Love. The one thing everyone wants, desires, seeks. I am pretty sure it is the most talked about, written about, sung about word out there…and probably the most misunderstood.
For most, love is a feeling, an emotion. It is a warm place in our hearts that makes us feel accepted, valued, and cared for. Sometimes it is hard to explain, but we know it (or at least think we do) when we feel it. Too often in this world it comes and goes.
God’s Word paints a different picture of what love truly is. As Christians, if we are not careful, we can be lured into the world’s view of love. As a result, we will miss the blessing of what it means to be loved by God and, in turn, what it means to love others.
When I reflect back on sermons, Bible studies, conferences, and even blogs, much of the dialogue and teaching around love focuses on our need to love others. This was a command from Jesus. “So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.” (John 13:34-35)
I want to obey this commandment and yet, at times, I find it difficult. I have often prayed, “God teach me to love like you love.” I recognize that I will never fully grasp the concept of God’s love. However, I have discovered two key insights that have been helpful to me. If you also struggle at times with this whole “loving” command, I pray these will be helpful to you as well.
I am loved by the Almighty God.
God who is infinite, eternal, wise, good, faithful, just, all-knowing, all-powerful, and full of mercy and grace loves me. HE LOVES YOU! God’s love is not a feeling. God is love. It is in His very nature to love. The Greek term used in the Bible for God’s love is agape. Agape is a selfless, sacrificial love that voluntarily suffers inconvenience, discomfort, and even death for the benefit of another without expecting anything in return. Agape love seeks our best. It is a perfect, holy love. God’s love impacts our lives. His love results in action.
But God is so rich in mercy, and He loved us so much, that even though we were dead because of our sins, He gave us life when He raised Christ from the dead. It is only by God's grace that you have been saved! (Ephesians 2:4-5)
God showed how much he loved us by sending His one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through Him. (I John 4:9)
Growing up in the church and accepting Jesus into my heart at a very young age changed the trajectory of my life. By the grace of God, I have always felt loved. I am fully aware of this blessing and recognize that many do not have the same experience. I have also become fully aware that when something is so familiar, it can become “old hat”, almost an expectation or an after-thought. I shudder at the thought of taking His love (free and undeserved) for granted. If I struggle with obeying Jesus’s command in John 13, I have to come face-to-face with the fact that I have forgotten about the agape love God has for me, a love that is incomprehensible yet so ever present.
May Paul’s prayer in Ephesians 3:16-19 be our prayer.
"I pray that from His glorious, unlimited resources He will empower you with inner strength through His Spirit. Then Christ will make His home in your hearts as you trust in Him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep His love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.”
My capacity to love others is directly linked to the work of the Holy Spirit in my life.
A simpler way to say this might be “It ain’t happen in our own strength.” Loving others as Jesus loves us is supernatural. It isn’t a feeling or emotion. It is a choice we make to allow God to love others through us. Aren’t you relieved we don’t have to rely on our own willpower?
And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because He has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with His love. (Romans 5:5)
But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things! (Galatians 5:22-23)
God created man in his own image—to LOVE. Yet, all too often love is fleeting because we either try to love in our own strength or we confuse the world’s definition of love with God’s definition. Unfortunately, people are looking for love (as the song says) “in all the wrong places.” True sacrificial, unconditional love—agape love—is impossible apart from God, His son Jesus, and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.
I want others to see a glimpse of God’s love in my life. Remembering that I am loved by God and that He will empower me to love others makes John 13 possible. Love isn’t something to keep to yourself. It is for sharing. Who in your life needs a little agape love?
All we need is love!