Sometimes we can lose the forest for the trees. Sometimes we look up and realize we’ve just been going through the motions of living out our faith: church attendance, spiritual disciplines, service, and the like, but not necessarily passionately engaged. You may wonder how all these faith-activities relate to the rest of your daily life where you live, work, and play.
The Apostle John gives us some helpful perspective:
Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us. (1 John 4:7-11).
God is love. And because of his love, he sent his Son to save us when we seemed unlovable. In light of the gospel received (“since God so loved us”), we respond by loving one another.
All the activity of the church is intended to help us learn about this love, experience this love, express this love. That’s why you can’t spiritually thrive by coming simply for the worship service and going on your way as soon as the service is over. That’s why “spiritual consumerism” is a counterfeit of biblical Christianity. John explains, “For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen” (1 John 4:20).
And what does that mean? “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth” (1 John 3:16-18).
The kind of love he has in mind isn’t possible unless it overflows from the love of God for us. In fact, we experience the love of God as we love one another—that’s how it is “made complete in us” (4:12).
Is the motivation behind all your activity with GRC to love God and your brothers and sisters in Christ? That’s what it is all about. But it’s not just love for God and fellow believers. We know we are to model God’s own love which pursues the lost (John 3:16; John 10). God loved us while we were his enemies, while we were still dead in our sin.
When Jesus was asked which was the greatest commandment, he named two: Leviticus 19:8 and Deuteronomy 6:5. Together they became: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” (Matt 22:34-40). And, of course, the neighbor Jesus had in mind was an enemy, as explained in the Parable of the Good Samaritan that followed this statement.
We are to love God, love one another, and love our neighbors (even our enemies, the lost; Matt 5:43-48). We could say we are to love in three directions: UP, IN, and OUT. All are essential; none are optional. All flow out of our experience of, and are a response to, God’s love for us.
How do you need to experience God’s love today? How might he call you to express his love in three directions this week?
Steven Sage is the Pastor of Discipleship.