Is your love limited?

Is it possible we have a limited understanding of love and hate?

We tend to understand love as a feeling — something we just have towards another — or a set of actions to convey care, appreciation, or connection.  We can name many people — and many things — that we love, and can be fairly confident that we reject hate in most situations.

We see a verse like this and think we are in the clear:

Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates a brother or sister is still in the darkness.  Anyone who loves their brother and sister lives in the light, and there is nothing in them to make them stumble.
1 John 2:9-10

“I don’t hate my brothers and sisters in Christ, and I try to show love, so I’m good,” most of us would claim; I bet most of the Church at that time claimed the same.  If that were true, though, the Spirit wouldn’t have prompted John to write this exhortation, and put it before us today.

So what is love?  What are we missing that leads scripture to frequently confront our attempts?

Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.
1 John 4:8

Think of it this way: if “God is love”, is the way you love a good representation of God?

Before you answer too quickly, let me push it further: is the way you love not just those close to you, but those that most hurt you, a good representation of God?  If a hidden camera caught your interactions with your “enemies”, would God smile and say, “Yep, that’s me!”?  Remember, scripture calls us to love everyone, from fellow believers to enemies who are actively persecuting us, and so the mandate to “love others” is not conditional.

If we are honest, we know there are relationships where our love falls short.  If we’re really honest, even our best moments of exhibiting love fall short as well:

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
1 Corinthians 13:4-8a

Our form of love may seem good overall, but does it always protect, always trust, always hope, and always persevere?

A friend of mine was sharing his testimony this week and said, “When I really met Jesus, I had this deep sense of His love that I had never experienced before, and a new desire to love others in the same way.  It’s not like I was hating others before that, but suddenly ‘love’ was a very different thing that I had assumed.”  He was not actively hating, but when met with true, spiritual Love, he realized his years of “loving” others was something else.

Perhaps it was kindness, or morality, of generosity, but whatever it was paled in comparison to LOVE.

How daunting to discover that our best efforts at love fall short!  It is only daunting if we miss the good news: that we are not meant to be the source of the love, but the conduits!  Read the following passage slowly — twice even — so that you don’t miss the good news and invitation:

Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 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. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.

This is how we know that we live in him and he in us: He has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God. And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.

God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.

We love because he first loved us. Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.
1 John 4:7-21 (emphasis mine)

Did you catch how much of “loving others” is actually from God?  This really is good news!  We do not have to be “good at” loving, or fully understand it, or have the strength and desire to enact it, because God-Love is the source, through his Spirit!

“This is great!  I just have to sit back and let God love through me!”

Not so fast… love is not made complete through inactivity.  “This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus.”  God is the Source, the Spirit is the delivery system, and Jesus is the model for action.  A car may have a fuel source and a combustion system to turn it into power, but the car won’t move until you remember your instructor’s teachings and drive.

Fortunately, Jesus tells us how to be like him:

As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. This is my command: Love each other.
John 15:9-17

The gospels are filled with examples of how he loved his disciples, those he encountered, and even his enemies;I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. (John 13:15)  Loving like Jesus is not a mystery; it’s amazing how frequently we miss the mark!

Church, you see the division and hatred around us, outside the church and within: it is vital that we take the command to Love seriously, TODAY.  Our love cannot be of our own design based on our own capacities and desires, but from THE source — God — instilled by the Spirit, and enacted by replicating Jesus in every interaction.  This is not optional.

We are called to love.  You are called to love.  The good news is the Trinity is ready to do through you what you never could on your own… are you ready?

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