In Consideration of Love
“Let love be without dissimulation.” Romans 12:9
We cannot read the Judaic-Christian scriptures even cursorily without being impressed with how much they have to say about love.
The importance of Christian love is superbly delineated in I Corinthians 13. There we read that, even if we can speak fluently and eloquently on the Truth, and have not love, we would be like metal that, being struck, would issue no sound—would be lifeless.
Though we could prophesy and understand all mysteries and knowledge and though we have faith which would cause miracles and yet be lacking love, we would be nothing spiritually.
Even if we were to give all that we owned to feed the poor or give up our lives to a martyr’s death, and have not love, it would profit us nothing. We see, then, how highly love is valued in the Word of God!
The Great Guiding Principle of Life
The extent to which this Christian grace is being cultivated and regulated in our lives gives us an index as to how much our study of God’s Word is helping us spiritually.
If our desire is to become Christlike, pleasing to our Father, it behooves us to prayerfully and carefully consider whether or not our love is spiritual and whether it is the great guiding principle of life. Do we examine our thoughts and words and deeds by God’s law of love? Were our innermost thoughts critical of someone? Could we have said something more kindly? Were we lazy or insensitive when a helpful act should have been done?
Loving God, Loving Christ, Loving Our Brethren
Love begins with love toward God and toward our Lord Jesus Christ.”But If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen? And this commandment have we from him, That he who loveth God love his brother also” (I John 4:20,21).
A vital principle of Christian living is found in Matthew 25:40, where Jesus said, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me. How essential it is for us to exercise love!
By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if you have love one to another.—John 13:35
The Badge of Christian Discipleship
Christ has made love the “badge” of Christian discipleship. Love for all the brethren is sure evidence of our love for our Lord. (I John 5:1)
The abounding influence of the holy Spirit will produce the grace that makes it possible for us to love all who are in Christ.
Love or Love or Love?
We must be able to detect the perversions of love. As water is not able to rise above its own level, natural man is incapable of understanding or appreciating spiritual things. (I Cor. 2:14)
Sometimes sentimental human thought is mistaken for spiritual love: a charming and talented leader may appeal to us, and so we accept his doctrines and follow his guidance in our personal lives. Sometimes carnal desires are called love. Our talents are appreciated by another Christian, or he is attracted to our personality; what remarkably good taste he has! He is surely worthy of our love!
Sadly, many of us, living on a low plane, have confused human amiability and affability with true Christian love. A warm and loving manner is comforting, so we think it must denote more godliness. It may, and we should all endeavor to be amiable and affable and warm and loving.
But atheists and heathens are sometimes remarkably endowed with admirable qualities, and we must evaluate good character for what it is. Spiritual love is characterized by meekness and gentleness, because these virtues please God; the motive of pleasing the Father makes Christlikeness far superior to the courtesies of the flesh.
The scriptures teach the true nature of Christian love. It is a spiritual grace that is instilled in us along with faith and hope. (I Cor. 13:13)
It is a disposition begun in us at the time of our consecration, our begettal. It is a mark of our new life in Christ. As we continue in this new life, it increases and overflows.
It is more than an emotion. It is a righteous principle of life that always seeks the good in others, as Christ sees it. It is the opposite of self-love and self-seeking which is inborn in all of us.
Love in Action
Not only must we have an affectionate regard for our brethren, but we also must have a powerful desire to promote their welfare. This is not fickle sentiment, easily offended, but an abiding love which “many waters” of cold indifference, or “floods” of disapproval can not quench nor drown. (Song of Solomon 8:7)
Though we fall far short in comparison to our Lord, we diligently try to be like him who, “having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them unto the end” (John 13:1).
The best way of obtaining a right conception of true love is to study the life of our Lord Jesus. Here we find the perfect exemplification of such love. By “study,” we mean a comprehensive survey of all that is recorded of him in the four gospels—not just a review of our favorite passages or incidents.
