"Can you give us any insight from practical experience on how we might actively love people better? What verses have helped you most?" (July 30, 2020)
Having genuine Christ-like love for others is something that flows from the Spirit’s work in our lives and God’s Word renewing our minds. We need to recognize that because of our sin nature we desire to be selfish and self-protective. Sadly the effects of our own sin and sin done to us can shut down genuine sacrificial love for others. Therefore, practical love for others starts with a renewed mind. If we can remember these truths as we encounter and engage with others it will help us to actively love.
We are created in the image of God.
No matter the situation, discussion, or activity, every person involved is made in the image of God. Genesis 1:27, 9:6, 1 John 4:19-21. We see in creation that God has made mankind, male and female in His image. Mankind did not lose that image after fall, for in chapter 9 after the flood we see how serious it is to take a life, “…for God made man in his own image.” Since we are made in God’s image a practical way we love God is by loving one another.
19 We love because he first loved us. 20 If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. 21 And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother. (ESV)
As Christ comes and fulfills the law and points us to the heart of the law we see that it is not enough to refrain from doing wrong to someone, but we are called to actively love one another. Love is not passive, it is the active work of sacrifice and service for another. Luke 10:25-37 is the story of the good Samaritan which draws out what loving God and our neighbor is. Are we showing mercy? Are we giving up of our resources to aid those who might hate us? Our call is to “go and do likewise.” Luke 10:37.
God’s love for us in Christ
The only reason we could extend that kind of sacrificial love is because we know the love of God for us in Christ. As verse 19 of 1 John 4 said, “we love because he first loved us.” God has extend love, and grace to us who deserve His wrath. He has shown us mercy by sending Christ to take the punishment sinners deserve. This extravagant love from God, displayed in Christ now frees us to love others in that same way. To display God in our interactions with others. We have been rescued and redeemed by faith in Christ, so as “God’s chosen ones” we can show Christ-like love toward others. As Colossians 3:12-17
12 Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. 15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. 17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. (ESV)
Notice also that part of love is to teach and admonish one another. We are called to help each other grow in our understanding and love for Christ. At times the primary way we display that is through forgiveness, or patience. Other times it is to humbly point out wrong and explain the truth from God’s Word. The purpose is always to build one another up. To encourage growth and maturing in Christ. Is that the goal of your conversation? Or is it attention, sympathy or simply being right. If we are to love as Christ loved us we must put the needs of others above our own.
Acting with the compassion of Christ
Finally, in our interactions with others it is helpful to be filled with compassion. To varying degrees and understandings the effects of sin have been at work on us. It is impossible to traverse through this life without some loss, pain or suffering. Jesus’ action toward the leper in Mark 1:40-45 has always astounded me.
40 And a leper came to him, imploring him, and kneeling said to him, “If you will, you can make me clean.” 41 Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand and touched him and said to him, “I will; be clean.” 42 And immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean. 43 And Jesus sternly charged him and sent him away at once, 44 and said to him, “See that you say nothing to anyone, but go, show yourself to the priest and offer for your cleansing what Moses commanded, for a proof to them.” 45 But he went out and began to talk freely about it, and to spread the news, so that Jesus could no longer openly enter a town, but was out in desolate places, and people were coming to him from every quarter. (ESV)
Jesus could have healed the leper in any number of ways. A word, a breath, a command to go and wash. Instead, Jesus reaches out a touches this unclean man. The contamination, the disease and the uncleanliness of the leper did not make Jesus ceremonially unclean (Leviticus 13:45-46). Instead of becoming unclean for touching someone unclean Jesus makes this man clean. What power to heal and save our Savior has! And also what compassion, to heal him in a way that was so tangible and powerful. As we interact with one another it is important to understand them, their loss and pain. By doing so we can speak and act in ways that will be best heard and understood by them.
Notice also that Jesus healed him knowing he would disobey. Jesus did not withhold his power to rescue and help based on the man’s future response. If we were only to love those who responded favorably we would have the perfect excuse to be selfish. No matter the response Jesus saw the hurt and pain of this man and “moved with pity” he loved him. Have you tried before to love someone and they rejected it? Are you weary of well doing? Don't give into the feeling of hopelessness. God is able, and the love you extend is not in vain, for our gracious God sees and rewards those acts of faith and love. The Thessalonians felt it, and Paul encouraged them, “As for you, brothers, do not grow weary in doing good” 2 Thessalonians 3:13 (ESV).
So let me encourage you with Hebrews 10:24-25 “24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” (ESV)