Originally published Tuesday, 05 August 2014.
A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.~John 13:34-35
If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 1 Corinthians 13:1
If I am in fellowship with Christ, then shouldn't I demonstrate love in action? Even with the provocations of life? Instead, I sometimes, perhaps more often, bend the opposite way of love, and so goes the clanging pieces of broken people clashing loud... the absence of love.
I have been hurt because of an absence of love..in action, word or deed. Past experiences, even recently past, help beckon me to compassionately pursue love as my first reaction...at least they did today.
Earlier today, I arrived early for my appointment at my doctor's office. The receptionist first said, "Did you make an appointment?" My heart sank, Oh no, they didn't put my appointment in their system, I thought.
Seconds later, "You are not in our system, only your husband." Now she's telling me, essentially, she has no idea who I am or why I am there. Wait, it get's better. Next, she seems to be looking under the wrong insurance for my coverage and says, "Your insurance says it isn't in effect." Suffice it to say, I wanted to ask her if it was her first day on the job. It was with my most loving attempt reacting kindly when I didn't shout, or even say, "I've been a patient here for 6 years and I made an appointment! Find me in your system!"
Love is kind and patient. It treats others with respect and knows when to take a time out. I decided to leave while I still possessed the grace to do so... kindly.
I knew that my children and fellow patients were watching. I knew that this woman was made by God and in His image. It wasn't entirely, or perhaps at all, her fault she had no proof that I had ever been a patient there. So I consciously made an effort to be respectful to show compassion and love.
Mind you, it wasn't that I provided a perfect example of love (my children heard the phone conversation that I had with their father afterwords in which I said what was really on my mind) but rather in that instance (and most of the phone conversation) I didn't say something that I would later have to apologize for.
The Bible conveys what love is in 1 Corinthians 13. Love is patient and kind. It is content and humble. Love seeks to forgive and be forgiven. Love shows honor and acts with respect. Love pursues and proclaims truth. Love endures while it keeps no record of wrongs. Love protects, trusts, hopes, and perseveres. Perhaps perseverance is one of the more difficult pursuits in love. Love never fails.
God alone possess and expresses perfect love in abundance and without fail. That is why we are grace chasers. We need His grace and abundant love to truly live and to love well. His perfect love is expressed perfectly in the triune relationship between the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit--and next, to His creation.
To sustain my relationship with others I require the love of God as infused by daily filling of the Holy Spirit. The filling that I should seek and lean into through prayer and the reading and memorization of Scripture. Additionally, love is learned and sustained in community. Love must be lived out with others to truly be love. Love is not something that can be fully learned or expressed in isolation because love costs. It would not be precious if it didn't.
Whether preaching the gospel in our home, to each other as members of the body of Christ, or to the lost world, love is the essential key for others to see Christ in us. We must convey love towards people both within the Body and without in order to know that we truly believe what we profess.
Jerry Bridges perfectly illustrates the effects of the absence of love in the following story:
I remember hearing of one university student of whom it was said, "He can lead people to Christ, but no one wants to room with him." Whether he could, given that immaturity of character, truly lead people to a saving knowledge of Christ may be questioned by some. But whether he could or not, it is true that a great big dose of love was needed to make him truly effective. ~ True Community: The Biblical Practice of Koinonia
Love is the most essential ingredient. Period. Without love we are not what we claim to be. To live apart from love is to live apart from Christ. That is a state of the lost.
I need more of Christ because I need to love others more.
I need to love others more because I love Jesus Christ.
Because the Holy Spirit lives within me, and the greatest act of love and forgiveness has been afforded me at Calvary, I am free to love even when it costs me convenience, pain, or even rejection.
Because our love never truly falls to the ground-- Jesus receives and accepts all of our meager offerings to love and He always returns our love even with others do not--we are free to risk being rejected because He knew rejection.
We can forgive those who have rejected our love offerings because we have certainly rejected the love of God at one point or another. This knowledge of His continued love in the face of our rejection reminds us how very much we have been forgiven and the gift of His love--grace.
Love never fails. Love never fails to give. Love never fails to give of itself. Love never fails to forgive.