“And, behold, a certain lawyer stood up…saying, Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life? He [Jesus] said unto him, What is written in the law?…And he answering said, You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself. And He [Jesus] said unto him…this do and you shall live” (Luke 10:25-28).
Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and all your mind. Is this truly possible?
Surely it is and must be, for the first part of it is confirmed by Jesus Christ to be the “first and great commandment” (Matt. 22:38), the most important instruction and guide given to mankind. The second part is just as vital and once combined, Jesus referred to both saying, “On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets” (vs. 40). Our choice, your choice, is to either accept or reject this.
The world is terribly confused about what love is. As the ways of the world are fast approaching the society and “love” values of Sodom and Gomorrah, we must become ever stronger in deeply knowing, internalizing and having written on the tablets of our hearts, what real love is.
The way we live day by day is a powerful force. It demonstrates who and what we are. Our way of living expresses our level of outgoing concern for others compared to self-concern. A person’s daily activities are the expression of his character, integrity and love (or lack thereof).
What about you? How are you living today? Are you just living, or are you an example of living love?
The Only Source of Genuine Love
Exactly what is love? What is its origin? Scriptures reveal the answers.
The boldness and simplicity of God’s Word is both settling and motivating. We in the Church of God fully believe, as did Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong, that, “The Word of God is the foundation of knowledge.” As such, we eagerly search this only true and fully dependable source.
The Bible reveals that unlike almost everything else under the sun, love is not something that was created. It reveals that true love has always been, is, and always shall be! Jesus Christ, the Word of God, inspired the apostle John to declare that “God is love” (I John 4:8). Therefore, since God has always existed, so has love.
This sets up and is followed by additional critical understanding: “He that loves not knows not God; for God is love…Herein is love, not that we loved God [on our own—of our self], but that He loved us, and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (4:8, 10). Continuing in verse 19, “We love Him, because He first loved us.”
With this, it is confirmed that God the Supreme Divinity is love, and it becomes crystal clear that to possess true love, and to exhibit love—love in one’s heart that comes out in one’s life—God must be present in or with the heart of the individual.
Evidence of Love
True love, righteous love, has a certain character and exhibits certain fruits. “Charity [godly love] suffers long, and is kind; charity envies not; charity flaunts not itself, is not puffed up, does not behave itself unseemly, seeks not her own, is not easily provoked, thinks no evil; rejoices not in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Charity never fails” (I Cor. 13:4-8). Thus, God never fails and God in you never fails.
In other words, when the fruit of our works exemplifies the above described attributes of love, it becomes proof that we not only love God, but that we also pass this love on to our neighbors and to ourselves. Again, what a person does reflects who that person really is.
From time to time, Mr. Armstrong would quote from Orison Swett Marden’s book, He Can Who Thinks He Can. Here is an excerpt: “Let other people do the poor jobs, the botched work, if they will. Keep your standards up, your ideals high. The attitude with which a man approaches his task has everything to do with the quality and efficiency of his work, and with its influence upon his character. What a man does is a part of himself. It is the expression of what he stands for. Our life-work [how we live] is an outpicturing of our ambition [motivation], our ideals, our real selves. If you see a man’s work you see the man” (emphasis added).
The book of Matthew validates how real this is: “Wherefore by their fruits you shall know them” (7:20).
We have seen that the first step necessary to enable us to truly express love is to know, receive and internalize God’s love. Next, we must unequivocally without reservation love Him with all our being. This foundation is needed to grow in love toward God, toward others and toward self, and to witness and understand the results of how and what love does.
God’s love in and through us demonstrates His attributes, His character.
What Love Does
William Barclay’s New Testament translation of I Corinthians 13 shows more about what love does, its actions: “Love is patient with people; love is kind. There is no envy in love; there are no proud claims; there is no conceit. Love never does the graceless thing; never insists on its rights, never irritably loses its temper; never nurses its wrath to keep it warm. Love finds nothing to be glad about when someone goes wrong, but is glad when truth is glad. Love can stand any kind of treatment; love’s first instinct is to believe in people…nothing can happen that can break love’s spirit. Love lasts forever” (vs. 4-8).
To paraphrase the Barclay’s translation of Romans 12:9-12: To behave like a Christian (be Christ-like), our love must not be a superficial pretense—but lived. We must hate evil and give our unshakable loyalty to what is good, always remembering genuine love is kind, generous and appropriately affectionate. Each of us in God’s Church has a duty to lead the way in honoring God and one another—continually setting an example for all to see. Our zeal must never lag. With God’s love in us, we must strive to keep our enthusiasm at the boiling point.
What anyone does signifies who they really are. As Christians, we are to be beacons, bright shining lights in and to our world. We are also to be ambassadors (II Cor. 5:20). What comes out in our lives reflects who we are—and also whom we represent!
The “constitutional laws” that give us the knowledge of how to live love were given and commanded by Jesus Christ, “If you love Me, keep My commandments. If you keep My commandments, you shall abide in My love; even as I have kept My Father’s commandments, and abide in His love” (John 14:15, 15:10).
Each of us, individually, chooses our lifestyle—the way we live. It is either the way of man, which is without God, or the way of God, which requires God to be with and in man. The ability to express love as God would have us do requires observing the laws created to establish and define love. “By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep His commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and His commandments are not grievous [burdensome, grave, heavy]” (I John 5:2-3). This shows the importance of loving God and loving the children of God (the brethren). Having this foundation is essential to loving our neighbors and ourselves, and ultimately enables us to love our enemies.
