“And this I pray,
that your love may abound yet more and more
in knowledge and in all judgment;
That ye may approve things that are excellent;
that ye may be sincere and without offence till the day of Christ;
Being filled with the fruits of righteousness,
which are by Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of God.”
I was provoked today by a devotional I received this Valentine’s Day. The commentary emphasized Christian love and ended with a reference to the above passage. It made me think.
We are in an age when the word “love” is used very loosely as a definition or justification for many things, including some very unlovely behavior. Those who have succumbed to the sin of fornication attempt to salve their conscience and whitewash their sins by calling their lustful behavior “love.” Those who wish to avoid all confrontations over truth and principles of the utmost importance say their refusal to “earnestly contend for the faith once delivered to the saints” in important spiritual matters or to “call a spade a spade” in their dealings with lesser, seemingly non-spiritual matters is not a lack of love for the Truth or a lack of personal conviction or resolve but, rather, “love” for their fellow man. And, of course, people of all ages and backgrounds speak much about “loving” this, that or the other thing, when true love has nothing to do with it.
The passage above gives us God’s definition of true love. I will break out its elements while keeping my comments brief. However, I hope your reflections on this most important matter will be extensive and fruitful to God’s glory and your own blessing.
True love grows
True love is not simply the emotion of the moment, the heat of passion that quickly cools and, in some cases, fully dissipates. True love does not ebb and flow as do the whims of human affection. Rather, true love constantly grows. Yes, it will be disappointed at times, even sinfully hurt. Sometimes it may retreat into soulful quietness, but it never dies. Instead, like the tree root that finds the winter freeze-thaw cycle necessary to work its way deeper into the earth so that the tree might grow stronger and prosper, true love is strengthened by adversity.
There is an old song that has within it the truth “You only hurt the one you love, the one you shouldn’t hurt at all.” You may offend someone you don’t love, but the shame of your offence too often quickly wears away, and you are left relatively unchanged. Further, if they don’t love you, your behavior has very little lasting effect on them. But hurt someone you love and you will find that you have hurt yourself every bit as much as, if not more than, the other. True love binds its objects into a common life, a shared dedication to the best interests of one another. When one is hurt, the other deeply feels the pain. When such hurt is caused by one of the parties to the relationship, fast comes contrition, remorse, sincere sorrow, but also, ultimately, increased love. While mere humanistic love, i.e., strong but truly self-directed affection, can grow cold and die in the face of difficulties, true love grows even under the most adverse conditions.
True love works according to holy knowledge and godly judgment
True love is wise. It moves with purpose, anticipating the full consequences of its actions, always seeking out blessing while avoiding at all costs potential trouble. While it provokes deep emotional responses at times, it is not merely emotion. It understands, as best the human mind can understand, the truth and the lie, the good and the bad, the beauty and the not-so-beautiful, the strength and the weakness, and measures its actions accordingly. The object of true love is never self-promotion or self-satisfaction. The object of true love is the blessing and advancement of the one loved.
True love is watchful
True love is sober, fully cognizant of the dangers which can hinder its growth or misdirect its best efforts to bless into shameful actions that result in great, and sometimes permanent loss. Its eyes are not only on today, but tomorrow. It carefully measures what appears to be good against what the Spirit instructs is truly best. And when it fails to move according to what is best, it accepts the rebuke of Providence, learns from its mistakes, and humbly corrects its course, for it is never so blinded by the temporal comfort of the moment that it loses its view of the true, lasting, and unspeakable joy of the eternal.
True love is sincere
There are no hidden agendas with true love. The agenda is straight-forward with only two items of importance: the glory to God and the blessing of the one loved. All else, especially Self, is of little concern.
True love is without offence, tempered by the reality of the Judgment Seat of Christ
True love is governed by the Spirit of God, for it comes from God. It is conditioned by our Lord’s direct command: “This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you” (John 15:12), and it understands and accepts the reality that it doesn’t exist to exalt itself, but God. True love is humble, for it knows that one day it will be measured by the Truth as to whether or not its actions truly honored Him who was to be glorified in all things.
True love is characterized by an abundance of the fruits of righteousness
True love reflects its source. As the fruit of the tree manifests its root, so does true love manifest the character of its root, and that in abundance. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. And they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts” (Galatians 5:22-24). True love is ruled by the Spirit, not the flesh.
True love comes from one source: Jesus Christ, our Savior and our God
Though “he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matthew 4:45), and though every good thing received by any man, believer or unbeliever, comes from our benevolent God, only those who know Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior can manifest true love. Only those in whom dwells the source of true love can enjoy and manifest it (Colossians 1:27). The world can know strong affection, powerful passion, and enjoy the temporal pleasures of truly life-changing relationships, but it cannot know nor manifest true, wholly selfless, and eternal love, for “God is love” (1 John 4:8), and He is found in only One: Jesus Christ, “My Lord and my God” (John 20:28).
So, Christian, rejoice. Not only are you loved, but, more importantly you can truly love. And, regardless of your challenges, love never fails (1 Corinthians 13:8). Walk in and manifest to others true love today, and every day, and thereby truly honor your God and Savior.
“Herein 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 ought also to love one another.”
1 John 4:10-11
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