John 15:9-10, “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. 10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love.”
We might well ask, “What is love?” We consider a couple of incidents that might be seen initially as “love stories.”
The first is a true story from the Old Testament in 2 Samuel 13. A young man had fallen in love with a beautiful woman.His name was Amnon, a son of King David. He told his friend, “I love Tamar.” But he added that she was his half-sister. That meant he could not marry her. Together he and his friend worked out a plan so that Amnon could take advantage of her sexually. It was a horrible plan. But unfortunately it was successful. Amnon violated Tamar. However immediately his attitude to her changed, 13:15 “Then Amnon hated her with very great hatred, so that the hatred with which he hated her was greater than the love with which he had loved her. Amnon said to her, “Get up! Go!” He told his servant, 17 “Put this woman out of my presence and bolt the door after her.” It is a true story. But by no means is it a story of true love! From so-called “love” to hatred in a moment is never true love. True love always seeks the best interests of the other person, no matter what!
The second true story comes from the 20th Century. The occasion was a wedding. During the marriage service the bride-groom promised to fulfil the following vows to his beloved. He promised to give himself to her to be her husband. To live with her according to God’s word. To love her, comfort her, honour and protect her. To forsake all others, and to be faithful to her as long as they both would live. Romantic stuff! It would seem to be Commitment with a Capital “C!”
That night on their honeymoon he went down to the bar for a drink at the hotel where they were staying. There he met an attractive young woman who invited him back to her room. They had a sexual encounter. Then he went up to re-join his wife on their honeymoon. She found out years later what had happened, the first of many betrayals. I still remember the hurt and pain in her voice as she said to me, “And this was on our wedding night!” A true story but by no means a story of true love!
We could ask the question, “WHAT IS ‘LOVE’?” There is a very simple one word answer in 1 John 4:8, “God is love.” He is the origin, the source and the pattern of True Love. (Perhaps some further explanation is needed.)
1). GOD LOVES US WITH TRUE LOVE
Fortunately we don’t have to guess whether the God of this universe loves us. He has revealed His love for us both by His actions and by His words.
i). He has shown His love in the death of His Son on the cross
In a verse called “the gospel in a nutshell” are these words, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16. He died so that we could be forgiven and enter into eternal life.
St Paul wrote that God has revealed His love for people who did not deserve His love, “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8. The apostle John put it in similar words, “In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. 1 John 4:9. John also wrote about true love as being God’s love for us rather than our love for Him, “In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” 1 John 4:10. His love is to be seen as the only true pattern for true love.
ii). His love is there for us for ever. God’s love for His people never ceases. Paul writing from personal experience recognised that nothing and nobody could ever separate us from the love of God, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36 As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” 37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” Rom 8:35-39. No matter what situation we may be in, God’s love is available for us if we reach out to Him. We are loved by One who is the very embodiment of love Himself.
2). GOD WANTS US TO LOVE HIM
It’s amazing that the Creator God of this whole universe wants us to love Him. The early Israelites were taught to recite the Shema, a Hebrew word meaning to “hear”. “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. 5 You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.” Deut 6:4. Jesus affirmed that command from God. When He was asked about the Greatest commandment He replied, “The most important (commandment) is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 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.” Mar 12:29-30. He then added another commandment concerning love, “The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” 12:31.
God wants us to love Him and to express that love. It is His purpose for us. We are fulfilling our God-given destiny when we love Him. As St Peter put it, “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvellous light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” 1 Pet 2:9-10. We express our love for Him in praise, adoration and thanksgiving as His chosen people.
3). WE ARE TO LOVE OTHERS WITH HIS LOVE
We have a God-given responsibility to be concerned for others. God commanded His people in Lev 19:16-18 in words that would be good to obey in election times and indeed every day. “You shall not go around as a slanderer among your people, and you shall not stand up against the life of your neighbour: I am the LORD. 17 “You shall not hate your brother in your heart, but you shall reason frankly with your neighbour, lest you incur sin because of him. 18 You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbour as yourself: I am the LORD.” Loving one’s neighbour was not a new initiative in the teaching of Jesus. He brought the teaching from Leviticus with a new emphasis into the world of His day.
John wrote that love for one’s neighbour is a test for our purported love for God. If there is no love for one’s neighbour then any professed love for God is not true love for Him, “If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. (21) And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.” 1 Jn 4:20.
4). WE CAN LOVE OTHERS WITH GOD’S (AGAPE) LOVE
How can we follow the pattern of God’s love? By allowing Him to express His love through us to others by His Holy Spirit. In the following verses, the Greek New Testament word for “love” is “agape” which is used of God’s love or love which has its origin in Him. It is love for the unlovely, for the unworthy, for the undeserving. It is a love that always seeks the best interests of others.
The Holy Spirit pours out His (agape) love in and through us. Rom 5:5 “… God’s (agape) love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” This love just doesn’t trickle into our hearts. The word Paul uses for “poured” is ἐκχέω (ekcheō) which is used of the shedding or pouring out of Jesus’ blood for sinners. Mat 26:28; Mark 14:24. It is used of new wine “bursting” through old wineskins, Luke 5:37. In Acts 10 many were amazed when God “poured out” His Holy Spirit on the Gentiles, Acts 10:45. So the sense is more a deluge of His love rather a trickle into our hearts.
The Holy Spirit expresses the presence of His life in us by His fruit, the fruit of the Spirit, Gal 5:22 “But the fruit of the Spirit is love (agape) , joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” If the Spirit indwells us then the fruit of His life in us should be plain to see.
Love towards others is a consequence of being born again, of God. “Beloved, let us love one another, for love (agape) is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.” 1Jn 4:7. To be born of God is to be born of the Spirit. To be born of the Spirit means we have become sharers of the divine nature. To share His nature means that we can love others with His love, 2Peter 1:4 by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. His love! Through us! For others!
The question then is this. How can we experience this love of God flowing through us to others? By asking God to fill us with His Holy Spirit. We are right to pray in this way because that is what He wants for us, Eph 5:18, “ And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit.” The effects of that infilling are two-fold. One is in relation to God by expressing our love for Him in praise to Him. The second is in terms of our relationships with others by joining with them in mutual praise and thanksgiving to Him and in our mutual submission to one another because of our reverence for Christ, Eph 5:19 “addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, 20 giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, 21 submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.”
We are reminded that this infilling is not a once for all occasion. Rather it is a continual infilling, “Keeping on being filled” with His presence. It also means continually exhibiting all of the fruit of the Spirit all the time. If we are filled by the Spirit of God we will show forth His fruit in our lives, namely, “Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” Not one or two in this list, but all. “Fruit” (karpos) is singular. The fruit is all those qualities, not some.
Or as Jesus put it in John 15:9-10, it means continuing to abide in Him and abiding in His love, “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. 10 “If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love.”
LOVE! Being open to God’s love for us! Responding to His love in expressing our love for Him in praise, adoration and thanksgiving. Allowing God’s love to flow through us to others as we keep on praying to be filled with the Spirit of God and allowing His fruit to be manifest in our lives. It means abiding in Him and putting into practice all He has commanded us. In the words of St Paul as he set out what true love is and what it is not in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8, “Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6 it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. 7 It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 8 Love never ends.”
A Prayer: “Lord, please keep on filling us with Your Holy Spirit so that Your love may flow through us to help meet the needs of a needy world. AMEN”
Blog 199. Jim Holbeck. Posted on Sunday 13th November 2016