This post is an attempt organize all of my recent thoughts on love by rambling on paper (a method that usually works well for me). So I write my thoughts for all to see with the hope that, at the same time, my rambling will “stir you up to love and good deeds.” Warning: I have a tendency to ramble at length in writing.
I starting thinking a lot about love after listening to a part of a Paul Washer message. (Couldn’t you have guessed?) Most of the message wasn’t about love, but he did mentioned a passage from Mathew 25 which got me thinking:
Then the King will say to those on his right, “Come, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry, and you gave me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you clothed me; I was sick and you visited me; I was in prison, and you came to me. [ . . . ] Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of mine, even the least of them, you did it to me. (Mat 25: 34-36, 40)
He made the point that this passage is not talking about feeding and clothing the random person on the side of the street (so to speak), but rather specifically our brothers and sisters in Christ.
The question forefront in my mind then was “How would this kind of love look in my life?” In America we don’t often see believers naked, or starving, or in prison for their faith. So how does this kind of love show itself here, in our world of affluence and tolerance?
Over the course of a few days, as I asked God to show me how to be more Christ-like in my love, several practical ideas came to mind (and even one very specific one, which I won’t mention here). First of all, even though I don’t see believers around me starving, I do see many needs. Next time you’re with the body of believers, listen carefully to the needs expressed. Many of them are not financial, which is how I have typically defined “needs.” Listen for all kinds. These needs are not just their needs, they’re yours as well. Be intentional about meeting them. If you’re incapable of helping, pray.
Secondly, there are many missionaries that live on support from their brothers and sisters in Christ. God will provide for his children, but he uses means. He gives us the opportunity to love with what he’s given us.
Also, though believers aren’t starving and unclothed here, they are in many parts of the world. There are ways to provide for their needs.
Another set of verses to which I’ve given a considerable amount of thought lately is 1 Cor. 4-7:
Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
It seems to me that these verses imply that love is a “you’re more important, better, or more gifted than me, and I rejoice in that” mindset. A few verse earlier (1 Cor 12:26) Paul says “And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it.” I think this captures well the meaning of love among believers. We want the best for our fellow believer. We are not jealous when they get something we don’t, but rather rejoice that they have it. We want them to have it. We would gladly give it.
A few weeks ago, I felt like I wasn’t finding anything in scripture to do. I just wanted a command to obey, and for some reason I was having considerable trouble finding it. Crazy, I know! I suppose the problem was that I was looking for some sort of new command I had never really thought about before. Now God has reminded me that I haven’t yet mastered the main one: love.
Love is huge. That’s why the two greatest commandments are about love. Hypothetically if you loved perfectly, then you wouldn’t sin. Think about it. Every other command in Scripture would be fulfilled in love.
This is also why Paul reminds us in first Corinthians 13, “If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. And if I give my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing.”
So if a big part of love is giving the best to promote the well-being and happiness of your brother or sister, and rejoicing to do so, what are a few practical ways to do this? John Piper has written an excellent chapter in What Jesus Demands from the World about the verse “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Here’s one thing he said that stood out to me.
When Jesus says, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” the word “as” is very radical: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” That’s a big word: “as!” It means: If you are energetic in pursuing your own happiness, be energetic in pursuing the happiness of your neighbor. If you are creative in pursuing your own happiness, be creative in pursuing the happiness of your neighbor. If you are persevering in pursuing your own happiness, then persevere in pursuing the happiness of your neighbor.
In other words, Jesus is not just saying, seek for your neighbor the same things you seek for yourself, but also seek them in the same way–with the same zeal and energy and creativity and perseverance. And with the same life and death commitment when you are in danger. Make your own self-seeking the measure of your self-giving.
How do you seek your own happiness? I would hope that you find the most happiness in enjoying the fellowship of God. If this is so, than seeking delight in God is the greatest way you love yourself. And if this is so, the greatest way to love others is to seek that their joy in God be made greater.
I should stop here. Thanks for reading!