If someone would ask me what character trait has surfaced the most in 2020, the one that does not come to mind first is love. Which is interesting to me because I observe so many people in our society saying “we need more love and less division.” Everyone knows it, but maybe we all think it starts with someone else.
The Beatles knew it in the 1960s when they sang, “All you need is love.” There are thousands of songs and movies written about the subject of love. We should be so knowledgeable about love and it should come so easy for us to love, yet my observation is that it seems like we’re going in the opposite direction.
All of this leads me to ask the question, “Do we really know what it is to love and be loved?”
I’d like to suggest that the reason we as a culture don’t do an amazing job of loving one another is because we don’t truly understand the amazing love of God.
However, knowing how much God loves you will fill you with a love worth giving to others.
Preachers, myself included, have been guilty of skipping the step of knowing God’s love before showing love to others. We jump to phrases like “love one another as Christ as loved you,” “love your neighbor as yourself,” or, even the counterintuitive “love your enemies.” But instructing people to love without telling them they are loved is like using a debit card without making a deposit first. You will have insufficient love to give.
So, how does the way we love others reflect the way God has loved us?
It’s an excellent question to ask as we evaluate how we follow the commandment Jesus gave us to love one another. The starting point is knowing that God’s love is unconditional. It is not based on our goodness but on his goodness. It is not reduced when we fail, because he is unfailing.
Let’s prove this by going to one of the greatest passages of Scripture on love. The apostle Paul describes it this way: “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails” (1 Corinthians 13:4-8).
I’ve heard that a good practice is to replace the word “love” with your own name to see how you measure up. This challenges me when I try it: “Matt is patient. Matt is kind. He does not envy, etc.” It doesn’t take long for me to feel like I fall short of this list.
In reality, this passage may seem a bit unrealistic. Here’s a different take: Try replacing the word “love” with “our Savior”: “Our Savior, Jesus, is patient. He is kind. He does not envy, etc.” This passage actually describes the measureless, limitless and unconditional love of our Savior, Jesus. Perfect love is found in him. So how can we walk in this kind of love?
The apostle Paul explained a new way of life when you place your faith in Christ. He wrote, “My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”
When we place our faith in Jesus, he begins to transform us to live as he lived and love as he loved.
Christ in us is how we can be patient and kind. Christ in us is how we can walk in humility instead of pride or envy. Christ in us is how we can show honor to others without expecting anything in return.
Walking in this kind of love will never fail.
Imagine if, in our community, people of faith were known for this kind of love. It would affect our workplaces, schools, government, neighborhoods and churches. It would strengthen relationships in marriages and families, with co-workers, neighbors and friends, and help us relate to those with whom we may disagree.
If we’re going to be known by love, we need to know the one who is love in order to walk in love toward others.
Matt Mylin is the lead pastor at Worship Center, a Lancaster church. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.