Walking In Love
Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God, for God is love.
1 John 4:7-8
Last week, we studied about the relationship between our prayer life and ‘loving one another’.
Today, we are going to look at another aspect of loving one another.
WHAT IS LOVE?
Throughout all his writings, John constantly addresses the topic of love. Now, considering that he talks so much about love, it is essential that we know what exactly is meant by the term, ‘love’. The best definition of love is given in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 where Paul says, ‘Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails’. It is very clear from the above passage that love is not just some polite gesture or pleasantry. It is an intentional act of doing or refraining from doing certain things by believers.
Yes, this way of love can be shown only by believers. Non believers, or the people of the world, do not have this love. The reason is because this love comes from God. It is divine love and is a special gift to the children of God. So, the world cannot exhibit it, but we most certainly can. Hence, John instructs the believers to love one another (believers and non believers).
Jesus modeled this divine love for us. When He was hanging on the Cross, He looked down at His accusers. Filled with love and pity for them, He said, ‘Father forgive them. For they know not what they do’. He knew that they were blinded and had no understanding of the truth. They were pawns in the hands of the devil. He loved them at that moment when all that they had in return was spite and hatred for Him. That same, special love that Jesus brought into this world is now in every one of His children too. It is by that divine love that we will be able to love one another.
WHAT DOES DIVINE LOVE LOOK LIKE?
Now, let’s see how loving one another with divine love will look like.
If we look around us, we will find many believers who irritate and annoy us. Many of them are plain mean and rude. Some are proud and boastful. Some are envious and short tempered. But divine love says that we must love them.
Yes, their behavior might be appalling. But we can look past their blunders and see the problem of sin deep in them. After all, love is intelligent. It can recognize that the person is a slave of sin and is hence behaving in an irritating manner. We need to realize that they are made in the image of God, forgiven by the grace of God and are being perfected by the Spirit of God.
So in a nutshell, divine love in our world will mean that:-
a. We don’t envy
b. We don’t parade ourselves
c. We don’t get puffed up
d. We are not proud
e. We don’t behave rudely towards others
f. We don’t seek our own
g. We are not easily provoked
h. We don’t think evil towards others
i. We don’t rejoice in inequity
j. We rejoice only in truth
k. We bear all things
l. We believe and hope all things
m. We endure all things
n. We don’t ever reach a point where we say that we can’t love anymore
While divine love is pure and beautiful, there is another kind of love that we must be careful about. It’s the counterfeit love. This love is like a fair-weather friend. As long as two people are nice to each other, all is fine.
The problem with this counterfeit love is that sometimes it looks so natural and good. It’s like a basic instinct. Many a time, it is this instinct that drives us to protect our loved ones fiercely. But if we step back, we might recognize that this love forms out of our close association and proximity with the other person. The connection is so similar to the real, divine love that the two can be mistaken. But the moment the other person messes up, then our wrath is unleashed.
CONTRAST BETWEEN DIVINE AND COUNTERFEIT LOVE
This is where the counterfeit love distinguishes itself from divine love. Divine love is not only able to love those who love us, but it is able to love those who do not love us. Divine love goes the extra mile, way past the evil elements and responds in love. While the counterfeit love comes by natural birth, divine love comes by spiritual birth when God pours His love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit. Romans 5:5 say, ‘the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts through the Holy Spirit’.
So having understood that, let us look at one practical example to understand this well.
EXAMPLE – LOVE DOES NOT ENVY
One area that many of us struggle with is envy. The Bible says that love does not envy. Let us see how this struggle plays out in our daily lives.
Romans 12:15 says, ‘Rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep’. This is one of the most difficult exhortations to follow. Let me explain.
Suppose our friend has built a beautiful house and has decorated it tastefully. He invites us to the house dedication service. If we are honest to ourselves, we will admit that many of us will feel a twinge of envy at his good fortune. Slowly, we begin to compare our situation with his and soon a feeling of dejection sets in. We think that God has been partial to him and has forgotten about us. We will try to find faults with it and think of all the possible devious ways he must have amassed money to build such a grand house.
Let’s pause right there.
The wretched feeling that we are experiencing right at that moment is known as ‘envy’. When another person is enjoying the goodness of God, we are called to rejoice with them. Instead if we are upset about his blessings, then we are being proud and envious. A faultfinding person shows a lack of spiritual maturity and inability to love like God.
So, how do we deal with it? As children of God, we can be guided by God’s divine love in us. We can intelligently look at the situation and praise God for blessing our friend. This God who is alive and real is able to bless us too. We can rest in the knowledge that God is not partial and is able to provide for us abundantly too. There is no reason for us to be envious and critical.
WHY SHOULD WE LOVE?
Moving ahead, let us now look at the reasons as to why we should love one another.
1. LOVE IS OF GOD
The primary reason that we must love one another is because love is from God. It is not something that can be acquired naturally or bought. This love comes from God. So, we must continue to clutch on to this privilege of being able to love like God.
In fact, as we have already seen in the past, natural love, like that of a husband and wife or that among family members or among friends have specific terms in Greek to describe them. But the love that Jesus, the Son of God, displayed was unparalleled and alien to the world. As a result, they had to coin a new term to describe this love. That’s called agape which means divine love. Today, God continues to pour out this agape love through the Holy Spirit upon those who believe in Him.
So when we love people around us with this divine love, we love like Jesus does. It would be foolish on our part to possess this tremendous capacity to love differently from the world and yet not practice it. Let us therefore decide not to give into worldly feelings of animosity and enmity. Instead let us use this Godly love to conquer every difficulty and fix every problem. Then naturally, we will have a successful life.
2. BORN OF GOD
Our ability to love one another is the ultimate proof that we are born of God and that we are born again believers.
Ironically, many people think that it is the doctrine belief of a person that establishes their status as born again children of God. So, if the check boxes of belief in Jesus Christ as the Son of God, His virgin birth, His death and resurrection are ticked, then such people are assumed to be born again. The fact is that we can believe in all these things and yet not be a true child of God. That’s why in 1 Corinthians 13:1-3, Paul writes that, ‘Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing’.
We may have spiritual gifts and mountain moving faith, or we may be extremely charitable and of good character, but if we don’t have an iota of love, then it amounts to nothing. Or we might abstain from doing the wicked things that 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 talks about. It says, ‘Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God’. But refraining from doing these things also won’t prove that we are born again believers. John says that the ultimate proof of a believer is his ability to love another, including those whom he dislikes.
Let me explain with an example. It’s like a child whose paternity is in question. The clinching evidence to prove who the father of the child is to conduct a DNA test. Even if the child does not particularly look like the father, if the DNA matches then paternity is established beyond any reasonable doubt. Similarly, brotherly love is the DNA that proves our status of being a child of God.
3. KNOWS GOD
John says that everyone who loves God knows God and the one who does not love does not know God, for God is love. When we love one another we are showing that we have spiritual knowledge. Spiritual knowledge is not just having a basic intellectual knowledge about God. Yes, that can be a starting point, but we must grow past it and mature in our faith and knowledge of God. As we grow in our knowledge of God then we will learn that God is love, and that will birth in us a desire to love like God.
All this is not to ignore the fact that there are times when we don’t feel like loving. We might just want to give into our animal instincts of snapping at the other person or retaliating in anger. But when those strong venomous feelings arise, let us turn our focus on to God’s gift of divine love to us. Let us remember that we are born of God and have been given the privilege of being able to love like Him. So let’s prove that we truly know God and love Him by responding in love.