Grace For The Journey
We are in the midst of a five part study on how to expressed the love of God to others. Monday we began to look at what love has to do with our Christian faith. In that blog we saw that love is one of the defining marks of a Christian. Tuesday we looked in John 13:31-33 saw how the Bible how God’s love is to be expressed out in our lives.
- Jesus’ love was costly love.
For Jesus to go to the cross was an act of supreme self-sacrifice. It was costly.
- Jesus’ love was caring love.
The love that Jesus had led Him to be tender and honest about how He saw them.
Let’s look at two more ways Jesus expressed His love to others:
- Jesus’ love was commanded love.
John 13:34 says, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.” In going to the cross, Jesus was obeying the Father’s commandment (John 10:18). Now He commands His followers to love one another, even as He has loved us.
The fact that Jesus commands us
To love one another means that we can do it.
There are no excuses
If you fail to love another believer.
You can’t do it in your own strength, of course.
Love is a fruit of the Holy Spirit,
Produced in us when we walk
In dependence on the Spirit’s power
(Galatians 5:16, 22).
But just as Jesus obediently sacrificed Himself to go to the cross for our salvation, so we are obediently to sacrifice ourselves for the ultimate good of others.
I’ve had husbands come to me and say, “I don’t love my wife anymore! We’re going to get a divorce.” But the wedding vow wasn’t, “as long as we both shall love.” It’s “as long as we both shall live”! The biblical command is, “Husbands, love your wives….” If you don’t love your wife, you’re being disobedient. Figure out some practical ways that you can show her God’s love and start doing it!
He may protest, “But I don’t have any good feelings toward her. All of the years of anger and bitterness have just drained the feelings of love that I once had.” But lacking the feelings of love is never a valid excuse for neglecting the actions of love. You’ve probably seen the train diagram in the “Four Spiritual Laws” tract. The engine is God’s Word. The coal car is faith. The caboose represents feelings. The train will run only if you put your faith in God’s Word. Then good feelings will follow. But you can’t run the train on good feelings. When we obey God’s Word and begin to love others sacrificially, feelings of love will follow. But you can’t bail out on the commandment to love others because you lack feelings for them. I’m sure that if Jesus had followed His feelings, He would not have gone to the cross! His love was costly and caring. But it also was based on obedience to His Father’s commandment.
- Jesus’ love was conspicuous love.
John 13:35 says, “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” Jesus wasn’t just talking about having nice thoughts toward others, which no one else can see.
He was talking about love that can be seen.
It stems from the heart,
But it’s seen in outward actions.
It’s the sort of love that
Stands out conspicuously
In this self-centered world.
They should see the way
That we Christians love one another
And say, “They must be followers of Jesus!”
Sadly, the church is often known more for its fighting and divisions over petty issues than it is for its love. Back in the 1970’s some church growth gurus observed that Christians like to go to church with others who are just like they are. Whites like to be with whites. Blacks like to be with blacks. Rich college graduates like other rich college graduates. Rednecks don’t like going to church with liberals.
So these church growth gurus
Gave us the homogeneous unit principle:
If you want your church to grow,
You’ve got to target the niche
That you’re trying to reach
Market your church to those folks.
The problem is that principle
Is completely contrary
To the New Testament!
The Bible says in Galatians 3:28, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” In the church, there is to be “no distinction between Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and freeman, but Christ is all, and in all.” (Colossians 3:11). The church is the family of God and God has designed families so that there are young and old together.
Have you ever thought about the diversity among Jesus’ apostles? He chose Simon the Zealot. Zealots were a radical political group that used intrigue, violence, force, and deception to try to achieve its goal of liberating Palestine from Roman rule. They refused to pay taxes and they attacked and murdered government officials, especially the hated tax collectors.
And then He chose Matthew, the tax-collector! The tax-collectors had sold their souls to Rome. They milked the Jewish people of their money in order to line their own pockets. You could not have put two men of more diverse backgrounds into the same group if you had tried! These are the men that Jesus is telling to love one another! That kind of love would be conspicuous!
This has several practical implications. For one thing, I refuse to have a contemporary service for young people, who prefer rock music and a casual format and a separate traditional, more formal service for the older folks, who prefer hymns with organ accompaniment. That wrongly divides the church along age lines. The older folks need the fresh enthusiasm of the young people and the young people need the wisdom and stability of the older folks.
Also, the church should reflect the racial and socio-economic diversity of our communities. But we should not seek to divide along racial or ethnic lines. Our love for one another should conspicuously cross divisions that we see in the world. We want our church family to reflect that mix and show the love of Christ to the world.
When I was younger, I had a friend who attended a church that met in a park. It consisted predominately of “hippies,” most of whom were under 30. The way the church got its start was another sad example of Christians violating Jesus’ command to love one another. A youth pastor at a Baptist church started seeing a number of young “hippies” come to Christ, so he started bringing them to church. But the people in the church protested. They didn’t want kids looking like that coming to their church! What would people think? For starters, they might have thought, “Those people must be Jesus’ disciples!” That youth pastor went to several churches and tried to get them to accept his group, but was turned down at every church. He finally was forced to start his own church.
So, Jesus’ love was costly, caring, commanded, and conspicuous. Finally,
- Jesus’ love was committed love (John 13:36-38).
John 13:36-38 says, “Simon Peter said to Him, ‘Lord, where ae You going?’ Jesus answered, ‘Where I go, you cannot follow Me now; but you will follow later.’ Peter said to Him, ‘Lord, why can I not follow You right now? I will lay down my life for You.’ Jesus answered, ‘Will you lay down your life for Me? Truly, truly, I say to you, a rooster will not crow until you deny Me three times.’”
While Peter thought that he was fully committed to Jesus and in many ways, he was, his failure stemmed from not recognizing his own weakness. Trusting in his own loyalty rather than in the Lord set him up for his colossal failure.
What is really significant is Jesus’ commitment to Peter and to the other ten disciples in spite of their failure. Jesus knew that Peter would deny Him and He predicts it in the above verses. He knew that all the disciples would flee for their lives when He would be arrested later that night, in spite of their protests to the contrary (Matthew 26:31, 35, 56). But, He didn’t cast them off because of their failure. He loved them to the end (or uttermost; (John 13:1) and He showed that love by restoring them and using them after His resurrection.
Love means being committed to the other person’s highest good.
The highest good for all people is that
They would come to know Jesus personally and
Become more like Jesus Christ by growing
In holiness and living to glorify Him.
That commitment to the other person’s highest good is the glue that holds a marriage together. As the Bible Paul says in Ephesians 5:26-27, a husband’s love for his wife should aim at sanctifying her so that she would be holy and blameless. That same commitment should cause church members to work through conflicts and seek to preserve the unity of the church in the bond of peace.
The costliness of love means that we have to sacrifice our selfishness for others. The caring aspect of love means that we should never be calloused or rude. Love is kind. The commandment facet of love means that we do it in obedience to our Savior, who gave Himself for us. The conspicuous part of love means that it doesn’t consist just of nice thoughts, but of visible actions. And, the commitment of love is to see the other person become more like Christ, which is his highest good and brings the greatest to God’s glory.
Bringing together these five elements of Jesus’ love, we can come up with a definition of biblical love:
Love is a self-sacrificing,
Caring commitment which,
In obedience to Jesus,
Shows itself in seeking
The highest good of the one loved.
This is God’s Word For Today … This Is Grace For The Journey
Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!
Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”
Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”