Countless songs have been written about love. Poems have been inspired by this emotion we hold so dear. Yet, with all the words and melodies, we have never been able to adequately define love. We usually content ourselves with describing its actions and its effects. Love is a very important subject in the Bible. What it says can teach us how to make love a real part of ourselves.
Love is Greatest
The Apostle Paul tells us that, "Love is the fulfilling of the law." (Romans 13:10) If there is anything a Christian must learn in life, it is how to love. In summarizing this lesson on love, Paul concludes by saying, "And now abideth faith, hope, and love, these three; but the greatest of these is love." Love is an important part of our characters and should be a high priority for every Christian. However, it is sometimes difficult for us to know where to begin.
What our religion has done for us can be measured by the degree of love in our hearts. How much love do we have for God, or for our fellow Christians, for the world, and yes, for our enemies as well? We should begin by examining our hearts. Here are some questions that we can ask ourselves when doing so:
With the true child of God, these qualities cannot merely be outward adornments. They must become fruits of our spirit. They must be character growths that come from fellowship with God.
An Apostle's Description of Love
In 1 Corinthians 13, we have a very moving and practical description of what true Christian love is really like:
"…This love of which I speak is slow to lose patience—it looks for a way of being constructive. It is not possessive: It is neither anxious to impress nor does it cherish inflated ideas of its own importance. Love has good manners and does not pursue selfish advantage. It is not touchy. It does not keep account of evil or gloat over the wickedness of other people. On the contrary, it shares the joy of those who live by the truth. Love knows no limits to its endurance, no end to its trust, no fading of its hope; it can outlast anything. Love never fails." (1 Corinthans 13:4-8, Phillips translation)
As we read this description, one thing clearly stands out. A person who has these qualities is a living example of the phrase, "others first, self last." True Christian love takes qualities such as patience, humility and generosity, and blends them all together. It takes these beyond theoretical ideas and makes them common practice. It is love that prompts us to want to be all these things to someone else. It can rejoice in the success and happiness of others.
In the Scriptures we see tremendous examples of love in action. Of course, the most prominent example is God's love. Without Him we would have no hope for better things. "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son…" (John 3:16) In seeing our need for a Redeemer, God's love prompted sacrifice, deep personal sacrifice. Jesus was the most beloved being in all the universe to God. Nevertheless, God allowed His son to come to us and be persecuted, tormented and killed. Through this sacrifice, God's justice would be satisfied. With the satisfaction of justice, love could then fulfill its mission. The resurrection will open avenues for the blessing of every person who has ever lived. We will then begin to see the depth of His love.
What wonderful things lie ahead in God's kingdom. God says, "I will put my laws in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people." (Jeremiah 31:33) He has further promised that, "the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped. Then shall the lame man leap as the hart, and the tongue of the dumb shall sing." (Isaiah 35:5,6) These are the promises of one who loves us even in our sinful condition. Oh, how we should want to copy that love. How pure and holy are His qualities.
Jesus tells us how we can be like Him. He says, "Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you." (Matthew 5:44) Loving our enemies is the highest and purest form of love that there is. It is the type of love that God has, for we were all His enemies at one time or another. Love, like any good things, requires hard work, patience and practice. The growth of love also requires help from God. It is by strengthening this relationship between God and ourselves that we can become more like Him.
We urge each of you who read this, as we urge ourselves, to apply the principles of 1 Corinthians 13. Also, when your love is challenged by bitterness or hatred, ask yourselves the question, "How would Jesus react in my place?" By doing this, you will begin to see new horizons of spiritual growth that you may never have known before.