Features, Inspirational

Maturing in Love

“By this all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:35)

John Robert Lee
John Robert Lee

Where the Old Testament had emphasized the absolute holiness and fierce justice of God, the New Testament has for its main theme His great steadfast, patient love. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16). This is the essence of the good news, the Gospel, that is still being proclaimed to mankind. Through Jesus Christ, the Divine Creator Incarnate, we “know and believe the love God has for us. God is love and he who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.” (1 John 4:16).

But though God is Sovereign and all comes from Him, especially love and salvation, man has the responsibility to respond to that Divine love. “The Lord our God, the Lord is one; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind and with all your strength.” Also, “the second is this, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” There is no other commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:29-31). The advanced teaching of the New Covenant sealed in the blood of Jesus Christ is that “Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.” (Romans 13:10).

A mature understanding of what it means to love God will avoid sentimentality and emotionalism, though spirituality involves strong feeling. God is not the author of confusion and everything must be done decently and in order. This mature love is to be an obedient response to the clear moral, ethical and spiritual commandments of the living Creator. Jesus said “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.” (John 14:15). If “He who hates Me hates My Father also” (John 15:23), then to love and obey the Son is to love and obey His Father.

For the Christian, this love of God is inseparable from their faith that Jesus is the Anointed One of God (the Christ), the Son of God, crucified for the sins of His people, raised from the dead, ascended into heaven, coming again to judge living and dead. These fundamental Biblical Christian teachings motivate and give strength to the believer’s practice of love. They are the foundation and anchor that will keep the believer’s love true and unfailing when adversity arrives.

Faith in Christ expresses itself through love (Galatians 5:6). This visible love “comes from a pure heart, a good conscience and a sincere faith.” (1 Timothy 1:5). Without the Biblical ethical, moral and spiritual bases, many have wandered away and turned to meaningless talk (1 Timothy 1:6). To speak thoughtlessly only of the love of God without paying attention to God’s commandments set out in Scripture, is to allow many foolish compromises with the moral demands of Scripture. Yet to over-emphasise in an isolated way the law of God and its high moral standards is to present a harsh, legalistic, incorrect view of God whose mercy and compassion is also seen everywhere in the Bible. Our Christianity, if it is to be a mature, thinking faith, must be a reasonable one, guided by a good, thoughtful understanding of the demands of the love of God. Law and grace go hand in hand for the God of Scripture.

Mature love can only develop with a real, determined thinking about faith and its implications for our relationships moment by moment. Attention, affirmation, affection and appreciation are the love languages of all mature, caring relationships guided by faith. Paul prayed that “your love may abound more and more in knowledge and all discernment” (Philippians 1:9). The great need of our churches today, here and elsewhere, is to be thinking churches. Fierce, blind emotionalism, sectarianism, religious politics and partisanship, supporting the most foolish of theological errors, are the marks of much religion today. Hostile sectarianism and division exist because groups and their leaders hold tenaciously to their favourite doctrines and interpretations. Which have led them to put aside the commandments to love. We are to love even our enemies! How we agree to disagree says much about our real relationship with our Lord Jesus Christ. The Scriptures must be and can be “rightly divided” (2 Timothy 2:15). Then sound doctrine will be found and followed. Then the right attitudes that should guide all relationships will be in evidence.

Many make salvation a matter of acceptance of their religious traditions, practices and denominational doctrines. As did the Pharisees. They give little place to the essential truth that man’s salvation is the free gift of God, by His grace, received through obedient, enduring faith in Christ. That faith is a gift from God. “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” (Ephesians 2:8,9). Because of destructive sectarianism, there is a very obvious lack of love between many who profess self-righteously, faith in Jesus Christ. Of course, we can look back down the corridors of history and find the same things repeated, which led to religious wars.

Our goal as serious Christians must be to study and find the Biblical doctrines of the faith. There must be a right “dividing of the truth” especially between the Old and New Covenants. While we leave room for honest differences of opinion and interpretation, prayerful study, seeking the guidance of the Holy Spirit, led by an educated ministry, can reduce the errors. An attitude of patient love is needed to help manage the differences that arise.

Unity of spirit can only begin with the practice of love as described in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8. Mature love and humility will enable us to grow in the faith as we need to. Our Lord Jesus Christ demands a better witness of faith and love from the Church today.

At the start of a new year there will be many public calls from church and state to love one another more! But the murders, abuse, hatred and divisions will continue. And many who profess religious faith will be guilty of those negative attitudes that spoil the air in homes, neighborhoods, workplaces, on the buses and streets, in the churches. Indeed, there is a great need for a maturing of attitudes in so many areas. And nowhere more so than in areas that are supposed to be loving spaces for children, elderly, spouses, and for believers in Christ Jesus Who loved us and gave His life to save us. The commandment is unchanging: “Love one another.” And yes, love can be very tough!

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