Thursday, February 21, 2013

And the greatest of these is love...

In Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, he instructs them in three of the attributes of the Christian life as follows: “And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love”.  The early followers of Jesus evidently took this counsel seriously as they were recognized by those outside the faith for their unconditional, supernatural, radical love which they clearly demonstrated in their daily lives.

When Jesus was confronted by one of the Pharisees with this question “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?”, He responded “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.  This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’  On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”  This directive obviously further substantiates the significance of love as a hallmark of a believer’s character.

The type of love the Christian is to have is what the Bible refers to as “agape” love.  It is the highest form of love described in the Word of God.  It is authentic.  It is God-like in its quality.  It is pure and selfless.  As with the early Christians, this love requires action, not emotion, and is to be worked out in our everyday lives.  What does that mean?  Relatively speaking, we are to treat people with kindness and respect, to think of others first and ourselves second.  The Bible says it this way, “Be ye kindly and affectionate one to another”.  We ought to strive to not be rude, crude, harsh or coarse with people as a rule, whether they deserve it or not.

It also means we are to forebear others and their preferences, shortcomings, or faults, or more appropriately, what we deem as their faults!  The scripture says, “In honor, preferring one another” rather than the “my way, or hit the highway” attitude which seems to predominate many of our churches today.  Think of what would happen in our churches, our businesses, and our homes if we truly exercised the biblical notion of love and put into practice what we say we believe!  We would treat people with the respect and the dignity they deserve as the image-bearers of God.  We would also understand that the desire to love this way would naturally energize us to actively serve.  As the Bible puts it “Not slothful in business, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord”.  Real, true Christian love is much better demonstrated through action rather than in words!

Although it seems unattainable, in reality this kind of living is possible!  In fact, it is the very essence of the transformative power of the Gospel message through which it is accomplished.  By this transformation we deliberately seek to conform ourselves to a Christ-like spirit by which we let God live through us in our relationships to others.  As my Dad used to say, “As Jesus was leaving to go back to heaven, He said to His followers “Ye are the light of the world”.  When we truly seek to be “the light” we will have the power to love as God commands us to love.  And as Jesus’ followers, we are to carry on our commitment to love as He loved.  As we do we will realize that it is life changing for us and for those around us.
See ya Sunday!

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