May 2018 be the year of falling in love with God! In the last three weeks, we reflected on Real Love (Rom 12:9-21), Love is the Greatest (1 Cor 13:1-13) and The Evidence You Love God is that you trust Him (John 14:1, 15). Today we consider that we can only truly love our neighbor when we love ourselves.
Why do we have to love ourselves before we can love our neighbor? How do you reconcile Jesus' words "deny yourself" and "love (your neighbor as) yourself"?
What is love? “Love is not an action, it is not a desire or a feeling. Love is not an emotion or intention…Desire and feelings fall into the domain of impulse, not that of choice. They aim at their satisfaction, not at what is better and possibly best. Choice considers alternatives and weighs what is best. If its vision is broad enough, it will find what is good and right. If it is surrendered to God, united with his will, it will be able to do what is best. That of course is the nature of love. It seeks what is best.” Dallas Willard.
This is why love is not something you choose to do, but what you choose to be. You don’t try to become a more loving person, but working in community with Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, you become the kind of person who can love. The kind of person who routinely and easily loves others.
The most common struggle in the church. The singular mark of the church should be love. Why? There are many reasons foremost of which is that God is love (1 Jn 4:8, 16). Also, the greatest struggle inside the church has always been love, or the lack of it. Yet the church (and the gospel) has often been reduced to rules, rituals, commandments, theories or organizational goals and concerns. The highest priority of various churches are outreach, worship, youth ministry, leadership development, evangelism, discipleship, church growth, mission, purity, holiness, sacraments, particular doctrines of particular Christian leaders, denominational concerns, etc. These are not unimportant and certainly have their place. But should such agendas and ideologies ever supersede the place of loving others, or relegating love to just one of the many things the church does?
What should the church do? Shame people or slam "bad" people? Win the "culture wars"? Elect our "Christian" candidate? The Christian church is singularly commanded to bear witness to God's love for the world (Jn 3:16). Surely, this requires that we love others (Jn 13:34-35; Rom 13:8-10).
What does it mean to sacrificially and unconditionally love others?
The Bible is a complex narrative. But what is the big — yet simple — idea behind all the stories and teachings contained in this ancient book? Love — love dominates God’s story.
Jesus confirmed that two commands from the Old Testament — love God and love others — as the greatest of all the commandments during an encounter recorded in the New Testament between Jesus and the religious leaders. [See Mark 12:28–34.]
Followers of God are to live lives distinctly different from those around them. They are to be forgiving and self-giving, showing love to all.
Our capacity to love begins with receiving God’s love for us. From this reservoir we pour out love toward each other. The presence of God’s Spirit in us, working through us to overcome our passion for self in favor of loving others, is confirmation that we are in fact children of God.