(NOTICE: If you skip or skim the verses, this post will not make any sense. Please make sure to read them!)
Me either, sometimes.
All too often, I know what I should do... but I don't feel like doing it.
Sometimes what I should be doing is loving someone.
Isn't love... you know, a feeling?
I'd like to think it is. That would make things much easier.
If that were true, then I wouldn't have to love my brother even when he takes forever to let me on the computer. I wouldn't have to love my sister even when she is mad at me. I wouldn't have to love people that hurt me. I wouldn't have to love my parents even when they tell me I can't do something I want to do.
Oh, it would be so convenient if it were true... What a lot of bother I'd get out of!
Or... maybe not. What if it were true?
Then... that would mean that my parents wouldn't love me if I disobeyed them. That would mean that my siblings wouldn't love me if I am demanding or hurt their feelings. That means that my friends wouldn't love me if I were insensitive or mean to them. And... the most dreadful possibility of all: That would mean that God wouldn't love me-- I can assure you that far too often I am contrary to His perfect will-- I regularly and knowingly miss the mark He has set.
But! Love--real love-- is not a feeling after all! And guess what?? God does love me--and you! Hurrah!
For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. John 3:16
"Therefore be imitators of God as dear children. And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma." Ephesians 5:1-2
Wait: He died for us? That is how He showed His love? Yes. You see, we were hopeless; completely lost. There was no way any of us could measure up to His standard-- and without that, there was no way for us to be reconciled to Him. Someone needed to die. Someone needed to take the punishment for all of us. But we couldn't do it. None of us managed to be that perfect, spotless sacrifice. We failed. We needed God. But how could God die for us? A man must die for mankind. And so, in the greatest mystery and sacrifice of all time, God became man. He lived that perfect life; He died that horrendous death; He took the wrath of God for us--and then He rose again! Proving, once and for all, that He had conquered death, that He was The Savior. Wow.
God didn't just say, "Oh, I love you guys so much." No. He died. His love is not a love of words-- He gave up His very life-- for you! For me. This whole love thing... it's so much MORE than feelings. Sure, feelings are nice. But that's not love. Not real live love.
"Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails." 1 Corinthians 13:4-8a
Those are actions--choices of the will.
This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth. 1 John 3:16-18
You don't just suddenly feel like always being kind and patient and humble and meek and ready to bear and believe and hope and endure all things. You choose to. And why make that choice?
Well, "We love Him because He first loved us."
"And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ This is the first commandment." Mark 12:30
So, How do we love God?
Love is expressed by actions-- in this case, by obeying His commandments. This is how He loves us-- by His actions, especially of dying on the cross for our sins.
Also, if we love someone, we are going to spend a considerable amount of time with them, are we not? So then, it would seem to follow that if we love God, we will be spending time talking to Him and reading His word to find out more about Him and about His commands. Another thing that we do when we love someone is tell others about how wonderful they are. So it is with God-- if we really love Him, we will be willing and eager to tell others about Him. And we will be praising Him for all He has done for us.
So... we've covered a wee bit of how God loves us, and some of how we can love God... The following verse transitions us to another major application of love:
"In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another." 1 John 4:9-11
Now that we have experienced the love of God in our own lives, it is our duty and our privilege to then go out and love our fellow man. In fact, if we do not love one another, we are liars!
"If someone says, 'I love God,' and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen?" 1 John 4:20
*cringes* Oooh...This passage is long... but it's so good and so connected that I'm going to post the whole thing. Please be nice and read it!
1 “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser.
2 Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit.
3 You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you.
4 Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me.
Okay... abide. The whole branch abiding in the vine thing makes sense. So...how do we abide?
5 “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.
Now that is humbling...
6 If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned.
Yikes. I'd rather not be that branch! How do we abide??
7 If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you.
Wow! That sounds great! But... how do we abide?
8 By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples.
So, you say you want to glorify God? That is how!
9 “As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love.
10 If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love.
Ohhhh!! In order to abide in His love, we must keep His commandments! Well then, what are His commandments?
11 “These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full.
Wow... He doesn't say this to make our lives difficult-- instead, it's to make our joy full!
12 This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.
Oh! His command is for us to love each other as He has loved us!
13 Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.
So... what does it mean to lay down one's life for his friends? Obviously we're not ALL going to have a chance to literally die for our friends... but there are other ways to lay down your life-- like giving up your time and so forth. What do you think?
14 You are My friends if you do whatever I command you.
15 No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you.
Wow... how amazing to be called the friend of the Most High God!! But we must remember verse 14: "IF you do what I command you."
16 You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you.
Once more--humbling. It isn't anything we have done-- it's all by the Grace of God.
17 These things I command you, that you love one another.
There we have it: when it's all boiled down, our command is simply this: love one another. Simple-- but not easy.
What are your thoughts on loving your neighbor? Who does that include? What does it look like practically? Discuss below!