Love Part Three
We turn our attention to love from the viewpoint of human duty to God and others. We shall include a large number of passages of Scripture to learn what the Bible teaches, how it reads, what it includes and specifies regarding love as the Lord expects from man.
Man’s Love for God
The New Testament has much to say about man's love for God. This love must be exclusive in nature. Matthew 6:24, “No man can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.” Matthew 10:37, “He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.” There is room for only one supreme loyalty in the Christian heart and that must be toward Christ. The Lord cannot and will not share first place with anything or anybody. He is the Lord.
Man's love for God must be founded on man's gratitude to God and God's love for man. First John 4:10,19, "Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins...We love him because he first loved us.”
Man's love must be an obedient love. There cannot be a separation of love and obedience. John 14: 15, "If ye love me, keep my commandments. " John 14:21, "He that hath my commandments and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me.” John 14:23,24, "Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words...He that loveth me not keepeth not my sayings.” Second John 6, "And this is love, that we walk after his commandments.” First John 2:3-5, "And hereby do we know that we know him, if we keep his commandments. He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected; and hereby we do know that we are in him.” First John 5:2,3, "By this we know that we love the children of God when we love God and keep his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments, and his commandments are not grievous.”
More than a usual number of scriptures have been cited to document the connection between obedience and love because this needs to be impressed upon our minds. Too many have the concept that they can ignore or disobey what God says, but yet claim to love God. The only way we can prove before God that we do love Him is to do what He commands. Saying we love God is insufficient. It requires doing His will. We do not "honk" if we love Jesus, as a bumper sticker once suggested, but we must obey if we love Jesus. This tendency among some to claim to love but refuse to obey is foreign to the truth.
Man's love for God is outgoing, by which we mean that it reaches out and extends to others. First John 4: 12,20,21, "No man hath seen God at any time. If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us…If a man say, I love God and hateth his brother, he is a liar, for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen? … And this commandment have we from him, That he who loveth God love his brother also.” There simply is no such thing as loving unless we seek the other's highest good.
This brings us to our next consideration of love, and that is the love Christians are to have for their fellow Christians. Love is the distinguishing badge of the Christian society. First Corinthians 16:14, "Let all your things be done with charity (love).”Some dislike the word “charity” as found in the King James Version, possibly because they have become infected with some modern speech perversions to the point that any rendering found in the KJV is rejected by them. But there is a sense in which “charity” conveys more the Christian doctrine than the mere word “love.”
Many people consider love as only an emotion without recognizing the necessity of that attitude and emotion doing something. Christian love acts. Christianity conveys not only an attitude but also an action, which manifests itself. Charity suggests action as well as emotion. Charity is a good selection and should not be hastily set aside. John 13:35, “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.”
A church where there is bitterness, backbiting, strife and hostility among its members may be called a church, but it is certainly not the kind of church that pleases God. Does it even have the right to call itself a church of Christ if it persists in that behavior? The world should know the Lord's church for the love brethren have toward each other.
The church is built up by the power of love. Ephesians 4: 16, “From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.” Love is the cement that holds the living stones together. It creates the climate that is conducive to growth. It is the food that nourishes fellowship. Without it churches cannot stand strong but will crumble into pieces.
Love and Leadership
Love is the motivating power for leaders of the church to do their task well. When Paul wrote to brethren in Corinth he reminded them of his love. Second Corinthians 2:4, "For out of much affliction and anguish of heart I wrote unto you with many tears; not that ye should be grieved, but that ye might know the love which I have more abundantly unto you.” When Paul corrected brethren it was not because he disliked them nor hated them. His words were strong and his condemnation severe and certain. But he was motivated to lead them the way he did because of his love for his brethren.
This same kind of love will prohibit leaders from lording it over others, seeking their own prominence and prestige, desiring to dominate. He leads because of love.
This carries over to the attitude followers are to have toward leaders. First Thessalonians 5:13, “And to esteem them very highly in love for their work's sake...” Sometimes members do not show the right attitude toward their leaders. They heap upon them criticism, resentment, rebellion and then wonder why the leaders do not do better even under the bar age of hostility. There should be a mutual love between leaders and followers. When that does exist, the will of the Lord shall prevail.
Let us now consider the characteristics of love. Romans 12:9, “Let love be without dissimulation.”This means love must be without pretense, but sincere. First Peter 1:22, “Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren, see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently.” Peter is calling for sincere, genuine, unpretended love. Love is not just a surface pleasantness, but also an honest and genuine attitude in the heart. Love is to be without ill will. Romans 13:10, “Love worketh no ill to his neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.” Love envieth not, is not easily provoked, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, seeks what is good for the other, and never the injury of another (First Corinthians 13).
