“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.”
I John 4:7 NKJV
Love is love?
On the surface the passage above gives one the warm fuzzies. We just have to love one another, right? Love is of God and well, God is love. Right? Some might go so far as to think, “if I love, then I know God.”
We are living in a time when the word love is bandied about with reckless abandon. People use it cover the love of ice cream, the love of a favorite music, sexuality and every other thing or activity we find desirable. Love has become the go to word for like and lust.
To look at the passage above, it is easy to take it out of context. We have to consider who the writer is talking to: born again believers who have had their sins forgiven and been converted by the power of the Holy Spirit. In that context the love is divine love. Agape love. The love of God.
The love of a God is a love that is not possible without the Holy Spirit. This is not a frivolous love, but truly divine. The love Jesus showed to His rejecting creation when He came to lay down His life to pay a sin debt He did not owe.
I have to admit that this has been a difficult type of love for me. I have experienced the antithesis of love for much of my life. God’s divine love means also forgiving others for their sins against us. This is so hard. I have a built in drive to get even, to desire that God pay my persecutors their due.
I am convicted as I remember that I was an enemy of God, loved, but bound for hell by a just God as the wages for my sin. Then I remember the cross where my Savior died. I know in my heart that the reprobate me would have been with the crowds screaming and crying “crucify Him.” Yet, He saved me and is transforming me.
Through His unfailing love, I can truly love and pray for those who have hated me, who have slandered me, and who have abused me in every way imaginable.
My love extends beyond the walls of the church. God has given me the power to love the unlovable. I look past the sinful symptoms and see the eternal soul in need of salvation.
God has used many experiences to refine me and teach me to love. A number of years ago I started to minister at the Fort Des Moines Correctional facility. I remember feeling as though I was entering the belly of the beast when I went there for the first time. Many of the men I would be ministering to were sex offenders, many of whom had offenses toward children. I entered into that ministry with a built in revulsion: I am an adult survivor of sexual abuse.
In my early days I had an invisible wall in my heart against the men I was volunteering to serve. The power of the Holy Spirit restrained me at every turn. He also worked to transform my heart. I learned to see the men as human beings, as sinners in need of a Savior. When I look back, I am able to see the majesty of a glorious and loving God who truly loved the world. I learned to love them.
““For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.”
John 3:16 NASB
These words were spoken by Jesus with the full knowledge of what He was to endure. Yet He still loved.
The love of God propels me to reach out to people who are often hostile to the Gospel. I remember how I was, lost in my sins, settling for garbage rather than the treasures of Heaven. I scoffed at any mention of the name Jesus. What worked for those reaching out to me was love. Those that God sent to me were empowered by agape love.
I remember when I started attending Grace Church. I attended a bible study with my colleague who invited in the first place. The class was taught by Mike Hartwig. On the day I attended I was amazed at what I heard. The church had started 100 Days of Prayer for lost people. That class had been praying for me. Looking back I can almost mark the day when the Lord started working to draw me unto Himself, about one hundred days. Here they were, praying for a person that they did not know. Oh, what love!
They did not know me, they were not even in a position to like me, but they loved me with a godly love that gave them a burden for this lost sinner far from grace and bound for hell.
Struggling with people who have a different world view? Love them, pray for them, and if given the opportunity, share with them. Jesus is a transforming God! Pray that the Lord build you up in love and go out among them! Love somebody today!