I’m learning about love.
Maybe that seems a little cliche, but in a world where love is a quick-fix word used to describe shallow nights and selfish intent, I think it’s a good word to study.
1 John 4:8 says God is love. Verse 19 says that we love because he first loved us. And God’s love was made manifest to us in Jesus–he sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins (vv.9-10).
Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another (v. 11). What does loving one another look like? Since God is love, and we love because he first loved us, we should study God’s love and God as love, as well as what the Bible clearly outlines for us as love.
Here are some truths God has been teaching and humbling me with so far:
1. Love others as I love myself. And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And the second is like it: you shall love your neighbor as you love yourself” (Matt 22:37-39). Whoa… love my neighbor as I love myself? I orient pretty much everything I do around myself: I sleep when I feel tired, I eat when I feel hungry, I buy clothes when I feel I need or deserve them, I do nice things for people so they will think better of me, I work hard to make a name for myself, etc. The root of pretty much everything I do is to please myself or meet my own needs. That’s loving myself. But I’m called to love other people as I love myself! That means renouncing my selfishness and caring for their needs when they feel a need, not just when I feel like serving them. That means renouncing my sinful desires for recognition and popularity and sharing the Gospel even when I might not feel perfectly prepared or at ease, etc. I’m called to look out for others the way I look out for myself, and to care about others’ salvation the way I care about mine. I think truly loving the Lord with all my heart, soul, and mind is the key, though. Loving with all my heart, my soul, and my mind is not a love that is shallow or fleeting, but a devoted love. You can’t love like that without it being a deep and penetrating love… and that kind of love for the Lord can result only in serving others and ministering to them. Loving Jesus like that puts all of the world’s delights in the shadows–there’s nothing more I could wish for others than to know and love Jesus themselves. And sharing him with them is the best way I could love them.
2. God’s love is sacrificial. By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers (1 John 3:16). In love God sacrificed his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Ephesians 5:1-2 says, “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” We are to imitate God and love one another sacrificially. Philippians 2:3-4 says I must count others more significant than myself and look not only to my own interests, but to the interests of others. I must sacrifice my own wants to meet others’ needs and even sacrifice things that are in my interest in order to look out for the interests of others… I need to renounce my selfish heart and cling to God’s sacrificial, generous, and merciful heart.
3. Love is patient and kind; it does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 1 Cor 13:4-7… this is humbling just as it is. Read those verses again. Lord, grow this love (your love) in me!
So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. (Phil 2:1-8)
Father, I want to have this same mind of Christ. May I not count equality with you a thing to be grasped… I so often worship myself as if I were you. I’m sorry, Lord… my tendency to worship myself just proves how much I need you. I can’t save myself, but praise be to YOUR name because you have already saved me with the blood of Christ! Thank you, Father. Thank you for your patient, unending, all-bearing love. Thank you for your Word, which teaches me more about you and stirs my heart to worship you more richly. Spirit, move in me and capture my heart; make it like the Father’s. All this in Jesus’ name and for your glory, Amen.