Walking In Love
And we have known and believed the love that God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him. Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness in the day of judgment; because as He is, so are we in this world.
1 John 4:16-17
We have been learning that loving one another is the proof that we are children of God. In that regard, last week, we looked at how ‘walking in love’ reflects in our Christian lives.
Today, we are going to study about dwelling in love.
DWELLING IN LOVE
When a born again Christian leads a life governed and controlled by God’s divine love, he is said to be dwelling in or abiding in love. Let us look at some biblical examples to understand what dwelling in love looks like practically.
1 John 3:11 says, ‘For this is the message that you heard from the beginning, that we should love one another, not as Cain’. Cain murdered his brother Abel and the Bible tells us that we should be careful to not follow Cain. Instead we must ‘love one another’. But if we back track a little, we will see that Abel’s murder was not a chance accident. In fact, his murder was the end result of the hatred and animosity that had been welling up in Cain’s heart for a long time.
Sadly, the same murderous spirit still lurks around in the world and controls many of us. Titus 3:3 says, ‘For we ourselves were also once foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving various lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful and hating one another’. Often, feelings of hatred, bitterness, anger and all kinds of wickedness are masked under dazzling make-up and seemingly ordered life styles. But the all knowing God takes one look at our heart and sees all the filth rotting in our spirits.
But when we believe in Jesus’ death for our wicked, murderous sins and commit to following Him, we are born again into God’s family – cleansed and made righteous. Take for example, Paul. Before he became a Christian, his heart was full of wickedness. He was consumed with hatred. He hunted down Christians and killed them. But once he was saved, his life was transformed. He abided in God’s love, so much so that he even authored the famous passage on love in 1 Corinthians 13.
Another aspect of our life that shows whether we are dwelling in love is in the manner that we speak. The words that come out of our mouth indicate what resides deep in our heart. If we harbor hatred, envy and malice, then we can almost be certain that it’s going to bubble out of our mouths. Or if we assassinate a person’s character by our words, then we are striking his future, his work, his marriage and his whole life dead.
Instead, let us speak words of peace, love and kindness so that it will filter into our hearts and become a tank full of God’s love. Our heart gets filled with those things that we speak about and meditate on.
Our deeds also reflect the spirit that lives in us. A Christian’s deeds set him apart from the deeds of a person without God. It is as different as darkness and light. Let us consider Zacchaeus from the Bible. He was a Jewish tax collector, which meant that he worked for the Roman government and was undoubtedly a corrupt goon. Jews disliked them and considered them to be sinners.
One day Jesus came to Zacchaeus’ town. Zacchaeus had heard much about Jesus and so he climbed up a tree to get a glimpse of this famous teacher. Jesus walked up to Zacchaeus’ look out spot, called him down and said that He wanted to stay with him. Zacchaeus could not believe his ears. Imagine Jesus coming to his house, the house of an outcast! Jesus’ didn’t preach a sermon to Zacchaeus or admonish him for his corrupt lifestyle. But something about His loving presence seeped into this tough guy’s soul. He went home and made restitution. He gave half of his earnings to the poor and returned four times the money that he had fleeced from his debtors. Jesus’ remarked – ‘Salvation has come into this house today’. You see, parting with money demonstrates how it does not have a hold over our hearts. Only such a humble heart can receive Jesus. The hitherto corrupt Zacchaeus’ heart melted in the presence of the Savior. He was able to loosen his clutch over the money purse. Ironically, a rich, young ruler in the previous chapter in the Gospel of Luke struggled to part with his wealth. Hence, when Jesus asked him to sell everything and follow Him, he was unable to do so.
Zacchaues’ probably continued to hold his job as a tax collector. But we can trust that from that day onward, his life would have been completely different. Titus 3:3, that we read earlier, was true in Zacchaeus’ life. Gone was the wicked, envious, devious lifestyle. He was now washed and cleansed. His actions and deeds testified of the genuine transformation of his heart.
So, the question that we need to ponder over is this – will our colleagues, friends and family be able to see the marked difference of the unusual, divine love of God in us through our deeds?
AS HE IS, SO ARE WE
Now, moving on, let us dwell on John’s statement – ‘because as He is, so are we in this world’.
John says that as a Christian we must love one another because we are reflecting in the world what God is in Heaven.
Let us break that down for better understanding.
Matthew 5:45 says, ‘that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.’
The Bible says that the gracious God provides all of mankind’s basic needs. He lets the sun shine, sends rain, and provides food for both the wicked and the good. That’s called common grace. He does not withhold his benevolence and goodness from bad people. If the Almighty God can do it, then so must we. Our attitude towards others must not be determined by who they or what they do but by who we are and what we have in us. We are the born again children of the Sovereign Lord and we possess the Holy Spirit. Therefore, just like our benevolent Father, we must behave graciously, kindly and mercifully toward those are mean and hateful to us.
Jesus Christ modeled this for us. Hanging on the Cross, Jesus forgave his tormentors. He spoke words of forgiveness because that’s the way He is. He is love. It didn’t have anything to do with what his accusers did. It has everything to do with what He is and who He is.
God did not consider His honor, glory, prestige or power more important than our Salvation. Therefore, He set aside His Divinity and stepped down into this world to become a mere human being. He was humiliated, mocked, beaten and crucified. He endured all that for our sake.
How do we emulate this Jesus in our daily lives? Do we puff up our egos, flaunt our degrees and turn our noses up? Do we find it hard to do menial jobs thinking it is beneath us? Imagine, on the other hand, if we all decided to model Jesus in our lives. If husbands and wives reflected Jesus, then their marriages and homes will become beautiful. Instead of insisting on staying on our moral high horses, let us step down and love people around us.
So, when we see sinful people, let us remember that they are slaves to Satan. Therefore, many of their actions stem from their sin. Instead of writing them off, let us be willing to extend love and grace to them like Jesus did for us.
3. FORGIVE AND FORGET
Right from our childhood, we have been conditioned to memorize. We commit our math tables, our poems and lessons to our memory by continuously repeating them. So how can we even think of forgiving and forgetting?
The key lies in understanding that our heart is filled with the words that comes from our mouths. Consider this scenario. If we haven’t talked about or thought about a classmate of ours from elementary school, in all likelihood, 50 years later, we would have no memory of him at all. Therefore, instead of speaking over and over negatively (however legitimate it might be) about those who hurt us, let us abstain from speaking ill of them. Over a period of time, our mind will forget the details of the incident. We will soon not care much about it and it won’t bother us anymore. So, let us depend on the grace of God and become ‘perfect as our Father in Heaven is perfect’.
Dwelling in love is not a spasmodic act. It is an ongoing and continuous act. James 1:17 says, ‘there is no shadow of turning with God’. In Tamil it says, ‘Devan anpagavey irukiraar’ – that means, ‘God loves always’.
Every day, we all have plenty of opportunities to exhibit love. Instead of expressing hatred and bitterness, let us remember Jesus who modeled divine love for us.
As we remember His love for us, we will be able to love people around us. We can refrain from speaking harsh words or doing wicked deeds. Rather we can reflect Jesus here in this world as He is in Heaven.