The Outworking of Love

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“Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”
1 Corinthians 13:4-5

God’s word says we are to love our neighbor as we love ourselves. It is one of God’s greatest commands and one that I always thought I was striving to obey. But I’ve recently been faced with a question that has made me realize I couldn’t be much farther from fulfilling this instruction God has given to not only me but to us all.

Someone recently asked me this simple question, “Do you truly love your neighbor as yourself”?

Do I truly love my neighbor as much as I love myself?  This had me contemplating what the simple act of love truly meant. As I searched through the bible I came across eight different passages where God’s word tells us to Love our neighbors as ourselves. Not only does this show how important it must be, but God must have also wanted to make sure we understood the true definition of love.

As I continued to dwell on and pray about what exactly God is telling us to do, I realized how much deeper this meaning goes than most of us allow ourselves to believe. It’s easy to say we love one another and would do anything for our friends or people in need, but we usually don’t reach beneath the surface. If you asked someone what it means to love, many people would probably offer a superficial answer. I’ve learned over the years that many people believe this word we call “love” is an implication of positive sentiments towards someone. They often assume that love only refers to good feelings for one another.

But if that were true why would God have sent His son to die on the cross for our sins? It wouldn’t have been a sacrifice of love but for His own selfish purpose. In John 13:34-35 God commands the following :

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”

God sacrificed His own Son for us, because He LOVES us. If God’s word tells us to love as He has loved us and He loved us enough to sacrifice His Son for us, I think this word ‘Love’ goes far beyond what most of us have ever allowed ourselves to realize.

“By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him? My little children let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth.” – 1 John 3:16-17.

It’s true that we love ourselves far more than we love anyone else. But God clearly tells us that we are to lay down our lives for the brethren. For some this may truly mean to give up your life for your brother or sister, but for others God may not expect you to go that far. But would you ever be willing to give up a meal so a stranger could have a chance to eat? Could you pass up those designer jeans so a stranger could have warm clothes this winter? Would you put off buying new furniture or paint for your house just so a stranger could be sure to have a place to sleep tonight?

I have a crazy one. Would you ever be willing to step outside of your comfort zone, to push aside all your fear, to allow yourself to have so much love for absolute strangers that you would be willing to take your time to share the gospel and pray with them, and for them, because you care more than anything about their eternal destination?

Matthew 25:37-40, says:
“Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.”

God calls us to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit those that are sick or in prison, but maybe, just maybe, this last point is the main definition and meaning of real love. Maybe this is what God was talking about when He said to love your neighbor as yourself.

I’ve wasted a whole lot of time that I can never get back. I’ve had opportunities to witness to certain people that I never had the courage to do. The truth is none of us knows how much time we have left on this earth, and we can’t waste any more of it being too afraid or too selfish. We need to take every opportunity God creates for us to be His light.

“But the end of all things is at hand; therefore be serious and watchful in your prayers. And above all things have fervent love for one another, for “love will cover a multitude of sins.” Be hospitable to one another without grumbling. As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.”  1 Peter 4:7-8

How we treat others reflects our true values – what is really important to us. Do we see others as objects or inconveniences, or as unique creations of a loving God? Real love is scarce – selfless, giving, caring, sharing, and even dying. We yearn to love and be loved, but we see few examples of real love.

Let’s break that pattern by becoming love to our neighbors. God’s kind of love.

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