Love and Forgiveness
Sin, which is the transgression of God’s Law, hinders success in living love. Though we may not premeditate sin, still being in the flesh and out of weakness or ignorance, we do from time to time and over time, slip. We sin and need mercy and forgiveness. Thankfully, “…if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: and He is the propitiation for our sins” (I John 2:1-2).
But here is the protocol given by God to get fully back on the track of living His love—of keeping all His Commandments when we fall short. “Therefore also now, says the Lord, turn you even to Me with all your heart, and with fasting, and with weeping [lamentation], and with mourning: and rend your heart, and not your garments, and turn unto the Lord your God: for He is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness…” (Joel 2:12-13).
The book of James adds, “Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He shall lift you up” (4:10).
These words are especially needful for all of us living during the Laodicean era of the Church at this time and forward. They not only offer a path of reconciliation and hope for forgiving our neighbors, but also include a promise that allows us to be “lifted up” from the deception of hopelessness and despair when we do not move on from our mistakes. They can help us rise from a puddle of self-pity in which we may have sunk.
Remember, “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you [a promise]: but if you forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses [also a promise]” (Matt. 6:14-15).
Being able to forgive our neighbor becomes a requirement for being forgiven by God. The lack of forgiveness leaves us partially held captive by a sin God is willing to forgive. This robs us of complete liberty by a deception of Satan.
A principle related to forgiveness is found in Philippians 3:13-14, as stated by the apostle Paul, “Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Jesus Christ.”
Paul instructs us to move forward and to not harp on matters and offenses for which God has forgiven, whether they are offenses against others or ourselves.
Love Toward Neighbor
How do we express love toward others? Is it really that important? Its importance is proclaimed loud and clear: “If a man say, I love God, and hates [detests, loathes] his brother, he is a liar: for he that loves not his brother…how can he love God…? And this commandment have we from Him, that he who loves God loves his brother also” (I John 4:20-21).
Fellow brethren, if we do not love our neighbor, it becomes evident that we do not really love God. We simply cannot fully love God without loving our brethren and our neighbors. However, it is just as true that if we do really love God we cannot help but love others.
How are you doing with achieving this? Those of us who are not yet perfect (complete), not yet having reached the finish line of living love on a daily basis can reach this goal. Yes, by the grace of God, you can.
God’s way of love was Jesus’ way of living. “And Jesus increased in wisdom [mentally, this area of life includes our attitudes and righteous use of our abilities] and stature, and in favor with God [this area of life is our relationship with God and religious beliefs] and [favor with] man [socially, this area encompasses healthy relationships with others]” (Luke 2:52).
Ask yourself, “As I live day by day, interacting with both God and man, does my way of living exemplify and demonstrate the lifestyle of a loving Jesus Christ and the associated fruits?”
We should allow neither a high-minded attitude nor a false “Christian” humility to serve as an excuse to not be outgoing in service to others. Notice the way Jesus, who was God manifest in flesh, approached the treatment of others: “…whoever will be great among you, let him be your [servant]…as the Son of Man came not to be [served], but to [serve], and to give His life a ransom for many” (Matt. 20:26, 28). Jesus sacrificed His life in death that we might live to become a living sacrifice—energetically and joyfully serving, being about His Father’s and our Father’s business.
We observe that he who is greatest in God’s eyes is he who serves most, while he who is greatest in the eyes of man is often he who is served most. We should always be serving Christ and one another, fervent in spiritual things, rejoicing in hope, with patient persevering in tribulation; to meet trouble with resolute prayer and fasting needed to pass what you may think is the breaking point, yet not break.
A true Christian does not grow weary in well doing, but is motivated by it.
Love Your Enemies
Jesus opened to us another “window” of His mind by giving the instruction to love our enemies. This mindset runs counter to human thinking, but God’s ways are “higher” than our ways (Isa. 55:9). Jesus articulates what, why and how to do it, and includes a powerful incentive for us to follow through.
“You have heard that it has been said, You shall love your neighbor, and hate your enemy. But I say unto you, 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; that you may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for He makes His sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matt. 5:43-45).
Here is more on how to treat our enemies, “…love your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and you shall be the children of the Highest: for He is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil. Be you therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful” (Luke 6:35-36). This teaching is clear: loving ones’ enemies is a part of keeping God’s Commandments.
When we find that an enemy deals us a “blow,” we should promptly pray for him. This goes a long way in thwarting the devil’s desire to entice us to respond with vengeful anger—which is sin.
Our prayer should include a request that our enemy repent of the offense and for God to deal with him according to His will and righteous judgment. A sincere prayer goes a long way in putting the anger behind us—replacing it with self-control and peace. This is an act of love toward an enemy and obedience toward God (Heb. 10:30).
To be the children of our heavenly Father, we must love our enemies as He commands. Though this can be difficult, doing so leads to perfection in character: “For if you love them which love you, what reward have you? Do not even the publicans the same? And if you salute your brethren only, what do you more than others? Do not even the publicans so? Be you therefore perfect [complete], even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect” (Matt. 5:46-48).
The epitome of God’s love is expressed in John 3:16-17: “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not His Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through Him might be saved.”
God expressed His love for the world through the ultimate sacrifice of His Son. As we build God’s character, we must be willing to sacrifice our own will and pleasures to give to others.
Everyone who has ever lived, is living or will live, will choose to receive God’s love, to live and share God’s love eternally or, with full righteous knowledge, will choose eternal death. Sobering! In reality, the entire Bible is not only a book of love, but THE Book of love.
When the way of God’s love becomes our way of life, His way of loving will become our way of living—a life of genuine love!