the core, then the actions come from another motivation, such as obligation, guilt, or conformity. Christianity becomes an empty drudgery, consisting of laws that must be followed and expectations that must be met.

In reference to one's children, Christianity without love is unappealing.
Children expect love from their fathers. God recognizes that the love from fathers to children is natural and expected, and He uses this common reference point as a way to describe His own character. "Just as a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear Him" (Psalm 103:13). Even godless fathers ought to naturally display some love to their children. "If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!" (Matthew 7:11). With a father's love serving as a pattern to reveal God's own love, it is critical that a father love his children. If he does not, his children will struggle to understand the love of God and will not be attracted to a relationship with Him.

In reference to the church, Christianity without love is empty.
Church members are to operate with each other on the basis of love; love is the necessary foundation for all service. "If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels . . . if I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith . . . if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing" (I Corinthians 13:1-3). Ministry without love also results in these evaluations: "I am nothing" and "I have become a noisy gong." This empty service can have disastrous consequences. "See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many be defiled" (Hebrews 12:15). This verse charges believers to make sure other Christians have sufficient favor and good will. Since the surrounding context involves helping the weak, I believe this bitterness, with potential to divide a church, happens when Christians fail in practically expressing God's love. For example, "A complaint arose on the part of the Hellenistic Jews against the native Hebrews, because their widows were being overlooked in the daily serving of food" (Acts 6:1).

In reference to observers, Christianity without love is powerless.
God intends that the mutual, observable love of Christians be a powerful attraction to unbelievers. "By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another" (John 13:35).  Those without Christ should be able to easily see the love that Christians have for one another. This appeals to their own desperate desire for such love and draws them toward the family of God. Without seeing this love, unbelievers have less pull toward God.

For all of these reasons, Christians must show their fervent love for each other. "Fervently love one another from the heart" (I Peter 1:22). They must grow in their love. "And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more" (Philippians 1:9). In families and in the church, repeated, visible expressions of love must be expressed through both words and actions. The greatest indication of love is sacrifice. "Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends" (John 15:13). Love matters.

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