Live love, let love invade you. It will never fail to teach you what you must do…Unknown
Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God…Ephesians 5:1-2 (ESV)
Yesterday marked the beginning of the summer season at Fellowship Church, and with it our brand new series, How To. Over the coming weeks, we aim to tackle ten key “projects” in the life of a follower of Jesus- practices that will enable us to not just survive, but thrive in our relationships with God, with others, and even with ourselves.
We kicked off yesterday with a familiar command from Jesus that most of us heartily agree with, but if we’re being honest, often have great difficulty practicing- “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Luke 10:27b). Fantastic idea, right? Of course it is. But what does it look like to live it? We focused on a few key steps in our time together, but none more critical than this one-
God has called you to love your neighbor as He has loved you.
In short form, if you’re going to love others as God has called and commanded, you’ve got to give what you’ve got– the active, lavish, sacrificial love of God displayed in the perfect Person and saving work of Jesus Christ. If you’re looking for a “how to” guide to love, the Gospel is it! So how, then, does God’s “Gospel love” for us inform the way we consider and practice “neighbor love” for others. Consider these three ways-
1- God doesn’t love those who are like Him, or those who like Him. He loves everyone- even His enemies.
The reason for this is pretty basic- Because there is no one like God, and apart from His gracious intervention, there is no one who likes, loves, and follows Him. God’s sacrificial love in Christ was given to those who were, on their own, His hell bent enemies (i.e. you and me!).
This means that our “neighbor love” must likewise extend broadly to include those who are very much unlike us, and even to those who don’t like us. Loving like God means setting aside our offenses and prejudices for the sake of God’s glory and others’ good- that is, for the sake of love.
2- God doesn’t love those who He deems important or impressive. He loves the last, the least, and the lost.
Hear this well- God doesn’t love you because He thinks you’re awesome. In fact, His love for you has nothing to do with what you can offer to Him. His lavish love is a function of His nature, His character, and His desire for His glory to be displayed in the earth. Knowing that, He isn’t up in heaven thinking to Himself, “Man, if I just find a talented guitar player, or a gifted preacher, or a fantastic kids’ volunteer, then I’d have something to work with here.” No, His glorious love is amplified by the fact that He loves those whom the world considers unworthy and unlovely– which, in His eyes, includes everyone, including you.
If we are to be obedient to Jesus’ command, our love must be given in the same way. We ought not direct our love in the direction of those from whom we think we can get something. We ought not make ourselves “judges” who incessantly evaluate others’ worthiness to receive our love. Instead, we must love faithfully- and as we’ll see, actively– those whom God places in our life’s path, with a special emphasis on those experiencing deep and desperate need.
3- God doesn’t love in thought and feeling. He reveals His love through action.
I recently heard it said that when it comes to love, “the thought doesn’t count.” It’s true; if you’re in need, a loving thought or warm feeling directed your way doesn’t do you a bit of good. No, it takes purposeful action for us to experience the benefit of love. That’s exactly what God gave us in the Person and work of Jesus- action. The action of the Incarnation- God becoming a man. The action of the crucifixion- God in the flesh taking our place on the Cross. The action of the resurrection- God in the flesh reclaiming His life from the grave.
As the people of this active God, we ought to love others actively as well. As 1 John 3:18 tells us, “Little children, let us not in word or talk but in deed and in truth.” This means that when we come into contact with a “neighbor” in need, we must do whatever we are able to respond within our capacity. If that means giving money, so be it; if it means giving godly counsel, so be it; if it means giving the Gospel outright, so be it. Whatever the case might be, we can’t be content to be a people thinking nice thoughts and feeling nice feelings. We have to do something to provide evidence of- and benefit from- our love. As author Henry Cloud says well, “Love is as love does.”
Here’s the bottom line- In Jesus, God gave us all that He had to give for His eternal glory and our eternal benefit. If you’ve received that personally by placing your trust in Jesus alone, that means you’ve got something to give to the world. So this day, this week, this year, give what you got to your “neighbors” as God brings them your way. Get to know their needs- physical, emotional, and spiritual too- and consider how you might respond to them in a way that picks them up and points them to Jesus.
In what ways does the Gospel of Jesus inform and empower the way you “love your neighbor as yourself”?