Love. Its presence validates us. Its absence makes our faith questionable. The Bible tells us love is to be a defining characteristic in the life of every believer.
If we say we love God, yet we don’t love our brothers and sisters in Christ, then how real is our love? If anyone says, “I love God,” yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. 1 John 4:20 (NIV)
But love doesn’t always come easily. Personalities clash. Conflicts occur. People let us down and sometimes even knock us down when what we really need is a hand up. Then there are those who are contentious. Always stirring the pot. Gossips. Busybodies. Critical complainers who are seldom satisfied. The proud who arrogantly promote themselves and their “service for the Lord.” The lazy who murmur about what needs to be done, yet won’t lift a finger to help. The self-seeking; the whiny; the wimpy and the wayward. The argumentative; the audacious and the angry.
Definitely not an easy bunch to love.
But we aren’t called to love because someone is worthy. We are called to love because we have been loved in the midst of our own unworthiness. We are God’s children – and as His children we are to love others with the love of Christ. Unmerited, sacrificial, continuous and abundant love. It’s not a suggestion. It’s a command. Love one another.
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:35
Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 1 John 4:11
“But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.” Luke 6:27-28
Unfortunately, the church is filled with contentious converts who cause the world to wonder what in the world to believe. While unbelievers stand in need of the love of Christ, congregations are splitting over the color of the carpet, the choice of songs or a simple difference of opinion. May it not be so, Lord. May it not be so!
Have you ever heard of a hand choosing to separated from the arm? Or an eye being separated from the head? We are the church. The called out ones. The bride of Christ. The body of Christ. Family. And God calls us to love each other lavishly. To be conduits of grace, especially to one another. That’s one of the primary ways we show the world that Jesus lives in us – by our love for one another.
I think that sometimes we talk about love, yet we really aren’t sure what it is. God gives us His definition of love in 1 Corinthians 13. Many years ago, I began to use it as a “Love Test” for myself. To measure my love in light of His Word.
1 Corinthians 13:4-8 tells us what love is and what love isn’t:
Love is patient. (Am I patient?)
Love is kind. (Am I kind?)
Love isn’t jealous. (Am I jealous?)
It doesn’t sing its own praises. (Am I being boastful?)
It isn’t arrogant. (Am I arrogant?)
It isn’t rude. (Am I rude?)
It doesn’t think about itself. (Am I self-centered?)
It isn’t irritable. (Am I irritable?)
It doesn’t keep track of wrongs. (Do I keep track of wrongs?)
It isn’t happy when injustice is done, but it is happy with the truth. (Am I happy when others suffer? Do I rejoice in honesty)
Love never stops being patient. (Am I weary with being patient?)
Never stops believing. (Have I stopped believing the best about someone?)
Never stops hoping. (Have I stopped hoping?)
Never gives up. (Have I given up on someone?)
Love never comes to an end. (Has my love ceased to exist for someone?)
The way you answer these questions will reveal whether or not you are truly loving someone or not.
We are called to love each other in spite of ourselves. In spite of our failures and flaws. We need to remember that we are all a work in progress.
The next time you are finding it difficult to love your neighbor as yourself, give yourself the 1 Corinthians 13 “Love Test” and remember to…
1. Give each other room to fail
2. Give each other room to grow
3. Give each other room to be human
4. Love beyond their failures and flaws, just as God has loved you beyond your failures and flaws.
Do you struggles with loving others? Have you been hurt by someone in the church who hasn’t loved well? Have you hurt others by your own lack of love? Do you need to reconcile with someone you failed to love regardless of whether they deserved it or not? Is your faith confirmed by your love for others?
May we love each other with the love with which we have been loved. Undeservedly, sacrificially, abundantly and consistently!