I John 4:18-19 (ESV) There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. We love because he first loved us.
Love is never easy. The word “love” may flow effortless from our lips but the moment of testing comes when it is not appreciated or returned. Love is not an exchange although that is what our mind perceives it to be. Love is a choice. It is a release of our heart into a realm of uncertainty hoping for its safe return. How many times has your heart been broken? How many times did someone run away with your love never to return it? Each time leaves a mark covered by a scar. For many love begins to take on a whole new meaning caused by unmet expectation. Our response is to build walls, erect facades, and feebly try to protect the barely beating and broken parts that once resembled our beating heart.
The preacher spoke of “easy love”. Loving others should be easy. Have you met the same people I know? He has probably those who society marks as “the worst of the worst.” His profession – prison chaplain. I wonder if we could see just for a moment the impact of a single sin on our heart and the malignancy it created if then we could see the magnificence of grace. The impossibility of God’s Love realized in the precious gift of His Only Son. Could we see that each of us fall in the same category as those who have fallen short of God’s Glorious Standard? I am the least of these. I am abased and broken by sin. I need God’s Love more than anyone.
I John 4:7 (ESV) Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.
God is love. His Character is always to love. He decided to love me as He created me and at no point in time has His Love for me ever been compromised. His Unfailing Love is always pursuing me even when I decide to love someone or something else. Nothing can separate me from His Love. (Romans 8) I wonder what would happen if the church realized the true relevance of God’s Love rather than promoting the other things God does. See the Goodness of God is full obtained in the Presence of His Love. The only thing that keeps me from moving into His Love and fully allowing it to overtake me is when I choose something else.
Beloved is a term of great affection. It means greatly loved and dear to heart. Love is from God and whoever loves God will overflow in it due to its sheer abundance. As it fills our heart – it will spill over into the world touching those who are around us. How do we get to the place of “easy love”? To have love one another without prejudice or expectation. How do we get past comparison to the place of commitment to love simply because we are so loved by the Lord?
I have come to the conclusion that when I judge others it is because I feel judged. Judgement demands a verdict. To put others on trial places me on trial, too. I failed the test of perfection long ago. When I was a child, my parents divorced. In the course of settlement, I was brought to a courtroom. I remember hiding in a bathroom stall faced with the dilemma that I was expected to “judge” my parents. I was supposed to choose a side. I love both my parents. The thought has occurred to me that perfect love doesn’t pick sides. Perfect love is fearless. In fact, perfect love casts out all fear. Fear is a product of punishment. It is because there is something to gain or lose. Whoever fears has not been perfected by His Love.
John 3:16 (ESV) For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
There is no doubt that God loves us. It is absolutely solidified in the Sacrifice of His Son. The promise states “whoever believes in Him (His Love) should not perish but have eternal life.” Penalty paid in full. Grace is sufficient for the rest of our life including every fault and failure. To choose Jesus is to step from death to everlasting life. Many in the church would like others to think that now there is a new set of rules and regulations to follow to maintain God’s Love. Not true. The only thing I must do is love and trust the Lord to save me from my sins and turn my life over to Him. A gift is only a gift when given freely and completely with no strings attached. The Word of God repeats over and over that salvation is a gift. “By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world.” (I John 4:17)
Where fear is present – love is limited. What are you afraid of? What keeps you from giving your heart away to others? The Holy Spirit bears fruit in us according to Galatians 5 and the first fruit is love. Without love, everything we do is worthless even good deeds. To be completely honest, when our good deeds are based on anything other than love – it comes from a place of benefit or reciprocation. We expect something in return even if that something is a harvest or the world’s favorite “karma”. To love like Jesus is unconditional. We love simply because we have to give. The limit placed on love is fear. So I ask again, what are you afraid of?
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.
I keep coming back to this place. My ability to love comes from full knowledge and understanding of the steadfastness of His Love. To truly grasp an unconditional love that chooses to love me in spite of me every single moment of my existence whether my life is pleasing to Him or not. A perfect love given to an imperfect person. The Lord sacrificed everything so I could live in His Kingdom and be His Child again. I could do nothing. I had nothing to offer so He gave His Son for me. My debt is paid in full and there is nothing I can do to earn God’s Love or repay Him for the price He paid for me. This is a humble position of indebtedness that causes problems for my pride.
When I place a limit on love, it is usually because I have tapped into a fear. A place of doubt creates insecurity. Misplaced expectation is fully revealed. Rather than praying for God to change those around me into lovable people, I must ask the Lord to break my heart for them to allow the abundance of His Love to flow from me. What if the problem is not other people but my own lack of confidence in the fullness and completeness of this precious gift that I have been given. The love that fully satisfies from a cup that never runs dry. What if love really can be easy when I fully accept His Love for me?
I Corinthians 13:8-13 (ESV) Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.