Friday, January 29, 2010

Love is...


"Love is..." (1 Corinthians 13)

We see constantly the rewriting of definitions of words such as love to suit what anyone is thinking or feeling. Is there a standard? Is it possible to know what love is? How are we to determine love’s true meaning? “Love is…”

If you head over to Dictionary.com you’ll discover love is: “A profoundly tender, passionate affection for another person; a feeling of warm personal attachment or deep affection; sexual passion or desire; a love affair and a score of zero in the game of tennis.” As I was skimming through the definitions I noticed one about mid-way through that read, “Affectionate concern for the well-being of others.” In the Bible Jesus speaks the similar words, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Matt. 22:39; Mark 12:31; Luke 10:37). As Christians our love for our neighbor will look different from the world's love. The gospel is what challenges to us love one another. The gospel is also how we show love for one another. As new creatures in Christ we realize the love of Christ is what compels us to love others. We will have an affectionate concern for the well-being of others by telling them about Christ.

The standard for us as Christians is to love the way Christ loved. As we strive by the Spirit to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, naturally we will learn how to love our neighbor as ourselves. We can know what love is because of what God has revealed to us in his word. “Love is patient and kind; love 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. Love never ends” (1 Cor. 13:4-8). If you’re like me you probably read that list discouraged by your lack of love. Loving our neighbor is not an easy task because Christ has the standard set high. He wants us to realize our own inability to love so that we put our complete dependence in him. He has given us his Spirit to guide and strengthen us to love one another. This is the gospel of Jesus Christ. “Love is…” found only in Jesus Christ.

We see many characteristics of love in 1 Corinthians 13 but in Galatians 5 we see many similarities between love and walking by the Spirit. This is encouraging news for the Christian. “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Gal. 5:22-23). Once Christ saves us from our helpless, sinful state and regenerates us by his grace he promises us the renewal of his Spirit (Titus 3:5). By his Spirit we are able to love. We are able to love our neighbor as ourselves. This is good news. Apart from the gospel, love is a relative term because everyone has their own definition of love. But once we surrender our lives to Christ we see what true love is. We fully submit to Christ’s authority and his will which is revealed in his word. “Love is…” clearly defined in Scripture. May we love our neighbor with the love of Jesus Christ and his atoning work done on our behalf on the cross. “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13).
Grace upon grace,
JRL

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