I Jn.4: 14 And we have seen and do testify that the Father sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world.15 Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in him, and he in God.
16 And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him.
17 Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as he is, so are we in this world.
18 There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.
19 We love him, because he first loved us.
Rom.5: 5 And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.6 For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.
7 For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die.
8 But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
There are many things that are missing in today’s evangelical church. Prayer, humility, truth, purity, and any number of other things are in short supply. There are many things that should not be there as well. But if we are painfully honest one thing that is missing and that the Scriptures make clear should be paramount is love. That word “love” is bandied about and used in so many different ways and contexts. We love the weather; we love our dogs; we love that car; we love her hair; we love that football team; we love our job; and we love that song.
But in Scripture that word love carries with it a far deeper and much more profound meaning. But since we have usurped that word and used it in almost every context its spiritual meaning has all but evaporated. We can quote “For God so loved the world…” and some kind of emotion comes to mind. Without thinking it through we can imagine some kind of saccharine fondness as God looks down on humankind and places His hand upon His heart and smiles lovingly. But that is a self serving caricature which makes God a man and also lowers the love bar for us so low that we need not even jump. Another words as long as we do not hate we assume we are expressing love, and clearly the hate thing often rears its ugly head as well.
Look at the phrase “perfect love”. Wow! What a statement and what an eternal truth. God presents not just love for us, but the Spirit challenges us with a perfect love. And yet we have become complacent, ambivalent, and even haughty in our lack of conviction and pursuit of the perfect love. The church has for so long ignored and neglected the entire concept of love that decades ago it lost any authentic concept of what that love is in the context of Scripture. A once a year Valentine’s banquet now suffices for most churches while the rest of the year can be peppered with all kinds of expressions of hatred, castigations, and a never ending stream of criticisms of any number of sinners and even saints.
The atmosphere within the local church has become toxic with verbal assaults aimed at some politician or some sports figure or people like Rosie O’Donnell and Miley Cryrus. You see our call to perfect love has no caveats. We are not exhorted to love someone if they act right or if they espouse our views of morality or even if they do not wear a covering on their head. Even the world loves those who think and act as they do. But the path for a follower of Jesus is to exhibit love from the heart for the vilest among us or to those who despitefully use us. Not only do we fail miserably in that regard, but the concept is no longer presented as part of the true path that follows Jesus.
But how can we cultivate a genuine thirst for such a love? What is the foundation from which we can launch an honest reflection of that kind of love?
That foundation can be found in two phrases from the verses I offered. “He first loved us” and “Christ died for the ungodly”. I fear we have never fully embraced the horrific depths of our own sin, and in so doing we have never fully embraced the depths of God’s love. I do not say that lightly and I do not mean that our theologies are inaccurate. But unless Scripture enters our hearts and transforms our very beings then our theologies are little more than books about the Bible. If we have a shallow and even limited view of the salvation found only in Christ then we cannot know what it truly means to love people. That kind of love surpasses knowledge and it soars above the carnal mind.
Go ahead and present a list of grievances against a person which are most accurate and still our love should surpass that list. Go ahead and expose the wicked lifestyles of sinners and yet our love should still be perfect toward them. And that kind of love is cultivated within our hearts until it sanctifies our minds and our lips. It should come as no surprise that part of the problem is the paltry prayer lives of so many believers. If you are an intercessor you will not be an accuser. I am not speaking of Biblical correction for heretics, but I do speak of the visceral hatred so many have for a variety of people. And the mark of our high calling in Christ Jesus does not end because we have ceased to hate. Oh no. We have been called to love. In fact, “as He is so are we in this world”. That alone is a massive labor of love.
Oh but where is this love that flows from the knowledge of His unsearchable love for us? He loved us with a love so deep and so rich that He gave His life for His very enemies, and yet we have the audacity to hate and despise others? I fear so many have made themselves the object of their love instead of Christ. You may profess Christ with your words or your baptism but your hearts betray your profession. And when sweet and bitter water proceed from your mouth then we can know you walk in your own flesh and not in the Spirit. But allow me to reveal the true perspective once again, and if you can read and understand this and still be complacent about your lack of sacrificial and self denying love then what hope is there?