Love! Love must be the most overused word in our society. We “fall in love”, “making love”, and have “tough love”. We use the same word when we talk about a husband or wife, our best friends, our family, sex, a favorite food (I love ice cream), and we even use the word in tennis (love means zero points, which is usually the same as being in love). I think we have pretty much lost what it means to love.
But God gives us the perfect example. 1 John 4:19 says that we can love because God first loved us. He demonstrated His love by sending Jesus to die for us even though we would never deserve it. Because of this love, God requires those who trust in Him to love others as He loves us. In fact, if you are truly a follower of Jesus you will find that you are growing in your desire and ability to love other people, especially your brothers and sisters in the church.
Love is more than a mushy emotion or fondness for a person. Biblical love requires five things for it to be Christ-like love. All of these truths are embodied in the love of Jesus as demonstrated in his coming and death on the cross for you and me.
(1)It must be a CHOICE – Christlike love is based on a decision to give ones self to another person, whether that person deserves love or not. Sometimes you may feel like loving others, and other times you may not feel like it. But love is not an emotion, it is a decision.
(2)It must take the INITIATIVE – Christlike love is not based on what the other person has done, or if he or she deserves love. It gives before the other person has loved (see Matthew 5:44-46).
(3)It must be SACRIFICIAL – Christlike love will look to meet the needs of others before taking care of one’s own needs. It gives itself away.
(4)It must be ACTIVE – Christlike love is a verb. One who loves like Jesus will go out of his or her way to do things for other people.
(5)It must POINT PEOPLE TO GOD – Christlike love realizes that people will either spend eternity with God in heaven or separated from God in hell. To love like Jesus, we must go beyond good deeds and share the love of God with them.
Reread1 John 4:7-21 and look for ways that these five characteristics describe Jesus love. Does this picture the way you love others? The only way we can love like Jesus loved is if he has changed our hearts.
One of the eternal truths of Scripture is that those who have a relationship with God will develop love for others. Your vertical relationship with God will change your horizontal relationships with people. In the moments I fail to demonstrate the love of Jesus in my relationship with my wife, my children, people within the church, the unlovable… this is actually an indication that there is something amiss in my love for God and Jesus. If God is not changing how you relate to those around you, there is something wrong with your love for Him. We love because he first loved us!