So this is my prayer: that your love will flourish and that you will not only love much but well. Learn to love appropriately. You need to use your head and test your feelings so that your love is sincere and intelligent, not sentimental gush. Live a lover’s life, circumspect and exemplary, a life Jesus will be proud of: bountiful in fruits from the soul, making Jesus Christ attractive to all, getting everyone involved in the glory and praise of God. (Philippians 1:9-11)
Paul explains the purpose of his prayers – that our love may flourish – not just be evident, but be overwhelmingly, undeniably present in all our actions, speech, and emotion. Flourishing love is contagious love. Flourishing love is an active love – producing byproducts of its action in the lives of those it touches. This type of love is not in word only, but is a daily lived, sacrificial, unconditional reaching out of our lives for the benefit and well-being of others. Paul encourages the believer to not only love, but to do it well. How many of us can truly say that we have learned to love well? We may be able to say that we have loved much, but loving well is a different story.
The guidance of Paul, under the anointing of the Holy Spirit, is to learn to love appropriately – using specific “tests” of our motives, actions, and thought-life to guard us against loving in any other manner. It is remarkable to note that Paul does not describe the love of a believer coming from our emotions – he directs us to use our “head” or minds to test this love. A person given to simple reliance on the feelings of the heart (emotions) is easily swayed, often discouraged, and frequently misdirected in motive.
Paul emphasizes the importance of running our emotions through a “filter” – our minds. As we grow in Christ, our minds become daily storehouses of new thought, changed attitudes, and exchanged values. It is that renewed mind that Paul recommends we use as a “filter” to guide our emotions. He is not saying that we can understand all that love is, but that we can exercise maturity in the display of our love when we are conscious of our actions, sensitive to the instability of our emotions, and conscientious to guard both. It is this type of life that becomes an attractive “billboard” of God’s grace – standing as examples of the impact of God on a sensitive heart.
Paul’s aim in praying for the believers is to see them grow in Christ in such a way that there is no denying the work of grace in their lives. There is no better way to evidence God’s grace than to display it in unconditional, sacrificial love for others. This type of love is not sentimental dribble, nor is it calculated, manipulative action aimed at a certain effect. It is an outpouring of the Spirit in our daily choices, guiding our daily actions, and creating the image of Christ deep in our core. This image is reproduced in our action – action that exemplifies the sacrificial love of our Savior.
Yes, love has an emotional aspect, but the impact of love is felt in its action, not in its emotion. Paul invites each of us to focus more on the actions of love and less on the sentiment of love that we might be instruments of God’s grace reaching out to those he has placed in our paths. Let us love well – displaying the attractiveness of God to all.