During the last week, the Lord revealed to me more about Love than I had appreciated before, for God is just all about love. John 15:13 says “No one has greater love than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” This is exactly what Jesus did and exampled for us, and what God the Father allowed Him to do; to lay down His life on a cross at Calvary, for our sins, so that we may be redeemed.
As Christians, we are all called to love; yet in truth, so few of us really appreciate the magnitude or majesty or power of that to which we are called. All who have attended Christian weddings would be forgiven for thinking that the Holy Bible comprises only a small portion of First Corinthians 13, starting “Love is…..” In truth, First Corinthians 13:4-8 comprises some of the best writing ever on what love is, as it lists out its 16 key points: (1) patient, (2) kind, (3) does not envy, (4) does not boast, (5) is not proud, (6) is not rude, (7) is not self seeking, (8) is not easily angered, (9) keeps no record of wrongs, (10) does not delight in evil, (11) rejoices with the truth, (12) always protects, (13) always trusts, (14) always hopes, (15) always perseveres (16) never fails.
But when we look at First Corinthians 13, we need to remember that Paul wrote these words as an integral part of a long letter which was not divided into chapters, as we now know it. The First Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Corinthians, to give it its full name, was a single flowing document without the 16 Chapter divisions, of which we are now so familiar. Let us therefore put Chapter 13 back into context within the whole. Though we tend to see Chapter 13 standing alone on the theme of Love, this is not quite the case, as we see when we look at what precedes and follows:
Chapter 12: Contains the list of 9 Spiritual Gifts,
Chapter 13: The “Love Chapter,”
Chapter 14: Explains the application of the Spiritual Gifts within the Church.
Chapter 13, therefore, is all about the application of the Chapter 12 Spiritual Gifts, basically saying that all gifts have to be applied with, and used with, and measured against, love. In other words, the spiritual gifts are nothing without love. Love is the catalyst which makes the spiritual gifts work as God planned. They have to operate through love; that is the requirement of God.
Let us now move on to another well known definition of Love in the Bible, that of Galatians 5:22-23 where we read of the Fruit of the Spirit:
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things.”
We need to note a couple of things here. First, that the phrase in the Bible clearly says “the fruit of the Spirit” and not ‘fruits.’ In other words, it is in the singular, not the plural. This are not a list of fruits, but of aspects of, or descriptions of, one fruit: love. We could therefore expand the list to read: Love is full of joy, love is full of peace, love is full of peace, love is full of patience, love is full of kindness, love is full of goodness, love is full of faithfulness, love is full of gentleness and love is full of self-control. Galatians 5:22-23 is not a list of Christian character traits, but a short list of the characteristics of Love.
Love is super important to God, and as such, it should be and must be, super important to His people also. Hollywood has lambasted us with the romantic side of love for so long that we no longer can clearly see that love is a choice. Love is a choice which we must consciously make – for the Bible says so. The three following verses are among many which establish this viewpoint:
First Thessalonians 5:8 “Since we belong to the day, we must be sober. We must put on faith and love as a breastplate and the hope of salvation as a helmet.”
First Timothy 6:11 “But you, man of God, must avoid these things. Pursue …… love, endurance, and gentleness.”
Second Timothy 2:22b “Pursue … love, and peace together with those who worship the Lord with a pure heart.”
Love is a choice which we are asked to pursue and put on. It is not a romantic emotion, but a life changing characteristic which we can achieve. But to achieve it, it will take effort, and we may need to give up our selves and our egos, and humble ourselves. Again, there are many Bible passages provided to help us with this reinvention of self:
Second John 1:6b “This is the commandment, That, as you have heard from the beginning, you should walk in love.”
Ephesians 5:2 “And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us..”
Jude 1:21a “Keep yourselves in the love of God.”
First Corinthians 6:14 “Everything you do should be done lovingly.”
There is purpose in this requirement of love; there are blessings for those who comply and there are consequences for those who refuse to comply. Love has the power to overcome sin. This is made clear in as the Apostle Peter says in First Peter 4:8 “Above all, continue to love each other deeply, because love covers a multitude of sins.” Given the condition of the world and the Church in the many countries today, this is indeed good news. Practically speaking, without love we cannot forgive as we are require to forgive; without love we cannot repent as we are required to repent. Without love, it is all about us and not about others, let alone being all about God. Christians, as Ephesians 4:15a says, are required to “speak the truth in love.” We are called, as Colossians 3:12 & 14 says “Therefore, as God’s chosen ones, holy and loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which ties everything together in unity.”
In these verses we see that the call to love is not a hollow requirement; there are blessings which follow and there is power within. The Song of Solomon 8:6 puts this into perspective for us as Solomon writes: “Set me like a seal over your heart, like a seal on your arm. For love is as strong as death, passion as intense as Sheol. The flames of love are flames of fire, a blaze that comes from the LORD.” Solomon, here, says that love is ‘as strong as death’, while in First John 4:18 we see that there is no fear in love, for perfect love casts out fear: “There is no fear where love exists. Rather, perfect love banishes fear, for fear involves punishment, and the person who lives in fear has not been perfected in love.” This is love in action, but not in a feeble half hearted romantic way, but in the very power of God, and just as He intended when He gave us the capability to love.
As we now see the revealed power of Christian love as demonstrated and explained in the Bible, we can see that love is a very powerful force, both in the natural and in the spiritual realm.
Satan works to rule this world and hold us in bondage by death and fear. These are his tactics. Christians, as we have seen above, have the God given power to conquer and banish Satan; love. For love conquers death and love conquers fear. In Jesus, we have no reason to fear.
As we look at the Churches of this world, it becomes obvious that Love has been usurped as its main focus and replaced with Faith. However, we can now see from Colossians 3:14 that if we are not in unity in our Churches, the reason is the lack of love, not the lack of faith. Galatians 5:6b says “What matters is faith expressed through love” or simply: faith works through love.
Now, as Jesus said in Matthew 17:20b “ I tell you with certainty, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.” Just faith as large as a mustard seed can move a mountain, yet sadly, how many mountains do we see being moved these days? Yes, Faith indeed is powerful, but there is more, as First Corinthians 13:13 tells us: “Right now three things remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love.” While Faith unquestioningly is great and powerful, Love is more so. Love is a greater power and a greater force than either faith or hope. If a mustard seed amount of faith can move a mountain, what can a handful or a caress of pure agape love move?
It is love which rules this worlds. As Ephesians 3:17b-19 says:
“Then, having been rooted and grounded in love, you will be able to understand, along with all the saints, what is wide, long, high, and deep — that is, you will know the love of the Christ — which transcends knowledge, and will be filled with all the fullness of God.”
It is the love of Christ which transcends knowledge, and this love, this power, is within our reach, if we would but grasp it and hold on to it for dear life.
In Matthew 22:36-40 Jesus was asked:
“Master, which is the great commandment in the Law?
Jesus said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind’. This is the first and great commandment.
And the second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself’. On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”
His reply makes it clear that Love is the answer; first for God, second for all mankind: First Love God, then Love your neighbours.
I believe that this truth of Love must be rediscovered and taught in the Churches. However as Christians, we all need to be reminded that love is a choice which we are required to make. It is not optional.
Amen and Amen.