The kind of love spoken about here is Philadelphia, or brotherly love…a Christian love, one to another, born out of a common spiritual life. But let’s admit it…some fellow Christians are just plain hard to love! They rub us the wrong way, are argumentative, and are always seeing the glass half empty sort of people. But the Scripture here calls us to keep on loving, despite how we feel. By simply asking the Lord to see them through His eyes may give us insight into the why…but for many times, it will have to be our attitude that changes not theirs.
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.
This verse has been used out of context many times. But to look at it correctly, we must read the verse before it. In Ephesians 5:21 we are told to submit to one another out of reverence to Christ. When we are subject to one another, we take on the heart of a servant…putting the needs of others first. In that context then, wives are submitting or placing in an orderly fashion the family unit…with all parties acting in the interest of another.
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.
In the Gospels, it tells us to love each other…whether it’s family, neighbors, or enemies…God’s word instructs us to love one another. For when we obey His word, His love is truly made complete in us. (I John 2:5) And by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, God’s love will manifest and be perfected in us as we display that love to others.
It tells us earlier in Acts that, “All the Believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need.” (Acts 2:44-45) This is how the early Church functioned…their inward focus was on unity and mutual care for one another. For they took the Lord’s charge to “Love one another” very seriously. And because of everyone’s personal commitment to “see a need, fill a need” …the early Church exploded. So I ask you, what would happen if all Believers committed to the “see a need, fill a need” directive…not waiting for someone else to do it, or thinking it’s only the Pastor’s responsibility? The early Church’s focus was on perfect unity and mutual care for one another…the Church today could only benefit from this same focus.
It goes on to tell us in Psalm 36:5-6, “Your love, O Lord, reaches to the heavens, Your faithfulness to the skies. Your righteousness is like the mighty mountains, Your justice like the great deep.” I have the opportunity today to be “out in the middle of no where” in North Dakota. Sitting here looking at the massive expanse of horizon, it seems like you can see forever. But this vastness around me can in no way compare to the width and breadth of our Heavenly Father’s love for us. For His mercy for us is indefinite, brought into existence before the very beginning of time by the God of eternity…a ever-lasting and forever God.
I love nightlights! I’ll admit I have at least 8 spread throughout the house, casting their subtle radiance so I won’t trip and fall in the dark. God’s truth is like a nightlight into our darkness…showing us His way so we won’t stumble. But when we choose to not live by the light of His truth, we are easily deceived and blinded by lies that only foster hatred and distrust against our fellow-man. When we love one another, the light of God’s truth illuminates situations, obstacles, and personalities for what they really are…exposing hurting hearts and revealing with honesty how we’re more alike than different.
It’s all about the relationship. In any kind of relationship hopefully there’s give and take… communication and mutual respect…connection and co-operation. But our relationship with the Lord is totally unique from any we have here on earth. God’s covenant relationship with us is binding and unbreakable…bought by the blood of Jesus Christ…while we were yet sinners. And His loving kindness and mercy towards us has nothing to do with how good we are…for it is a free gift. So think about it…the relationship we have with our Lord is really rather lopsided, with Him giving so much more to us than we could ever give back. This covenant of love that flows between God and us gives us a purpose in life… and as we commit our heart, soul, and strength to Him, we are ever being changed from the inside out.
You can see the love of God in His covenant relationship with His people. He wants only the very best for us and in return asks only for our obedience. For when we pay careful attention to our obligations to this covenant…primarily in our lifestyle and relationship with Him…others will sense the difference in us and ask questions. And those questions can lead to eternal answers.