“Do everything in love” (1 Corinthians 16.14).This week I received an email expressing concern that we as a ministry have an unhealthy overemphasis on “love.” “There is a lot more to the Christian life than love,” the email stated. I have spent much time in prayer over this, and honestly, it brings me great concern. This is not an isolated issue; rather, it is one that I meet (especially in our weekend seminars) more often than I would like to admit.
I have no desire whatsoever to defend our emphasis, as a ministry, on love. (If anything, when one reads the New Testament, one finds that in reality, we as a ministry are actually guilty of not emphasizing love nearly as much as the scriptures themselves do.) Rather, my burden is to defend love itself.
First, remember, Jesus did not come to establish the Christian religion (a religion, remember, that in the eyes of the world has been guilty of more bloodshed than any other religion in human history). Jesus came, instead, to establish a kingdom—a kingdom where love is not simply an element among many others but rather is the centerpiece from which everything else flows.
“In love a throne will be established; in faithfulness a man will sit on it—one from the house of David—one who in judging seeks justice and speeds the cause of righteousness” (Isaiah 16.5).
A throne, or kingdom, established in love. Listen to the words of Jesus Himself:
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13.34,35).
Love, according to Jesus, is the distinguishing characteristic by which we know who is part of the kingdom and who is not. It is not a label, not a set of intellectual facts; rather, all who genuinely love are the ones who comprise God’s kingdom.
In the words of the apostle Paul:
“Therefore, be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love . . .” (Ephesians 5.1,2).
“Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves” (Romans 12.10).
“You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another humbly in love” (Galatians 5.13).
“Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love” (Ephesians 4.2).
“Do everything in love” (1 Corinthians 16.14).
And the apostle Peter:
“The end of all things is near. Therefore be alert and of sober mind so that you may pray. Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4.7,8).
Above all! Did you catch it? Above all? What does that really mean? Are we willing to allow it to truly have this kind of significance in our hearts?
I will say this, that my dear friend who wrote me is correct. There is much more to the Christian life than simply knowing God’s love for us and allowing that love to be reproduced in us toward others. So much so, in fact, that Christianity has too often become occupied with all that other stuff. But the more familiar I become with Jesus and His teachings, the more questions I find myself asking about how modern Christianity fits into Jesus’ mission, and the more passionate I find myself becoming about helping others see the truth about God’s character of love and being a part of a kingdom of love that is being established in people’s hearts today.
Finally, I will close with the apostle John’s incredible statement. Meditate on it, if you will, and simply let the Spirit speak to your heart right now:
“And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them” (John 4.16).
Wow, whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. Wow!
I realize that we cannot love by simply trying to love others. I know that what is needed is not more effort but rather a deeper encounter with God’s great love for us, which will awaken, in our hearts, love for all who are around us. Therefore, in the light of God’s self-sacrificial, other-centered love for each of you this week:
May everything you do this week be done in love. In the light of His love for you, may you too, love like the rain, love like the sun, and go enlarge the kingdom. (see Matthew 5:44,45)
I wish you God’s best this week.
In His extravagant love for us all,