John 13:34-35 (ESV) A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
Just as I have loved you…you also are to love one another. Oh Jesus, if it were only that easy. “People are people so why should it be…You and I should get along so awfully.” (Depeche Mode) A little 1984 flashback for you today. Why can’t we be friends? Another song from the past and the list goes on. Why can’t people accept one another in love? Church I am talking to us just as much as anyone else. “Bless their heart” gives an open door for backdoor banter and faulty fodder. Jesus tells us to love one another but not just to love from our capacity but as He does in abundance without prejudice. Withholding nothing to give it away. Isn’t that what it means to give up this life to have forever? Serving in the local church and avoiding sinful habits outlined clearly in doctrine is one thing. However, love is the only thing that Jesus requires. For if we learn to love the Lord completely, it becomes the overflow of our life to love others. All others. More than ourselves. Jesus – teach us today to love one another enough that ALL people will know that we are your disciples.
Every human being ever created is seeking love and acceptance. I am convinced that each heart is born with a receptor sending out a signal for love. Unconditional love. True love. Eternal love. Gracious love. Never ending love. Where do we find such love? God is love. (I John 4:8) He loves with His All. (John 3:16) Jesus laid down His Life for us which is deemed as the greatest love of all. (John 15:13) The First Fruit of God’s Spirit in us is love. (Galatians 5:22) The only commandment given to us by Jesus was to love one another. (John 13:34) There is nothing that can separate us from the Love of God again thanks to His Son, Jesus Christ. Nothing at all. (Romans 8:31-39)
Romans 8:37-39 (ESV) No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Our ability to become more than conquerors is our full acceptance of God’s Love as trustworthy and true. We test the limits of His Love constantly. Our flesh rebels against the slightest possibility that there is a God who loves me beyond my capacity to love and live for Him. A selfless Father who doesn’t look at sin and has no regrets but loves us completely. This is the vast reservoir from which a believer loves others more than themselves and extends the same courteous grace to their enemies. (Matthew 5:43-44) Why? We were once enemies with God. (Romans 5:10) Sin put us in that position as adversaries to the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom of God is taken by force. (Matthew 11:12) The enemy assaults the Kingdom by trying to convince the Body that Christ cannot truly love them beyond what they do or how they live. It is such insecurity that keeps our love limited and with carefully constructed borders. Never letting anyone in or allowing our love to pour out beyond comfort and control. What if they hurt me? Do you serve a Living God who heals you? What if they don’t love me? So what, there is a God who loves you and wraps you in His Arms. What if they betray me or use me? God supplies all our needs doing more than we can think, ask or imagine to satisfy the desire of our heart. Why do we put such a great expectation in others to fill our needs and voids with a God like that? Are you a lover? Do you love the Lord with all your heart, mind, soul and body today? Is it evident in the love you are giving to others?
Matthew 22:36-39 (ESV) “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 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. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
I used to work for the school system in technical education. My position was supervising Student Services which meant dealing with student complaints. There was a young man who made some poor choices in education and ended up on academic probation. His financial aid could not be disbursed due to his performance. His mother decided to pay the school a visit due to the unfair treatment of her son. She was a force to be reckoned with. By this time in my career, I was pretty good at reasoning with mama bears offended at the treatment until this lady showed up. She yelled. She screamed. She cussed out my entire staff. As if not enough, the administration of the school were all away at a conference and it was up to me to satisfy this woman AND the federal government. After what seemed like all afternoon, we finally came to agreement. My team was battered and bruised by her abrasive words, accusations and outright ugliness. As we parted ways, she said, “God bless you!” I smiled as she handed me a business card to contact her if her little precious began acting up again. Her profession? Reverend So-So…
What does love have to do with it? Everything. A church absent of unconditional love that flows to every person who walks through the door is just another religion and not worth anyone’s time. Jesus came to prepare a Body of Believers who love unconditionally and selflessly following His Example all the way to the Cross. To lay down their life for other people on a regular and ongoing basis not because they have to but because they want to honor His Gracious Gift of love to them. Step outside into the church parking lot as people are racing to beat the church next door to the buffet. It becomes clear that the rain of God’s Word did not find fertile soil but is more like water being poured on a rock. Our love for God must flow beyond all barriers including our family, friends and co-workers but outside our comfort zone to strangers and enemies, too. What is love?
I Corinthians 13:4-8 (ESV) Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.
This is love. These are the qualities of true love demonstrated by Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit inside of us produces this kind of love which gives seed to every other fruit in the garden of our heart. This kind of love. Love in this world has grown cold. Dysfunction defines most relationships which opens a gateway to God’s Grace. Grace is required to love other people without condition. People are sinful. Sin is just part of the package. Selfishness is a human quality that can only be overcome by the death and eradication of pride. In the verses preceding this definition of love, the Word of God dares to enter the sacred corridors of the church. The “Gifts”, prophetic powers, and even mountain-moving faith are rendered useless in the absence of love. If we do not have love…there is nothing gained from the Gospel.
To gain proper perspective, we move on to the verses after the definition of love. All these “gifts” given to us will one day pass away. They are to edify the Body of Christ and build us into a sound structure of love to have a relationship with God through Jesus Christ that extends to every other living, breathing soul without condition. Spiritual maturity comes when love is blind. It moves like faith believing without seeing. Spiritual maturity is to love others not for what they can or cannot do for you or if they treat you with the respect you deserve but rather in godly character that understands our love is not from us but from the One who loves us most, who loved us first and who loves us forever. Loving others is not something I do but the Christ in me does from the inside out. The Love of God restores the trampled and broken hearts of humans transforming them into overflowing springs to refresh others and show them the Light of His Amazing Love. Love is revival. There will be no revival in the midst of God’s People until first His Love is manifested there.
I Corinthians 13:13 (ESV) So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
I know what it feels like to have a broken heart. To feel unloved and unwanted by others. To be the outsider in a crowded room. But you know what else I have discovered, the vast parameters of God’s Love. When I find myself wallowing in self-pity or about to lose my temper and tell someone how I really feel, it is time to stop and consider my position in God’s Love. See there is no end to it. It has no boundaries. His Love is limitless. I can get caught up in religion sometimes and lose sight of the relationship I have with my Beloved. I allow human expectation to overshadow what the Lord is doing in my life because I am seeking acceptance and affirmation from the wrong place. When this happens, I tend to lose sight of those around me who need the Love of God lived before them. Those who need my immediate attention as conduit of God’s Love, Grace and Acceptance just as I am. People are not a problem – they are the Kingdom. Every single one of them have potential to become sons and daughters of God. Jesus died for them too. He gave just as much for the one who forsakes Him as He did giving up His Life and Kingship for you and me. I forget that sometimes when selfishness and pride overtake my very human heart. The hardness becomes a callous that must be quickly and severely dealt with. Faith, hope and love are the only eternal things in life – the Lord has pointed to love as the greatest of them all.
2 John 5-6 (ESV) And now I ask you, dear lady—not as though I were writing you a new commandment, but the one we have had from the beginning—that we love one another. And this is love that we walk according to his commandments; this is the commandment, just as you have heard from the beginning, so that you should walk in it.