It’s hard to find a story that doesn’t have romance in it. I don’t mind as long as the story itself has a meaty plot line. But I don’t read many books that are primarily romance. They seem to focus on all the tingles and end when the couple finally declares their love to each other. Tingles and the mushy-gushy stuff are fun. But they’re not the main component of love. And the real test and depth of love usually occur more in the “for worse” part.
Jesus told us to “love one another just as I have loved you” (John 13:34; 15:12). What’s more, He told us to go beyond loving those who please us or love us back, but also to love those who persecute us and hate us.
How can we do that? After all, He is God, and we are not. Oswald Chambers said in the My Utmost for His Highest reading for April 30, “The springs of love are in God, not in us. It is absurd to look for the love of God in our hearts naturally; it is only there when it has been shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit.”
Once a missionary was troubled because she didn’t love others the way she knew she should. For years she berated herself with the need to be more loving, but she continually failed, leaving her continually discouraged. Finally she started to meditate on God’s love for her, and without realizing it, her life was transformed so much that people asked her husband what had happened to her.
Though I’ve lost track of this story’s source (I believe it came from Rosalind Goforth), it has always inspired me because I can identify with it so well. I’m frequently appalled at my selfishness and often tell myself “I need to be more loving.” But, like the missionary, I continually fail.
How can we love more like Jesus?
We’re changed to be more like Him as we behold Him. “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit” (2 Corinthians 3:18).
What are aspects of His love?
Initiative God loved us even before we knew Him, before we turned to Him, even before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:3-6). “We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19)
Gracious. “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). He loved us when we were most unlovable and undeserving. He didn’t wait for us to “clean up” or get “good enough.”
Sacrificial. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). God gave not just a pittance, not just a fraction, but rather what was most dear to Him.
Active. The Father and Son love not just in word, but in deed. “By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers” (1 John 3:16). “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13).
Giving. “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God” (Ephesians 5:1-2). That giving involved inconvenience, weariness, misunderstandings, false rumors, humiliation, pain, and death. He ministered to others when He was the only One who deserved to be ministered to.
Forgiving. “This is real love–not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.” (1 John 4:10, NLT).
Kind. “For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior” (Titus 3:3-6).
Longsuffering. “The Lord is slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love” (Numbers 14:18a).
Correcting. “My son, do not despise the Lord‘s discipline or be weary of his reproof, for the Lord reproves him whom he loves, as a father the son in whom he delights” (Proverbs 3:11-12). God’s love is not indulgent. Sometimes love involves doing the hard thing of bringing sin to the surface so it can be dealt with.
In the parable of the unforgiving servant, a man was forgiven a massive debt. However, instead of extending that same grace that he had received to others, he withheld forgiveness of someone’s very small debt and exacted a penalty. That story opened up to me the realization that my forgiveness towards another isn’t based on whether or not they “deserve it.” I did not deserve forgiveness, either. My forgiveness of others should be based on the fact that God has forgiven me so much more than anything I have had to forgive.
It’s the same with God’s love. My love for others should be an overflow of God’s great love for me. He took the first step in loving me, so I should not wait on others to make the first move. His love came at a great sacrifice, so I should not be surprised when love costs me. He loved me at my most unworthy and forgave a multitude of my offenses, so how can I withhold love from others? When I meditate on His love for me, His love flows through me to others.
Once, in an effort to be more loving, I compiled verses about love. I was delighted to find prayers in the Bible for more love, and I pray them for myself:
For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. (Ephesians 3:14-19
It is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment (Philippians 1:9).
That their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Christ (Colossians 2:2).
May the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, as we do for you (1 Thessalonians 3:12).
May the Lord direct your hearts to the love of God and to the steadfastness of Christ (2 Thessalonians 3:5).
Be Filled with the Spirit
Ephesians 5:5 tells us, “God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” Part of the fruit of the Spirit is love, so when we’re filled with Him, we’ll be filled with His love.
Abide in Him
Trying to love as Jesus did will show us soon enough that we can’t do it in our own power. “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:4-5).
Jesus said, “Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him. . . . If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. Whoever does not love me does not keep my words” (John 14:21, 23-24a). We don’t obey in order to earn God’s love—as was said earlier, God loved us even when we were His enemies. But when we know Him, we show our love by obedience. That makes sense: if we say we love someone but do the opposite of what they want or don’t take their desires into account, our profession rings hollow. The verses about abiding in Him in John 15 are sandwiched in-between passages about showing our love by obedience.
May we continually learn more of His love and show it to others.
What helps you most to love like Jesus?
(Revised from the archives)
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