“And this commandment have we from him, That he who loveth God love his brother also.” – John 4:21
If I say I love God, but I don’t love my family and friends, I am a liar, and God’s love isn’t in me. God is love. A relationship with Him is characterised by perfect love and indescribable peace. It is is not a relationship filled with judgment, hate, persecution and guilt. It is free of fear or retribution.
“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.” – John 4:18
Freedom from fear
The truth is that I am not perfect. While I certainly don’t fear for my soul, I do get fearful here on earth. Will we make the ends meet this month? Will bad guys break into my house? Will the economy collapse? These are fears that have plagued nations and individuals almost as long as there have been nations and individuals. But that waking-up-in-the-middle-of-the-night, gut-wrenching terror about the future of my soul if there should happen to be a forever? Nope. I’m sorted. I have peace.
What, then, is love?
How does this perfect love play out in one’s life? Being imperfect, I certainly don’t see people the way God does. But I do know that I can model my actions on His, and develop a worldview that mirrors God’s devotion to us. When we’re learning a new skill, who better to learn from than someone who’s mastered it? And when we learn to love, who better to learn from than The Master?
Let’s review, then. How has He shown His love for us?
- He made us. That’s pretty big. He gave us life – arguably the greatest gift this side of forever.
- He gave us choice. He could have made us all love Him automatically. Instead, He lets us choose our own path through life.
- He gave us His Word. Even though we have the option of going any way we like, He gave us the manual, and shows us how to get the most out of what He’s given us.
- He gave us Jesus. To make it easier to understand His Word and His will, he sent us His Son. A gentle and humble teacher, overflowing with love for each of us, Jesus lived out the Way, and taught us how to do so, too.
- He gave His life. What greater gift could anyone ask for, ever? He gave everything; He took our place.
- He conquered death. Not only did He take our place in paying for our sin, He took away death and gave us everlasting life.
- He did all that – and we did not deserve a bit of it. Before we were created, He’d saved us (if we want to be saved – He’s even left that choice up to us). We certainly couldn’t have earned a single one of these demonstrations of love before we even existed. He loved us first.
That’s pretty awesome, right? So how should I love, if this is my model?
- I should love first. I shouldn’t wait for the person to earn it, ask for it, or deserve it.
- I should love sacrificially. Love doesn’t always cost something. But I should love even if it does cost me something. I should love even if it costs me everything.
- Loving is giving. Do I have what you need? Here ya go, then. It’s yours. You don’t have to pa me back. I ask for nothing in return.
- Loving is forgiving. Whether you meant to hurt me or not, whether you want my forgiveness or not, whether you know I exist or not, I forgive you, and won’t hold it against you.
- Loving is taking action. Saying, “I love you” is not enough. I show my love for you by meeting your physical and emotional needs to the very best of my ability. Whether you need warm clothes, a plate of food, a place to stay, a hug, or any other practical, real demonstration of my love, I need to be willing to do it.
- Love gives life. Our words and actions have power. Every day we impact lives in ways too numerous to mention. We can use that power for good if we choose to. We can breathe energy and encouragement and joy into the lives of others. Love chooses life.
Perfect Love requires no payment.
I love imperfectly. I want a reward for my sacrifice, and I withhold good from those to whom it is due (Prov. 3:27), even if I have it by me, because I have harboured some root of bitterness in my heart against that person (Heb. 12:15). I may be justified in my pain and disillusionment, but that doesn’t make me right. And it certainly doesn’t mean that I’m walking in God’s love. If I can harbour a root of bitterness and not forgive, then I’ve lost sight of what really matters in life. I’m focusing on me. And having walked that way, I can testify that it is not the way to happiness.
Imagine a world without conflict or hatred. A world of peace and self-sacrifice, where everyone has what they need and no one goes without. Imagine a world in which no one judges anyone, no one keeps score, no one is selfish. That’s the world I’m living for, and I’m going to start today by loving in deed, not just in words.
How about you?