Love is…preeminent

Jesus seems to place a lot of emphasis on love, but where is love on our list of priorities?

Meditating on love has made me realize how important it truly is.

As the years pass, loving relationships accrue value and eventually become a premium. Life does, however, find creative ways to draw our attention to things seemingly more important (career, money, success, etc.), but ultimately less pertinent. Realizing how short our days are, with death serving a jarring reminder, normally allows us to refocus our perspectives on these relationships.

These bonds are formed in the bosom of love; it is only through love that we are able to maintain or place any value on the relationships that we have. Making our covenant connections a top priority thus places love at the summit of our lives as well.

Love, however, is a way of living, as the Bible exhorts us to “live a life of love” (Ephesians 5:2); it is not a merely sporadic emotion displayed towards a friend, family member or a mate.

Living lives of love assure us that we are building our existence on something that will last. Solomon writes in his song, “Many waters cannot quench love; rivers cannot wash it away. If one were to give all the wealth of his house for love, it would be utterly scorned” (8:7).

Love is everlasting and invaluable much like its creator—God almighty. God is love (1 John 4:8), and, as a result, our ability, capacity and desire to love all come from him (1 John 4:7).

Paul’s instruction to “be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children” (Ephesians 5:1) means dedicating ourselves to reflecting and perfecting this divine attribute. The place of love in our lives is, thus, preeminent.

WHY IS LOVE IMPORTANT?

Being a people of love is the highest task that we have been assigned by God. In his goodness, though, God has provided us with a point of reference to be able to identify what love looks like. Ephesians 1:4b-7 reads:

In love 5 he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, In accordance with his pleasure and will—6 to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. 7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace.

The preceding passage shows us that God’s love prompted him to do many things.  There is always a huge emphasis on God’s love as displayed by Jesus’ sacrificial act on the cross, and rightfully so, but this text broadens the horizons of Calvary in view of God’s eternal plan.

First, we were predestined. God knew about us millennia before our entrance into this world and loved us from the moment we were conceived in his mind. Not only so, but he looked down the corridors of time, past the rebellion and fall of man, and devised a plan to bring us into his family—a plan that was centered on the person and work of Jesus Christ.

Going through this trouble pleased God, that his desire to be in fellowship with his creation would be fulfilled. Without requiring anything of us, he gave us his beloved sacrificial lamb, that through his shed blood our sins would be forgiven. Now, the abundance of grace that God possesses is accessible to every believer (Hebrews 4:16).

The same love that motivated God to do all those great things is one that has an eternal hold on us. Romans 8:38-39 states:

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

If for no other reason, love is of the utmost importance because God’s love for us solidifies our eternal security. It also highlights God’s commitment to mercifully look past our faults as we undergo the process of being “conformed to the likeness of his Son” (Romans 8:29). Proverbs 10:12b says, “Love covers all wrongs.”

HOW ARE WE TO LOVE?

In view of God’s mercy and because of his great love (Romans 12:1; 1 John 4:19), we are then spurred on to live our lives loving him—this is called worship.

Though worship involves sacrifice (of time, resources and the fruit of our lips), God makes it clear that he prefers obedience (1 Samuel 15:22). Consequently, 1 John 5:3a informs, “This is love for God: to obey his commands.”

Jesus tells us that all of his commands, essentially, hinge on the two most important. He states:

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments. (Matthew 22:37-40)

Our relationship with God, as our most important relationship, is to take precedence in our lives. God desires that we give him our total selves, that our hearts would meditate on him (Psalm 19:14), our souls would boast in him (Psalm 34:2) and our minds would be set on glorifying him (1 Corinthians 14:15).

The second greatest commandment is where it gets interesting. Loving a perfect God is one thing, but loving a sinful human being? Who could do such a thing? Yet God’s rebuttal to this is, “For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen” (1 John 4:19).

Not only must we love our neighbors, but also we must do so as doing unto ourselves. Paul writes, “After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds it and cares for it, just as Christ does for the church” (Ephesians 6:29).

