The trademark of any true believer in Jesus Christ is deep, abiding love. A follower of Jesus will be easily identified for their love of God and their love for those who also believe in Him. Without love we are not true believers.
In today’s church we hear about God’s love for us and our subsequent love of Him, but in the epistles Paul would consistently connect our love for our brothers and sisters in the faith as proof of our love for God. In fact, John went so far as to say that God’s love is made perfect (or complete) in us by how we keep His commandments to love Him and love other believers.
If we say that we love God but we are frequently in strife with other believers the love of God simply isn’t in us. In 1 John 2:9-10 it states, “He who says he is in the light, and hates his brother, is in darkness until now. He who loves his brother abides in the light, and there is no cause for stumbling in him.” John presses the issue even further in Chapter 3 where he says,
“In this the children of God and the children of the devil are manifest: Whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is he who does not love his brother…We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love his brother abides in death…By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.” – 1 John 3: 10, 14, 16
What I’ve noticed over the fifteen years that I’ve walked with Jesus is that many Christians have very little trouble loving people in the world but they struggle to love the people within their own faith community. Why is that? When it comes to people in the world most true believers seem to have no issue loving because we recognize that they are walking apart from God and don’t know “any better” for lack of more descriptive terms. We have all the grace and patience for an unbeliever because our standards and expectations are lower. We know godly righteousness isn’t their goal or compass and we therefore make allowances for their many imperfections.
However, when it comes to actual Christians we can be rigidly disjointed in our affections. The same grace and mercy we show the world we offer minimally to our own brothers. Again, why? Jesus said in John 13:35, “By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” People will know who loves God by how we love our brother/sister in the faith.
Interestingly, John doesn’t spend much, if any, time talking about how to love the world, he seems fixated on talking about how to love those in the faith. Is this because he saw how difficult it was for people, even in the early church? Or was it because he saw God do such incredible things through people having perfect love for each other? I ponder. But his points are vital because if we don’t love each other and demonstrate that love within our own community, no one will want the Jesus we represent. The evangelistic message relies upon the sacrifice of Christ and His gospel as well as the lived example of His love in His children. This is a simple truth that seems to be easily overlooked. We are the ambassadors of Christ. We are His daily representatives. We show the world what He looks like.
In 1 John 3:10, John shows us that the children of the devil are manifest or shown to us through their lack of love for the brethren. Sit with that. He makes this distinction because there will be many people in the Church who call themselves children of God but if they don’t love the believers around them they are simply lying to themselves.
So let’s look for a second at what a person full of love actually is according 1 Corinthians 13:
- They are able to suffer long and remain kind
- They do not envy, behave rudely and are not easily provoked
- They don’t parade themselves around and aren’t arrogant
- They don’t seek their own or act selfishly
- They think no evil
- They rejoice in the truth rather than in iniquity
- They bear all things, believe the best of everyone, have hope in all circumstances, and endure all things.
I don’t believe the reason Christians have trouble loving other Christians is just because we have higher standards for each other than we do the world, I believe it’s because there are many people in the Church calling themselves Christians who are not Christians at all. These people often don’t know that they aren’t true believers, but in their deception they live in ways contrary to the example of Christ and create a sort of grey space within the Body. Often, the only way they are spotted is when they are found to be devoid of godly love. That isn’t to say that anyone who makes a mistake or hurts another believer is therefore not a true Christian. If that were the case, we are certainly all doomed. It is how we respond after we make mistakes that displays who we are and Whose we are.
My fascination with Jesus’ final prayer in John 17 runs deep. Within this prayer He repeatedly asks our Father, “that they (those who believe) all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me. And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are One.” Do you see His emphasis? Jesus was obsessed with His Body becoming one so that the world would believe. Prophetically we know that a day is coming when there will be a marriage between Jesus and His Bride (the Church) and He will join with her and the two will become “one flesh”. The Bride cannot and will not have blemished parts of her body. She will not be made up of unrighteous, hypocritical members. She must be utterly purified and one complete unit in order to be fitting for her Groom, yes? At the marriage supper of the Lamb it will be perfect love, marrying Perfect Love.
It is impossible for the Bride to become ONE until: 1) All those who call themselves children of God ARE actually children of God, made complete by perfect love, and 2) They love each other with the same sincerity that they love God.
So, how will we finally become one? First it will start with what we preach. There is a massive shift in the Body from preaching a gospel of salvation alone to preaching a gospel of The Kingdom, which I wrote about in an older post and highly recommend. A pure, simple, and powerful gospel will be preached that no longer allows confusion, deception and hypocrisy to remain in our ranks unnoticed. It’s time that all believers get on the same page when it comes to the simple gospel.
Secondly, there is a sweeping through the Church of the righteous Spirit of the fear of God. As the pure gospel is rightly preached, not mincing words, I believe the Spirit of God will stir believers to love Him in a deep and tangible way that compels them to see Him and themselves rightly. As a result of seeing the Lord through clear eyes, we see ourselves through the eyes of love and can therefore love our brother. We can only give the love we receive. We can only receive love when we have a proper view of God and encounters with His love that transform us from the inside out. When we see how much He loves us, it compels us to love others in the same manner.
There is so much more to be written on this topic, but ultimately the point of this post is to encourage us to go deeper in love. To understand Jesus’ dying message and how important it truly is. Perfect love casts out all fear, it drives down all pride, it fuels all reconciliation. If we have all the right words to say, but have not love in our hearts – we are nothing. I want to love my brothers and sisters deeper. I want to love them in truth. I want love to so permeate the world that those who call themselves “believers” but deceive themselves, be capsized in the overwhelming glory of God which beckons them to a place of true repentance and new birth. I don’t want to live in a Church where I am confused about who is a true believer and who isn’t. Love is the great equalizer, it is the truth teller. It is the fruit.
So I pray today that you would be blessed to lean back and receive the tangible love of God into your heart, no matter where you are in your journey. I bless you to bury your pride, ego, anger, religion, worldly wisdom, and false humility in the bosom of Jesus and trade it in for the humble exaltation of a sacrificed Savior and an abiding love for those around you.
In Christ my love,