In defense of love

The highlight of my Sunday wasn’t the sermon I preached. It was the celebration afterwards. We were able to enjoy a peaceful Mother’s Day with my wife and celebrate my son’s 5th birthday. When he told me, “Daddy, I feel so happy today,” my whole day couldn’t have gotten any better. Although sometimes I’d like to kill them (and you parents know what I mean), no one besides Jesus loves my kids more than me. They are my world. We celebrate as much as we can with them because we want them to know how special they are!

And as I contemplate all of this, I wonder if this is what Jesus desires from us as his church. Should the love for our spiritual brothers emulate the love a parent has for his child? Should we be quick to forgive the trespasses of others? Should we sometimes let things go, for the sake of peace?

The answer is simple…Definitely Yes!

My post last week discussed grace. It encouraged us to live as Christians should—to not hold onto the past or let people’s negative actions towards us define who we are, but rather to model forgiveness. I’d like to add that the motive behind this should always be love, without which our actions are devoid of any real godly meaning (1 Corinthians 13:1-3).

Why did Jesus plead the Father to forgive those that harmed him? It was because he loved them. Even though they beat him, placed a crown of thorns on his head, whipped him, bruised him, and nailed him to a cross, his love for them transcended all of it. That’s a powerful example to follow as we navigate through life.

A quick review of 1 John 2 & 3 teaches that godly love needs to spur us on to greater holiness. It teaches us that we need to demonstrate this one to another. It is the glue that holds together not only our own families, but the spiritual families which we unite with on a weekly basis. If we don’t feel love for the people we worship with, something is wrong with the way I practice my Christianity.

I’m not saying that we should become pushovers and allow people to belittle, disrespect, or walk all over us. What I’m saying is that even if they do, we should remember that they are family and not the enemy. If we are going to fight someone, shouldn’t it be the devil and not the brother seated next to me?

The early church dealt with issues far more egregious than the gossip from Deacon Jones and a harsh “speakin’ to” from the pastor. They were suffering persecution which was literally threatening their lives. In response to all of this, Paul writes in Ephesians 6:12, “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.”

This is what Jesus knew! His struggle wasn’t against the religious extremism of his day, nor the Romans, but against the enemy who was using these people as a means to an end. He loved them, not because of their actions, but because he knew that their actions were being manipulated by the enemy.

As a means to total disclosure, let me add that loving people in spite of what they do to you is ENTIRELY too difficult sometimes. It takes real spiritual maturity to react as Jesus did. As Elisha (2 Kings 6), you have to ask God to see things from a spiritual perspective to understand that people (including ourselves) can easily be caught up in the devil’s snares and become the enemy’s tool to steal the blessing that God has prepared for us. The closer we get to God, the more we understand this to be true.

Therefore, if we exhort, we should do so in love. If we react, let us do so in love. If we pray for others, let us do so in love. Even if others refuse to do so! It’s this love that distinguishes true followers of Christ from everybody else. As John 13:35 states: “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”