Christian love is generous. It is a love that gives. Paul told the Corinthians, while also urging them to give on behalf of the poor in Judea, Second Corinthians 8:24, “Wherefore show ye to them, and before the churches, the proof of your love, and of our boasting on your behalf.” Love is proven to be true by giving. The mainspring of Christian living is Christian love. Like the love of God who gave (John 3:16), we are to give to God and to those who need our assistance. God did not love because He gave, but He gave because He loved. So should it be with us. Love should provoke generous giving.
More About Love
Christian love is so practical. It is not merely a kindly feeling and a pious thought and good wish. Christian love accomplishes things. Like faith, it works. Hebrews 6:10, “For God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labor of love, which ye have showed toward his name, in that ye have ministered to the saints, and do minister.” First John 3:17,18, “But whoso hath this world's goods, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him? My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue, but in deed and in truth.” A love that will not work is as dead as a faith that will not work.
Ephesians 4:2 teach that love is forbearing. “I therefore the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, with all lowliness and meekness, with long suffering, forbearing one another in love.” Not only are we to refrain from injuring others, as we have noted, but we are to possess that quality of endurance and patience toward one another. Love suffers long and is kind, bears all things, endures all things (First Corinthians 13). This does not suggest we ignore and tolerate evil in each other, but that we are patient and kind as we help one another overcome evil in our lives. Even Christians have to put up with a lot from each other sometimes, but are willing to do so because they love each other.
Never could love be Christian love without the forgiving spirit. One cannot love without being willing to forgive those who trespass against him. Love never places an obstacle in the path of the wrongdoer who wishes to get right. Christian love is like the love the father manifested toward the prodigal son when the son returned home having repented of his errors. In First Corinthians Paul urged severe action regarding one in immorality. In Second Corinthians the action Paul commanded was sufficient to restore him. Paul said his brethren should forgive him and comfort him, and by doing that they would “confirm your love toward him.” (Second Corinthians 2:8).
Is Love Blind?
Christian love is not so sentimental that it neither shuts one's eyes to the faults of others nor fails to be realistic. Love is not blind. Love recognizes faults but loves anyway. Paul wrote sternly to Corinth but regarding faults he said he dealt with them as he did because he loved them.
You have heard it said that love is blind, but not Christian love. Christian love sees things as they are, realistically, but is powerful enough to do whatever is necessary to help overcome faults. It may require rebuke, discipline, or whatever God requires. Love, which shuts its eyes to faults and sins in order to avoid unpleasantness, is not Christian love because Christian love never shirks responsibility toward other people. Blind love would be harmful, not helpful. Christian love seeks the highest good for others.
Christian love controls the way we use our liberties. Galatians 5:3, “For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another.” Ephesians 4:15, “But speaking the truth in love.” Love is the motive behind speaking the truth and governs the manner of proclaiming it. Love and truth are never contrary, but go hand in hand. Because we love others we will even forego our “rights” if it would be for the benefit of others. Truth is sometimes pleasant, sometimes unpleasant, but always consistent and compatible with seeking one's good.
Love is the bond of Christian fellowship. It is binding. Colossians 2: 1,2, “For I would that ye knew what great conflict I have for you, and for them at Laodicea, and for as many as have not seen my face in the flesh, that their hearts might be comforted, being knit together to the acknowledgement of the mystery of God, and of the Father, and the Christ.”
It was love one for the other that caused Paul to make a special request for a favor from Philemon concerning a former slave named Onesimus (Philemon 9). “Yet for love's sake 1 rather beseech thee, being such a one as Paul the aged, and now also a prisoner of Jesus Christ.” We are at liberty to do favors for each other because of love.
Love is the power behind our faith. Galatians 5:6, “For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth anything, nor uncircumcision; but faith which worketh by love” Faith works, and loves makes it work. Love is the qualities that can make the Christian live a mature, whole, complete life, called perfect. First John 4: 18, "There is no fear in love, but perfect love casteth out fear; because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.”Colossians 3 14, “And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness.”
Such then are the basic characteristics and products of Christian love. It is all summed up in the phrase that Christian love is seeking the highest good of others. Beyond all question, Christianity is built on love. It is the greatest of all virtues, the primary quality of the religion founded by the Son of God, the umbrella under which all else falls, and is found practical in man's love for God and his fellowman. May God help us love, as He has loved us.