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God’s Love as Our Supreme Standard

By Timothy King

Introduction

The atmosphere of the gatherings of God’s people ought to be, first of all, filled with a God-defined love for our fellow believers.  I believe that one area where the modern church has failed in its testimony to the world is in settling for a “love” for one another that is not defined by the Scriptures.  Note the words of Jesus:

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:3435)

Love, Jesus Style

What did Jesus intend when He said “love one another?”  What has to be in the heart of every one of us to where the essence of Christ’s love flows through each of us and it saturates our meetings and relationships with one another?

First, we must look to God to define our love for one another.  Our profession of love or even our actual love may be below the standard that God has revealed in the demonstration of His love and the love which we are to have toward one another.

“As I have loved you…”  This is not as we have seen love from our earthly father, mother, husband, wife, etc.  You may find the love of family, spouses, or friends to be wonderful, but it is not as Christ loved us!  If earthly relations become the standard to which we look, we will fail to love as Christ loved.

Bad, Bad Lovin’

Further, suppose the love of these earthly people was bad, abusive or neglectful.  The  temptation is to think, “If I stop (being abusive, neglectful) like ____ did, then I will be a loving person.” The temptation then is to think that by stopping bad behavior, I am loving as Christ loved.  We can stop those things and still not love as God would have us to because we have not focused on Him who is Himself love.  Our love for God’s children is too often shaped by earthly considerations, not heavenly.

In order for an atmosphere of divine love to permeate our relationships and gatherings, we must first focus on the love of God as it is redemptive.

“We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us..”  (1 John 3:16).  He says by this we know love.  There is no mistaking genuine love.  Out of all those professing Christians who say they love, how do we identify the ones who genuinely love?  Note how John points our eyes to Christ.  We don’t know love until we look to Christ and we don’t practice love until we are laying down our lives for one another as He did (John 15:13).

We too often overlook the nature of God’s expression of love for sinners.  Note the language in these passages that express God’s intent of saving man:

“By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him.” (1 John 4:9)  Here the desire of God in sending His Son was “that we might live through Him.”  God’s love for us was expressed in freely giving us life in Christ.

“In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” (1 John 4:10)  John is saying here that godly love is not to be defined by how we express our love to God, but in His expression of love for us.

This is a real trap in the church today in that there are varieties of ways in which people conceive that love to God is expressed.  In John’s day, the chief expression of love for God was by participation in the temple worship.  We fall into the same error today when we think that the defining expression of love for God is shown in our ritual attendance to religious meetings, financial support of the ministry, etc.

John seeks to draw our eyes from those human expressions of love to God and focus on God’s demonstration of love to us: His sending of Jesus to remove the wrath of God and restore a living relationship with Himself.

“We have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son to be the Savior of the world.” (1 John 4:14) Here again, the intent of God’s love for us was redemptive – that we may be saved, our sins propitiated, and that we might live through Him.

Now, if I am going to love my fellow Christian as God loved me, my main intent for my brother and sister in Christ must be that they too would come to enjoy and increase in the life of God as purchased by Christ’s sacrifice.  True love in the body MUST be in harmony with the Father’s redemptive intentions.

So, when the Father says, “I want My child to know Me in all of My glory, to enjoy sweet fellowship with Me, to bask in the great riches and wealth of my grace, to be sustained by My strength in trials,” then are we willing to be in harmony with Him in building up, encouraging, edifying, reproving, admonishing, speaking the truth in love, etc., so that our brother and sisters may enjoy the fullness of life in Christ as our Father intends they do?

Inspecting the Fruit

Let’s examine ourselves and see if this is the love that is manifested in the church body.  First, do we as Christians describe our walk like that?  Is our personal walk as a Christian characterized by sweet fellowship with the Father, wanting to walk experientially in the life purchased by His Son, and wanting to be free from all sin that hinders that?

Second, are we in harmony with God in that He wants that for all His children?  Have you come into agreement with God in that His will is to extend that love to your fellow-believers?  Do you believe that God wants this even for that fellow-believer that you may have difficulties with?

Third, are you willing to die to any and every personal agenda (lay down your life) and labor among your brothers and sisters so that they may achieve that fullness of life in Christ?  Is your mission for your fellow-Christians to build them up and encourage them to know the joy of Christ, inexpressible and full of glory?

We must cultivate the conviction that God’s design is that our brothers and sisters in Christ enjoy the life of God — and we must be in agreement with Him.

A Walk in the Park

Suppose a father is walking his two children in the park.  His intention is that he wants them both to enjoy the time with him and the beauty of the park.  Usually, what happens is that immature children are not in harmony with their father’s intentions.  They get caught up in their own issues and hurts (“Daddy, he looked at me!”) and they begin attacking one another.  The father is grieved and must step in.  So it is, too often, in the church today.

We too often let our love be expressed by what we think of our fellow-believers rather than what God’s intention is for His children.  If we think ill of our fellow-Christians, we will neglect or even attack them, thus grieving the Father and, perhaps, even having to suffer His disciplinary intervention.

There is an obvious danger in this.  What is your reaction if someone threatens or abuses someone who you consider precious or beloved?  In several passages, Paul refers to Christians as those who are “beloved by God” (1 Thessalonians 1:4; 2 Thessalonians 2:3).  If we treat with disdain ones whom God considers beloved….well, you get the picture.

If we are to see the love of God genuinely manifested in the church today, we must be in harmony with God in His redemptive purpose for His children.  He wants all of His children to be walking in the fullness of joy in Jesus Christ.  If we love our brethren, we ought to labor in the power of God to bring them to that fullness.

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