Do you understand how difficult it is to truly love someone (as defined by the Scriptures)? We have to be open-minded in our approach to reach those in our community. It is love that can tear down the barriers between people. It is love that overcomes those who doubt the power of God in reaching those who are deemed unreachable.
1 John 4:7-21
Dear friends, let us love one another, because love is from God, and everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, because God is love. God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent His One and Only Son into the world so that we might live through Him. Love consists in this: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Dear friends, if God loved us in this way, we also must love one another. No one has ever seen God. If we love one another, God remains in us and His love is perfected in us. This is how we know that we remain in Him and He in us: He has given to us from His Spirit. And we have seen and we testify that the Father has sent the Son as Savior of the world. Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God—God remains in him and he in God. And we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and the one who remains in love remains in God, and God remains in him. In this, love is perfected with us so that we may have confidence in the day of judgment; for we are as He is in this world. There is no fear in love; instead, perfect love drives out fear, because fear involves punishment. So the one who fears has not reached perfection in love. We love because He first loved us. If anyone says, “I love God,” yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For the person who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And we have this command from Him: the one who loves God must also love his brother.
The command to “love one another” is not a natural act for human beings. We naturally love ourselves, and that is part of the problem. It is difficult to love others because our flesh operates in a selfish nature. We don’t need to see many examples, outside of our own families, where the flesh often gets the best of us. Look at the different Greek words that express love:
phileo – general attraction towards a person
philia – love of a friend
philos – love for a relative or family members
eros – sexual love
agapao, agape – love of God
Our lives should model agape love, as John notes in 1 John 4:7-21. While we are less inclined to be inclusive or associate with those who are “different” from us, agape love goes beyond those differences, for God is love (1 John 4:7-12). To act in love is to act in such a way that it is better for the other person than it is for ourselves.
We love others in the way that God would have us to love them is proven through our faith and trust in Jesus Christ (1 John 2:19; 4:13-16). Loving and living for Christ will be evident in the true believer. John is very clear here with a strong statement. Your love for Christ comes from understanding how Christ lived, and you will naturally love others. If you are unable to love others in this way, then John declares that they are not of God. The evidence of our maturity in our faith, through the ministry in our lives of the Holy Spirit, is to love someone who does not get sling with us, or even wronged us in some way. Let’s face it…it is easy to love someone who gets along with us. The reality is that the Christian life has both mountaintop and valley experiences. There are triumphs and struggles. Thankfully, God dwells within us when we acknowledge Christ as our Savior, and He helps us through those difficult experiences as we rejoice in our victories. The love we have from God comes through the Holy Spirit, and He enables us to love someone, even though the flesh tells you that you can’t do it or don’t want to do it (Romans 5:5). The Spirit empowers us to reach beyond our own abilities and understanding (Proverbs 3:5). John declares that if you are born from above, you have the ability to love others. You become the agent for God where others will see God’s love for them through you! We are able to live others because God loved us even before we knew we needed a Savior (Romans 2:4; 1 John 4:9). God cared about us before we even knew that we were cared for or even cared about. That is the true essence of agape love (1 Corinthians 13:1-7). To love someone else through all of their anger, hatred and misdeeds is agape love. That is how you win someone for Jesus Christ. It is difficult, for sure, but that is what God calls us to do…to love someone, even through their faults (1 Peter 4:8). It is an act of obedience to God’s Word and Jesus Christ to love others, without regard for how they feel about you, for that is the essence of how God loves us (John 3:16-17).
God’s love gives us the confidence to love others (1 John 4:17-19; Hebrews 9:27-28). Love comes from God, and it builds us up through the presence of the Holy Spirit. No ministry can try be successful without love being the primary focus in reaching others for Christ. Love has to come first. It has to be the foundation of everything that follows (Galatians 5:22-23). Everything that is done in ministry has to proceed from love. In addition to love, faith must also be present. (1 Thessalonians 1:3; 3-6). Faith is necessary with love because you don’t know what to expect when you are dealing with other people! We need to rely upon the Holy Spirit when we love others. God’s love confronts others and breaks them down to where they can finally see God’s grace and peace in their own lives (Ephesians 6:23). It is truly from God’s perspective, and well beyond our own human perspective, where we can see how God’s love transforms others to love in the way that Christ would have them love others. There is a righteousness in living a life for Jesus Christ that we are confident in Him. God valued us in that Christ died for us in the perfect act of love for us. Love comes from God, and in that love, we have nothing to fear.
Loving someone who does not you may be the most difficult thing you ever do, but we can do it when we are led by the Holy Spirit. It is our best evidence as to how we love Jesus Christ. “‘If you love Me, you will keep My commandments. And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Counselor to be with you forever. He is the Spirit of truth‘” (John 14:15-17a).