Have I taken the time today to thank God? Now I tend to take things for granted…my health, safety, material needs. And it’s not until I have some kind of close call or problem that I suddenly stop and thank God for watching out over me! This verse illustrates how God’s great love for us was revealed in the person of His Son, Jesus Christ, Who came to break the chains of sin…the sacrifice of His blood making our atonement. And after accomplishing this miraculous feat, now lives in our hearts. (Luke 17:21) Yes, I have so much to thank God for…His love, grace, mercy, and the very breath in my body.
Paul’s letter to the Church in Thessalonica encouraged them to love each other by following the example of Jesus. For the past year we have been part of a brand new Church plant…bringing people together from several Churches to form a new one. And today was our second service, with many new faces among us. So as I look at this verse, I’m reminded that for the past six months we’ve bonded together as a small group, but now the time has come that we must turn ourselves from our tight circle to welcome those coming in through the doors. For the agape love of Jesus can only be demonstrated by His Believers when we love others. And we can only be His hands and feet when our caring shows.
Maybe you were the child that all your parents had to do was look at you sternly and you stopped misbehaving. Or maybe it took much more effort from your parents before it finally sunk in that what you were doing was wrong. Parents correct their children out of the love they have for them, not because they want to be mean, but because they want only the best for them. Our Heavenly Father does the same for us. Deuteronomy 8:5 says, “Know then in your heart that as a man disciplines his son, so the Lord your God disciplines you.” When we can view difficulties in our life as loving correction from God rather than just punishment…our entire spiritual perspective and faith will be impacted and increased.
To love your neighbor as yourself, is an excellent example of unselfish love. It’s a love that isn’t contrived, plays favorites, or is narrow-minded simply because the person don’t look or act like us. Jesus Christ patterned this unselfish love for us… always looking on anyone He encountered with love and mercy. And since the Lord has shown such great mercy towards us…how can we not show this same mercy to others?
It’s easy to love those we have a natural affinity for. It’s not hard at all to love our family and those close to us. Nor is it difficult to love those we’re naturally attracted to. But what about those who are like sandpaper against our soul? What about the unlovely of the world…the disagreeable, repugnant, and unpleasant people who God has called us to love regardless? For Jesus didn’t add any exceptions when He told us to, “Love one another.” But when we have the love of God…the unconditional, Agape, love within, we are able to look beyond the exterior and love the unlovely.
The biggest trap Believers fall into is complacency…especially if we’ve been a Christian for years. Our spiritual life has become very comfortable because we’ve picked and chosen bits and pieces of the Gospel that suit us. Our life in Christ has slowly become all about us – not others. We’ve become self-satisfied, tepid Christians with no enthusiasm to reach the lost…no thirst to get into His Word…no eagerness to share the Gospel. Complacency means we’re satisfied with the status quo, confident in our own salvation, but not really interested in anyone else. No wonder in this Scripture God is ready to spit lukewarm Christians out of His mouth…they have lost their first love…their zeal…their spiritual fervor. And to Him, they are worthless.
Jesus wasn’t cocky or arrogant. Nor was He condescending, even though He had every right to act in this manner. Just imagine, God came down from heaven and willingly became nothing. He humbled Himself to the lowest of social status…a slave or servant, as an example for us to follow. Servant-hood is probably one of the hardest things to do and do well. Our selfish human nature would rather be waited on, rather than wait on others. And the whole humility and obedience thing is in direct contradiction with everything the world tells us to do. But it all starts with our attitude as the verse says. For we can bring under submission our bad attitudes and then take on the role of servant for His glory. We can extend His grace and mercy with genuine love and concern if we become humble and obedient… with Jesus as our guide.
Maybe this has happened to you – You’re with a group of friends and the discussion takes a very uncomfortable twist against what you believe as a Christian. You know you should say something…but you don’t out of fear or awkwardness. Then you spend the rest of the night kicking yourself for being such a coward. It’s not that you blatantly denied or rejected Jesus in public…but in a way, you did. Speaking out about the fact and truth of the Gospel is hard, and rejection by some is inevitable…but that shouldn’t silence us from speaking out about what we believe in.
None of us is immune to grief, suffering, and troubles…for they are just part of this journey we call life. But it’s good to reflect on the attributes of the Lord spoken of in this Scripture today. God’s love for us is everlasting and unconditional…for there is nothing in and of ourselves we can do to obtain this love…it is a free gift given by grace not our works. But also there is nothing so terrible we can ever do that this love can’t reach us. Mercy and kindness are central to God’s character, and it’s out of this great love for us that we can find forgiveness of sins and eternal life.
The word that stands out in this Scripture to me is the word always…repeated four times in this short sentence. So, what does always really mean? Well, according to Webster, it means, at all times. Thus, this verse shows us what true unselfish love should look like. It’s the type of love that is constantly looking for the good in people…believing in and expecting for the very best. It’s a love that will bear up under a load of misery, adversity, persecution, and provocation with faith, hope, and a smile…thinking of others first. And just like the love of Christ, unselfish love never fails, and never gives up on others.