(A summary of the Sunday morning teaching on 06-Dec-15, in AFT Church, English service. From the series The Foundation For Victorious Living)
LOVE IN DEED
By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him?
My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth.
And by this we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before Him. For if our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and knows all things. Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence toward God. And whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do those things that are pleasing in His sight. And this is His commandment: that we should believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ and love one another, as He gave us commandment.
1 John 3:16-23
‘Little children (believers, dear ones), let us not love [merely in theory] with word or with tongue [giving lip service to compassion], but in action and in truth [in practice and in sincerity, because practical acts of love are more than words].’
1 John 3:18 (Amplified Version)
It has been interesting to learn about the various ways in which brotherly love affects our Christian life. Last week, we learned that brotherly love is the proof of our Salvation. In the weeks to come, we will learn more about how brotherly love gives us confidence in our relationship with God, and how it enables us to go before God in faith and ask for our requests boldly. However, today, we are going to study about the practical aspects of this unique love.
LET US LOVE
We might all have some understanding about what brotherly love looks or does not look like. For e.g. like John says in the above passage, we do know that brotherly love is definitely not shutting the doors of our compassion when a needy person seeks our help.
But in order to get a clear understanding of it, let us start at a basic point, which is – ‘love’.
LOVE AND LIKE
Loving is one word that is often confused with another similar word – liking. In Tamil, we distinguish between these two. For example, we would say that we love our spouse and that we like ice cream. That is not the case in the English language though. We say that we love pizza, cake, dogs and our spouse! Isn’t that strange?
So, let’s try to establish the difference between ‘loving’ and ‘liking’.
Liking is a natural emotion or the state of the heart that comes from our natural being. It is very basic, physical and does not require a lot of knowledge or intentionality. It is our instant affinity towards something or someone based on the appearance, temperament, color, behavior and mannerisms. It is like how a dog takes to certain people, gets excited about them and wags his tail around them. That does not mean there is anything wrong with having the feeling of ‘liking’. But imagine leading our whole life based on those ‘feelings’ alone. Because as age catches up, beauty will fade and appearances will change. Our feelings of liking will soon go for a toss.
Loving, on the other hand, is so much more different. It goes beyond our basic elemental, superficial instincts and requires the use of our intelligence and intention. In other words, for a believer, loving is impossible without the help of God because God is the ultimate and most perfect lover.
Let us look closer into understanding what God’s love looks like.
A man once bought a piece of land that looked like a sewage dump. Everybody was aghast and told him that he was making a bad choice. But he looked past the dowdiness and visualized the wonderful, finished product.
Likewise, when God looks at a person he is not distracted by outward appearances. The all-knowing, all-wise and all-powerful God looks deep into our souls and sees our potential underneath all that muck and slime. That is the reason He is able to love sinners like us.
By our own selves we cannot love anybody like that. It is only when the Holy Spirit pours Himself into us and enables us that we are able to exercise love. We then understand that God’s power can transform the person who is unlovable and enable him to achieve his potential. As that truth sinks in, we will be able to love them even though by instinct we don’t have any feelings of liking for them. God’s love therefore goes beyond our unattractiveness and seeks out something good. It is highly intelligent, thoughtful and is full of understanding. It is able to discriminate between the superficial and the reality.
Godly love is being able to treat those who are unlovable as though we do like them. It is not a pretense. It is an intentional act of choosing to act kindly and doing the right thing to them, even though they are mean and annoying. That’s why the Bible doesn’t say, ‘Like one another’. It says ‘Love one another’. We will definitely have people around us who are not going to be easy to like, but we can love them as our brothers and sisters in Christ because of the knowledge that God can transform them completely.
PUTTING IT INTO PRACTICE
Having understood the difference between loving and liking, let us now see why it is important that we don’t just talk about love but actually practice it.
Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’ Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock.
“But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall.”
In the above story, Jesus points out that people who only talk theoretically about their accomplishments will not enter the Kingdom of Heaven. We will be part of God’s Kingdom, only if we hear God’s Word and do them. Jesus likened such people to a wise man who built his house on the rock. When rain came and floods arose, the wise man’s house was not destroyed. But Jesus said that the man who only hears God’s Word and does not do them is like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. When rain came, the foolish man’s house was destroyed.
Similarly, we need to obey and do the will of the Father in order to ensure that we can withstand the winds and waves of troubles that come our way. The world around us is corrupt and is dying. In the midst of such decay and death let our lives, marriages, churches and even nations become strong edifices of practical love that is based on God’s Word.