Real Love

Yesterday I ended my post with the assertion that loving others is impossible without Jesus.  Now, while some may be going “Whoa! Are you saying without Jesus you can’t love others?” Some of you may be thinking, “Whew! Good to know why I have such a hard time loving others.”  Put me firmly in that second category. 

I like to think that I’m a nice guy but I learned this ugly truth about myself a long time ago: Left to my own devices I’m not a very loving person. The truth is I don’t even like most people.  How can I love people if I don’t even like most of them. I try but people can be so annoying!  Like drivers who don’t know the fast lane from the slow lane.  And anybody who writes a check for a pack of gum in a grocery store.  And all “honkasecond” drivers who honk their horns quicker than I can press the gas pedal.  And anyone who calls me during Lost to ask me for someone else’s phone number.  And…whoa, where did that come from!  I have a problem  – to follow Jesus’ example and command I must love everyone but how can I love people who grate on me so? This is just one of the reasons why it is important to learn that real love is primarily an action, not a feeling.  It’s something you do.  The emphasis in our society is on how love makes you feel—when you’re in love you feel good. There’s no question about that being true. It does feel good to be in a loving relationship with your friends, your family, that special someone, your spouse, and certainly your fellow Jesus followers. But how we feel when we love or are loved should not be our motivation for loving others.

I’m convinced that Jesus is more concerned with our showing love than our feeling love.  Let me put that another way.  The goal for loving others is not to feel love but to show love.  In I John 4, the apostle John, older and wiser than when he wanted Jesus to call lightening down and destroy His enemies, writes what has to be the “greatest hits” chapter of the Bible. In this one chapter John writes a number of verses that, if you grew up in the church, you have heard all your life. And even if you didn’t you’ve heard them because many of these phrases are used in poetry and literature.

(v. 4) Greater is he that is in you than he that is the world.

(v.7) Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God and everyone that loveth is born of God and knoweth God. He that loveth not, knoweth not God for God is love.

(v. 12) No man hath seen God at any time. If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us.

(v. 15) Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in him and he in God.

(v. 18) There is no fear in love, but perfect love casteth out fear.

(v. 19) We love him because he first loved us.

(v. 21) And this commandment we have from him, That he who loveth God love his brother also.

What a great chapter! This chapter is foundational to understanding what it means for us to live a life of real love. 

(v. 10 NIV) This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us …

The love Christians are called to is not defined by what we do, but by what God has done.  The Blind Side is a movie based on the true story of how “Big Mike”,  a homeless, family-less, poor, black kid going nowhere, became Michael Oher — first round draft pick at left tackle for the Baltimore Ravens.  Sean and Leigh Anne Tuohy, a Christian family committed to doing the right thing, bring Mike into their home and make him part of their family. The transformation that follows is breathtaking — it is an inspirational example of human love.  But even this exceptional act of love doesn’t set the Christian standard for love. Not long ago our 3 year old grandson Miller called Mimi’s phone and said “I want you come to me house”.  Sheila said,  “Is your mama sick? Why you want me to come to your house?”  Miller said, “Because me love you.” But even a 3 year old’s pure love doesn’t set the Christian standard for love. God sets the standard.  He is love.  He revealed to us what love is.

(v. 9 NIV) “This is how God showed his love among us…”

He told us that he loves us, and showed us that he loves us. This is an important characteristic of love—it needs to be shown not just said. Sometimes we say, “I love people, I’m just not good at showing it. I’m just not good at saying it.” Guess what. We need to get good at it. Our words must be congruent with our actions. We need to learn to tell people with words and show people with actions that we love them.

The love Jesus calls us to is a sacrificial love. (v. 9-10 NIV) “He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him…he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.”  God’s love cost him something — it cost him everything. He gave up his Son, and his Son gave up his own life, so that we could experience forgiveness of sins and inherit eternal life. This was the only way it could be done. As Jesus faced death on the cross, he prayed, “If it is possible, may this cup be taken from me.” (Matthew 26:39 NIV) It was not possible. This was the way it had to be.

Why did it have to be this way? If God is God, why couldn’t he just say “Everyone’s forgiven” without the necessity of the death of Jesus? It’s because of God’s nature. God must be consistent with Himself. He is holy and just; therefore sin must be dealt with. But God is also merciful and compassionate; therefore sin must be dealt with according to His generous and loving nature. We couldn’t save ourselves, so He gave His Son to save us. He paid a debt He did not owe, because we owed a debt we could not pay.

Jesus on the cross – that is sacrificial love. Makes our sacrifices seem small, doesn’t it? The love Jesus calls us to show sacrifices for the one who is loved.

Jesus calls us to a love that loves the unlovely. When you chose your best friend, your BFF you started with someone you liked, someone you thought would be a good and loyal friend, someone worthy of your love. Right?  You certainly didn’t seek out someone whom you knew in advance to be unfaithful, dishonest, manipulative, cruel, selfish and uncaring. you made the best of your friends your best friend.  That’s certainly what I did.

When I chose Sheila to be my bride I chose her not only because she was hot (she was and is) but because of all the girls I had dated and all the girls I had as friends she was simply the best.  She had the best character.  She was the most honest. She was the most loyal.  I chose the best to be my bride. 

But that’s not how Christ chose his bride. He didn’t choose the best; he chose the worst. God demonstrates his love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8 NIV) We don’t receive God’s love because we’re worthy. We’ll never be worthy. We receive God’s love because he is loving, and he loves even the unlovely — you and me. This is the example we are to follow: not to show love only to those who are good and worthy but to show love even to those seem unlovable. Just like God loves us. God sets the standard for Real Love and only through Jesus can we show it to others.

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