"This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another…we love because He first loved us."
1 John 4:10, 11…19
What is love? Is it an emotion or a choice? I used to wrestle with this question every time I heard a pastor say that love is a choice or an action. A while back I was attending a Bible study in which we were asked if it was okay for Christians to fake love. The discussion was so lively and thought provoking that I came home and searched the Scripture. As I read through Colossians, I found that Paul said some interesting things that really resonated with my heart. First, we were loved by God and we were reconciled to Him. Because of this, we are free from the penalty of our sin. Someday we will also be free from even the presence of sin in our hearts as well as our surroundings. But, in the here and now we live in human bodies and we have human emotions and very human thoughts. The only way we can be free from the power of sin is to choose to live by faith. That faith includes the belief that God is powerful enough to help us to do His will. In Colossians, Paul called it putting off the sinful nature and clothing oneself with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. He also said that we are to bear with and forgive each other. Because Paul chose to use words like "put on," it seems to me that we do have a choice to treat other in a loving way, maybe even a choice to love or not to love. That implies that love is in part an action. This fits with what the verses above say. Let's gleam what we can about God's love and see what kind of love He is calling us to demonstrate
First, God was the initiator of the love relationship that we have with Him. He chose to do this when we were His enemies and were living independently of Him. We see this by His decision to send His son, Jesus, who in love took on the form of human flesh so that He could demonstrate the depths and the riches of Both the Father’s and the Son’s eternal love to us. Were we lovely in our rebellion? Were we lovely in our selfishness? I seriously doubt it. Nothing about us would have caused God to do what He did. He did it because He chose to.
God chose to because it was His desire for us to experience love, and to be drawn back to the life He created us to live. Secondly, God paid a huge price for our benefit -- His Son. He placed him in the hands of one of His creations and made the Son who had no needs dependent on His creation for survival. He sent Jesus from glorious heaven to humble circumstances. He sent Him from the presence of His perfect love to a place that is full of hatred. He sent Him from a Holy sinless place to a place surrounded by all sorts of perversions and selfishness. He sent Him for a place where eternal life is the norm to a world in which all creatures are moving towards a physical death. It was in His death that the sinless Christ atoned for our sin and our selfishness and imputed to us His perfect goodness. Was it easy? I don't think it was. I think it was painful for God to watch His Son die. We know there is great joy and celebration in heaven for every sinner who repents, but I can't help but also wonder if there isn't grief when a person reaches the point that his heart is so hard that all of heaven know that he will never repent.
We are called to love like Jesus loved. What does that mean? It means that we will initiate love relationships with others. Our natural tendency is not to seek people to love, but to get people to love us. However, in Christ our supernatural tendency is to be lovers. As we learn to bask in the truth of God's endless sacrificial love we will be able to initiate love to others and invite them into relationships, not only with us, but the One who enables us to love as He loves. In Him, we will be filled so that we won't wait for other's to invite us, we will seek them out. It means that we will make sacrifices to show love to someone else. It may be monetary sacrifices; sacrifices of time or a sacrifice of something like our pride. For example, what will your friends think if they see you talking to certain people God calls you to love? If your friends assume the worst, will you choose to love anyway? Lastly, the motive of our love will be for the benefit of the other person rather than for us.
In closing, there will be times in our humanity that love will be warm and fuzzy and easy to do. There will be times where we will have to choose to put it on in the form of patience, forbearance, compassion and kindness. There will be times we may have to fall on our knees before our God who so lavishly demonstrated His love for us and confess that we don't have it in us to love someone and ask Him to shed His love abroad in our heart. I don't think that is fake, but it is the reality that we face as human beings living in bodies that are affected both by sin and a fallen world.
Sometimes, I find myself just longing to be with the Lord, knowing that His presence will once for all perfect His love in me. But, until I am face to face with Jesus I will at times only be able to love in His power and strength. So, how are you doing in the love department? Have you initiated any friendships lately? Have you made any sacrifices to demonstrate His love? Have you done a loving act solely for the recipient’s benefit, not your own?
Prayer: Father, Thank you for initiating a love relationship with us. Thank you for Your sacrificial love and for atoning for our sin with the blood of Jesus. Please help us to bask in Your great love and fill us with the desire to walk in Your love and to love the way You do. Help us be bold in initiating relationships and put it in our hearts to sacrifice our time, energy, and our pride so that others might know they are loved not only by us, but by You as well. Amen.