We discover that his love was benevolent, thoughtful, compassionate, gentle, unselfish, self-sacrificing, patient and unchanging. Such love could delay his response to an urgent request (John 11:6), discuss a matter with his mother before obeying her immediately and unquestioningly (John 2:4), use a whip (John 2:15), upbraid his disciples for doubting (Luke 24:25), denounce hypocrites (Matt. 23:13-33), be stern (Matt. 16:23) and even angry (Mark 3:5). Spiritual love is holy, faithful to God and uncompromising toward evil.
“We know that we have passed from death to life because we love the brethren.”—I John 3:14
This is the fruit and effect of begettal as new creatures. It is an evidence of having been accepted into Christ.
This love for the brethren is far more than finding one whose temperament is similar, or whose views on the Truth are in accord with ours. There would be no need for a commandment to love such.
If we are unfailingly sober, we may prefer serious-minded scholars; but, in honor preferring one another, we will learn much from those brethren who have a simple awe of God’s obvious works.
If detailed doctrines are specially precious to us, let us look at brethren with different views and see in them the reason God called them, just as he called us.
Because the love that is commanded is a principle of life, we are determined to love those to whom we have no natural affinity. We rightly exercise this true Christian love by seeking their highest good, not just to please and ingratiate ourselves in their esteem.
Love a Commandment
“By this we know that we love the children of God and keep his commandments.”—I John 5:2
What is the true test of our personal love to God? Is it not in the keeping of his commandments? (John 14:15, 21, 24; 15:10, 14) The true worth of our love to God is not measured by our words, nor how loudly we sing his praises, but by our obedience to his word; and his command is that we love one another as Christ has loved us.
How did Christ love us? Romans 5:8 tells us that “while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Are we assassinating our brethren, or are we laying down our lives for them? Destroy not him . . . for whom Christ died” (Rom. 14:15).
Love for our brethren manifests itself in many ways. One way is to pray for them. There are brethren throughout the earth with trials, conflicts, temptations and sorrow, about whom we know nothing. Yet we can express love for them by beseeching God’s blessings on their behalf. Our very utterance of such pleas will make us more of a blessing to his people whom we do know.
“Whoso hath this world’s goods and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him? My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue, but in deed and in truth.”—1 John 3:17,18
Some brethren are poor in this world’s goods, a discouraging burden to them. The Lord may permit their trial to cultivate our compassion. It is not only a privilege to minister temporal goods from what the Lord has given us; it is also important to give with sensitivity so as not to embarrass the recipient.
This is practical love. It considers nothing too humbling if the sufferings of a brother can be relieved. When our Lord came, the scriptures tell us that he was filled with compassion at the hunger and suffering of the multitudes.
He ever liveth to make intercession for them (Heb. 7:25). He makes our cause and care his own. He entreats the Father on our behalf. No one is forgotten. The lone sheep is borne upon the heart of our Good Shepherd.
By expressing our love for our brethren in daily prayers, we are brought into the fellowship of our great High Priest. We cannot carry our brethren before the throne of grace without cherishing them in our own hearts. If there should ever arise a bitter feeling toward one of our brethren who has offended, the best way to overcome this is to pray for him. Let us try to learn this lesson of cultivating love. We suggest three rules for this:
- Recognize at the outset that just as there is much in us which will severely try the love of the brethren, so there will be more than a little in them that will test our love. Forbearing one another in love (Eph. 4:3). The very first quality of true love in I Corinthians 13 was that it suffereth long (Verse 4).
- To cultivate any virtue or grace, it must be exercised—put into action. Life must be lived by the principle of love. Cold, calculating unkindness dampens love. Set an example. Overcome evil with good (Rom. 12:21).
- Bask in the warmth of God’s love. Like begets like; love begets love. Act upon the principle of love until it abounds and overflows; your heart will be drawn out to all the brethren.
We have a beautiful example in the apostle who wrote the most about brotherly love, the one who leaned upon the Master’s bosom: “Whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him.:—1 John 2:5
May the Lord grant us all the consciousness of this way of praising his glory, to the good of all his people.