Reaching Out In Love
We love Him because He first loved us. 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. and this commandment we have from Him: that he who loves God must love his brother also has not seen? 1 John 4:19-21.
Some people annoy us. They interrupt us when we’re trying to concentrate, ignore us when we need their help, or give us unwanted advice. Sometimes, the best we can do is to tolerate them.
Tolerating people however, isn’t loving them, and God has set a high standard for us in relationships-especially in the family God. Our love for people, though, doesn’t come from self effort. God has imparted genuine, unconditional love to us, and He gives us an example of what love looks like. He is the prime mover, the One who initiated love toward us when we were completely unlovable. He showered us with grace, forgiveness, and affection and we respond warmly but calling Him “Alpha Father” (see Romans 8:15, NLT
The love we show others indicates our level of love for God. If we fail to love horizontally, we can assume there’s a problem in our vertical relationship with God. We won’t reach out in love until God has first reached into our hearts to enable us to love Him.
We love those around us by pursuing what’s best for them. When we’re listening, we’re fully present in the moment. When we’re caring, we give everything we’ve got because we are aware that God gave His all to us. The more we experience the transforming love of God, the more His love spills out of us towards those around us.
“I am doing ‘better than good’ because I love the unlovable and give hope to the helpless, friendship to the friendless, and encouragement to the discouraged.”
Like a lot of things, it’s easy to talk about loving others than it is to love them. In a perfect world with perfect people this task would be easy but we don’t live in such a place yet.
The practicing of this kind of love starts in the church among Christian’s believers. This is critical to our witness to the world. Jesus told us that we will be known as His disciples by our love for each other. I heard a preacher some years ago- David Wilkerson- say that you can’t get close to the Head(Christ) without also getting close to the Body(the church). Sometimes we forget that the church- Christians- are the Body of Christ and how we treat the Body is also how we treat the Head.
John is clear that we can’t love God and hate our brothers and sisters. When we think about all the hatred and division in the world, we have to grasp that we as the church have been placed here to be the remedy- to be the antidote. We all know that love is the most powerful force in existence. The Bible actually says that God is love and the last time I checked God is the Sovereign Lord over all. When sin dominated the world, when evil seemed to prevail, when the devil seemed to rule, God broke the power of all those things through prevailing love. If the love of God has such power and we have been released from the prison of sin by love, do we not know that when we release love towards those around us it breaks down every barrier?
Love has the power to transform. Look at your own life and see how it has been the power of the love of God that has molded you and changed you from what you used to be to what you now are and through that power it will present you before God in the very image of the Son of God.
“See what an incredible quality of love the Father has shown to us, that we would [be permitted to] be named and called and counted the children of God! And so we are! For this reason the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. Beloved, we are [even here and] now children of God, and it is not yet made clear what we will be [after His coming]. We know that when He comes and is revealed, we will [as His children] be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is [in all His glory].”
1 John 3:1-2
So what’s our practical application? First of all we ask God to help us love the most difficult person to love-ourselves. Only when we are confident that we are loved by God can we be free to love as Christ loved us. Jesus could love the unloveable because He had no question of the love and acceptance of His Father. We read on several occasions while Jesus was on earth that the Father spoke these words: “This is My Beloved Son in Whom I am well pleased.” God has spoken over us and declared His love for us and given proof by sending Jesus to the cross in our place.
Second of all we ask God to help us love those who are close to us. Sometimes the people we are around the most and those who are the closest to us can be the most difficult to show love to. We often take them for granted. Sometimes they become those we target with our frustrations. Sometimes their ways drive us nuts. So we pray for God to help us love them like He loves us sometimes in spite of how we act. Third we ask God to help us love the family of God- the whole family including those with different views or who may be in opposition to what we desire. The beginning of the cure of the world ills is the church practicing what I call the Eleventh Commandment that Jesus gave us in John 13:
“I am giving you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, so you too are to love one another. By this everyone will know that you are My disciples, if you have love and unselfish concern for one another.”
Fourth we ask God to give us love for the stranger just as the Samaritan in the parable loved the man who had been beaten and robbed. Jesus said the Samaritan when he saw the man took mercy on him and picked him up, tended his wounds, and took him to the innkeeper for continued care. We are called to be Samaritans and the church is called to be the inn.
There is no sin, no lifestyle, no habit, no wrong that love- the Christ love cannot overcome.
In the Lord’s Prayer, at least the Peter’s Creek version, we pray: “Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.” Perhaps we ought to add to this prayer: “Lord, help me to love others as You have loved me.”
Dr. John Thompson