“Jesus does not identify love primarily with producing good in the lives of others, Nor does he equate it with what we call ‘philanthropy,’ that is, the giving of surplus wealth or surplus time to help others. On the contrary a man only begins to love as Jesus commands when he gives out of what is essential to him, out of what he cannot ‘afford.’ For Jesus, it is the deliberate and uninhibited willingness to expend oneself for another that constitutes love.” Arthur C. McGill
What is love? This is a question that should capture the hearts and minds of every Christian. John writes, “Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.” (1 John 4:8) God is defined as love. It is at the center of the faith we profess. As Christians we must spend time meditating on what it means to love.
The Bible defines love for us. The ultimate example of love is Jesus. Everything he does comes from his love for God and for others. Love leads Jesus to the cross where he lays down his life for others.
“Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13)
There is no purer form of love than to give your life for someone else. Love must cost us something. Love is sacrificial. Paul explains that this kind of love should bind a marriage together. “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.” (Eph. 5:25)
To love means to sacrifice. The story of the Good Samaritan is a story about what it means to love. The focus of the story is on what the Samaritan does. He gives up his time by stopping to help the man. He gives up his animal and walks. He pays for the man’s stay at the inn. He does not just pay for a night or two, but he promises to pay the entire bill. This is what it means to love.
The one thing that binds the church together is love. Without love there is no church. Without love we are merely walking in darkness. (1 John 2:9-11) Without love the world will not know we are the disciples of Jesus. (John 13:35) Love is essential. Love is a must. If we are not bound together by love, then we are nothing.
The love that Jesus calls us to is not an easy love. It is not a worldly love. He calls us to love the unlovable. In the Sermon on the Mount he says, “For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?” (Matt. 5:46) The church encompasses people from all walks of life. Jesus and his disciples often sought out people on the margins of society, people who had been rejected by others. We are called to love the outsider. We are called to love people who look different than us. We are called to love people who are grumpy and not easy to get along with. We are called to love people who don’t share our same view on political issues. The twelve disciples included a tax collector and a zealot. These men were supposed to hate each other, but as followers of Jesus they chose love.
The command to love has not gotten any easier over the years. It is still difficult and many choose to ignore it or explain it away. Love is action. We do not love in word only. Love is manifested in what we do for others. Do we avoid people we do not like, or do we seek them out and offer a kind word? Do we serve the people who rub us the wrong way? Do we listen to people who we would otherwise choose not to converse with? When we love do we simply give off the top, or do we truly sacrifice for the other?
Love is hard, but love is what changes us and others. Avoidance does nothing to better this world, but love will transform us into the people that God would have us to be.
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