There is one character trait which is evidence of being born of God - love. It is impossible for a man or woman to be a child of God and not love, for where God dwells, there is love. There is something we can glean from examining God's love for us - his sacrificial, pursuing, and purposeful love. If we are honest, if God had not pursued us, we'd probably still be doing our own thing! Love pursues what it sets its heart on - God set his heart upon us and therefore, he has pursued us since he made us! His love is also sacrificial and purposeful - there is nothing quite like the sacrifice he paid for our sins - his dear Son. There is an "aim" to his love - us. Therefore, his love is purposeful, for purpose suggests intent and aim. So, these three characteristics of God's love bespeak of some elements of heart response, choices of the mind, and actions of the spirit, don't they? Maybe this is what love is really like when we come to understanding it - there is involvement of the heart, mind and spirit, not just emotions!
My beloved friends, let us continue to love each other since love comes from God. Everyone who loves is born of God and experiences a relationship with God. The person who refuses to love doesn’t know the first thing about God, because God is love—so you can’t know him if you don’t love. This is how God showed his love for us: God sent his only Son into the world so we might live through him. This is the kind of love we are talking about—not that we once upon a time loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to clear away our sins and the damage they’ve done to our relationship with God. My dear, dear friends, if God loved us like this, we certainly ought to love each other. No one has seen God, ever. But if we love one another, God dwells deeply within us, and his love becomes complete in us—perfect love! (I John 4:7-12 MSG)
Look at what love "does" - it sets about to set right what has been damaged through sin's influence. Now, maybe this doesn't seem significant at first - after all, none of us is God's only Son, so we really aren't called upon to "set things right" or "bring order" to what sin has destroyed, are we? Well, contrary to what we might initially think, we are! Throughout scripture, we are told to remedy rifts in relationships, forgiving one another their faults, even when they don't "deserve" it or "seek" it. We are told to be peace-keepers, guarding our tongues so we don't speak rashly - constantly being aware of the power in our words. Even in our own lives, we are told to turn from what has pulled us down and left us empty, then to turn toward the only thing which can keep us standing and fill us to overflowing. So, we are called to be engaged in this work of "setting things right" which have damaged each of us in some respect.
There are some principles to love which I think we all need to understand:
- It exhibits loyalty. There is a faithfulness to love - not only in our words, but in our actions, as well. There is an allegiance which is inherent in love - the pledging of oneself to another. God did this as he pledged himself (and his Son) to pursuing us. The same should be true of each of us - we are to pursue not just those who give love in return, but those who have no idea what it is like to experience the level of commitment and allegiance which are characteristic of those who call themselves Christian. Loyalty is exhibited in actions - not in our words alone. There is a willingness to be there for the long haul. Nothing bespeaks love more than standing alongside someone even when they aren't at their "lovable best".
- It is liberal. Love is generous to a fault - it thinks outside of self and considers the needs of others first. Sometimes I think we consider living a "simple" life as kind of boring or lacking in excitement. The simpler my life becomes, the more I find I am able to be liberal in my love. Generous hearts are liberal in their love because they know by giving out, they get more than they'd ever be able to contain anyway! Liberality is not "on impulse" - it is a lifestyle. This lifestyle is born in the times of fellowship with Christ - enjoying his liberality in our lives first makes us more able to share with liberality in the end.
- It listens to the Holy Spirit's leading. There is something foundational to love - truth. We only come into truth through the actions of the Holy Spirit in our lives. As we are led by the Holy Spirit INTO truth, it changes the way we interact with others - there is a consideration and compassion which are evident because his leading has created a changed heart.
- It is lowly in its actions. We don't use this word too much today in "conversation", but it really is another word for humble. Love is evident in a lowly heart, not because it thinks "low thoughts" about self, but because a humble heart is a changed heart - humility produces actions contrary to selfishness. When people begin to behave without selfish intent, love comes through.
Love is indeed a trait we all need to have evident in our lives. Don't lose sight of what I said to begin with - it is the evidence we have Christ in our lives - nothing speaks louder or more consistently to those who need lives set right than the love of God in action in a believer's life. Just sayin!