In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.
1 John 4:9-11
Last week, we looked at the Ultimate proof of God’s love – the love that was displayed on the Cross! Today, we are stepping into another dimension of God’s love.
Let’s title it as ‘Walking in love’.
WALKING IN LOVE
Walking in love implies loving one another.
Verses 9 and 10 of the above passage set the context well. Firstly, John describes the love of God that He died on the Cross for us. Then he moves forward and says that if God so loved us, then we also must love one another.
TWO BASIC PRINCIPLES
Before proceeding deeper into analyzing this topic, let us study two ground realities related to it.
1. The Christian faith is not just a philosophy or a truth for some meditation. It’s not a mystical faith where one withdraws from real life and spends time in a secluded place trying to understand God. Even Jesus didn’t do that. He lived out His life in the midst of society. God intends for us to lead our lives in the real world with all its quirks and hang-ups.
2. The Christian faith teaches holiness and sanctification as part of living out our lives. Unlike many popular theories, holiness is not something that we receive by having a couple of isolated experiences or by attending a revival retreat. It blossoms in us as we appropriate the sacrificial love of God and let it influence every aspect of our life, even that of loving others. Or in other words – holiness is not a onetime experience; it is the outworking of the truth that we claim to believe.
THE LOGIC OF HOLINESS AND WALKING IN LOVE
John in the passage above is logically stating that because God has so loved us we are indebted to loving one another. It naturally therefore implies a responsibility and obligation.
Let me explain the significance of this logic with another Scripture passage.
Flee sexual immorality. Every sin that a man does is outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.
1 Corinthians 6:18-20
Corinth was a city known for sexual immorality. So when many of the Corinthians became Christians some aspects of their past life reared head every now and then. So Paul teaches them not to engage in sexual immorality. He does it in the most fantastic way. He reasons with them and explains logically why they shouldn’t do it. Here’s how he does that. Firstly, He draws a virtual picture of a temple. Everybody knew that a temple is a holy place where God was present. People revered and respected it. Then he says that at Salvation, God (the Holy Spirit) dwells in every believer’s life. So, his body is the new temple. If the body is the temple, then it must not be used for sexual or any other immoralities.
Paul tells the Corinthians that they are not their own. They were purchased at a great price from sin and Satan by Jesus the Savior. Jesus had set them free. How grateful must they be! That gratitude should birth in them a desire to please God in everything they did.
What a logical reasoning! Everything that we do should flow out of our immeasurable gratitude to God’s love.
THREE FOLD PLAN TO LOVING OTHERS
Let’s try to extend the above logic to loving others who often are unlovable or are annoying.
1. Look inwardly
Often when somebody bugs us, we react instantly with anger and hatred. Foul language, name-calling and hurting words fly across the room. It’s a pitiful sight to see ‘supposedly’ mature 50-year olds behaving like 5th graders. But the Bible says that when we are irritated and feel like lashing out, step back. Think for a moment what it meant to have felt ‘God’s love on us’. Let’s take our eyes off our enemy and fix them on God.
Let us remember the terrible things we have done in the past. Many a time, our sins are a result of our self – Self-will, Self-trust, Self-centeredness, Self-assertion, Self-conceit, Self-indulgence, Self-pleasing, Self-seeking, Self-pity, Self-sensitiveness, Self-consciousness, Self-defense, Self-sufficiency, Self-righteousness and Self-glory. Every problem in life arises out of this list of self. Let us remember how God wiped them all away by His forgiveness towards us. Then we will be able to pour out our forgiveness to our enemy.
2. Look outwardly
Next, let us look at the person and distinguish him from his actions. Often we see only the person’s flaws and mistakes, and we don’t objectively look at the man. The Gospel enables us to look at them for who they are – a victim of sin and self.
For e.g.- Imagine a beloved family member who has a skin condition, say sores. He would look ugly and stink. But because he is a family member and we love him, we would differentiate him from his skin condition. We would do everything possible to find the best treatment for him. We are able to recognize that it’s a sickness that’s causing him to look like that. We do not discard or hate the person, because he has a skin condition. We continue to love the person, while trying to help him get rid of the skin problem.
In a similar manner, we must look at our enemy who is rude and nasty to us. Let us realize that he is a victim of sin and Satan. Let us be compassionate towards him and pray for him. Let us stop condemning him, and begin to love him. After all, God looked down and saw our sins. He hated the sin in us but loved us. Compassion and love for us overflowed. He sent His Son to save and heal us.
3. Joint heirs
Soon we will recognize that we are joint heirs. We will go to Heaven and live there with our fellow believer who annoys us. We will share in the blessings of Redemption together. This truth will enable us to cast away our enmity and show love.
Let me conclude with a story that Jesus once shared. A certain king was settling his accounts. He found out that there was one man who owed him 10,000 talents. The king summoned him and threatened to lock him and his family up if he didn’t pay the dues. The man begged the king to give him some more time to pay up. The king was filled with compassion and so he forgave him his debt. The man walked out and saw another man who owed him 100 talents. He asked his debtor to pay up immediately or be imprisoned. The second man begged him to give him some time to pay his dues. The first man hardheartedly imprisoned his debtor. Now, the onlookers reported this incident to the king. The king was enraged. He got the man and his family put in prison. Jesus concluded his story with the following verses in Matthew 18:32-35 where he said, ‘Then his master, after he had called him, said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you begged me. Should you not also have had compassion on your fellow servant, just as I had pity on you?’ And his master was angry, and delivered him to the torturers until he should pay all that was due to him. “So My heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses.”
In the story the first man owed the king 400,000 times more than what the second man owed him! Jesus was trying to impress on his audience how big a debt we owe to God. We could never ever repay God for His love towards us. It’s that huge! Then how can we ever hold something against another person who holds something very trivial against us? Therefore John says – Extend love because we have received an immeasurable portion of God’s love.
The logic of love – We have received immeasurable love from God. The least we can do is extend a small portion of that love to others.