Because we are by nature selfish and consumed with our own cares, commanding us to simply “love your neighbor” would not be sufficient. Each time you view another person, God says, it is to be as if you are looking in the mirror. This way, we will be inclined to see ourselves in our neighbors’ position, which should prompt us to act genuinely and with great care on their behalf.

This is especially necessary when it comes to forgiveness.

Transgression is no respecter of persons. It will come to test our relationships and the integrity of our hearts.

Walking with a mirror, however, and seeing ourselves (and our past mistakes) in the other person’s position will facilitate the compassion that leads to forgiveness and allows us to remain in love. Proverbs 17:9 says, “He who covers an offense promotes love, but whoever repeats the matter separates close friends.”

It might be unfortunate to note, but the “neighbors” Jesus commanded us to love are inclusive of our enemies—not only people who may despise us, but that we despise in return.

Matthew 5:43-44 reads, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”

God’s standard for love may be high, but it is not one that he himself does not meet.

Jesus is a picture of this on the cross, where he prays for his persecutors (Luke 23:34). Paul tells us that while we were in our sins—by definition hostile to God—and deserving of his wrath, God made us alive with Christ (Romans 8:7; Ephesians 2:1-5).

We should all pray for strength to imitate God in this way. Learning to love our enemies by praying for them and treating them as ourselves will make for tremendous spiritual vitality, as well as living a life of peace.

WHAT ARE THE RESULTS OF LOVELESSNESS?

Love’s importance is further highlighted by the byproducts of its absence. The absence of love quite obviously opens the door for its counterpart—hatred.

Effectually, Leviticus 19:18 states, “Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against one of your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord.”

When love is not exalted, and we do not consider ourselves when we encounter offense, vengeance and bitterness begin to surface. Not only does this not make for peaceful living, but it affects our spiritual, physical and emotional health.

As member of Christ’s body, this bitterness takes on more than a personal toll—it affects the other members. Hebrews 12:15 states, “See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.”

Christians are enjoined as many parts of the same body. Paul tells us, “If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it” (1 Cor. 12:26).

Christ’s desire is that the parts of his body grow strong and help to build one another, not tear one another down. Ephesians 4:15-16 reads:

Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. 16 From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.

The work that is required of the members of Christ’s body is serving one another in love. The only way for us to be able to grow together is to speak the truth in love. This would certainly include having the maturity to not allow offense to linger, but lovingly seeking to resolve issues.

If we do not display this maturity and are slack in our service to one another, then the exact opposite happens.

Galatians 5:14-15 admonishes, “The entire law is summed up in a single command: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 15 If you keep on biting and devouring each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.”

The path devoid of love is one that will end in destruction. In a world where war, genocide and senseless killings exist—some right in our own backyard—we need to pursue the way of peace, which can only be achieved through love.

The violence in our world is a sad reality, but what is more tragic is an unloving Christian. The gospel, the good news of God’s love for us, can only truly be spread when the rest of the world sees the evidence of it in how we treat one another.

Jesus declares, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:34-35).

BENEFITS?

On the most basic level, we are to love because God instructs us to do so. There are, however, benefits to living a life of love. Deuteronomy 10:12-13 reads:

And now, O Israel, what does the Lord your God ask of you but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, 13 and to observe the Lord’s commands and decrees that I am giving you today for your own good?

Following the way of love is for our own benefit. Besides God’s many promises for those who love him and walk according to his ways, living a life of love satisfies us in ways that no career accomplishment or milestone ever could.

Remaining in the love of God is a privilege, and we do this by obeying him (John 15:9-12). God gives us a great opportunity to demonstrate our love for him by loving others.

The lives we live in this earthly tent are merely in preparation for our heavenly dwelling. God promises, though, that continuing in love will yield an eternal reward:

Blessed are those who endure when they are tested. When they pass the test, they will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him. (James 1:12/GWT)

 

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~ by christianballenger on March 27, 2012.

One Response to “Love is…preeminent”

  1. Wow, this is extraordinarily beautiful. And it showed up just when I needed to read it most. Thank you for your inspiring words. They truly move my heart.

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