Friday, 18 October 2013

"Love must be sincere..."

Romans 12:9
Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.
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Here we have three commands. They're short and simple, but so full of depth and application if we take them on board. Today I'll just be looking at the first one.

Love must be Sincere.

The word used for love here is "agape" which means unconditional love. Love that is entirely selfless like God's love for us.

I've heard this love paralleled to the stretching out of a limb to it's fullest extent and then going further. We need to love people so much that we will go further then we think we possibly can to help them and to show that love to them. This love is meant to be the same as the love God has for us. How did he show this love?
You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:6-8)
Jesus, who is God and was with God before time began, who was there at creation (John 1) and who is perfect and holy and cannot stand sin, willingly came to earth as a man. He was born in a stable - rejected from birth - and lived among us: sinful men and women. He suffered and was murdered by us. But that was his plan - so that he could be the sacrifice for us, taking our sin and God's wrath for that sin on himself. Because Jesus was God he could pay for our sins. Because he was perfect and yet human he could take our sins on himself and be the "lamb without blemish" that we needed. On the cross Jesus suffered what every christian rightfully should have suffered for eternity in hell. Then he died and was buried. On the third day he rose again to prove that he really was God and had truly paid for our sins, and now he has gone to heaven to prepare a place for us and to intercede for us before God continually until he returns to judge and brings all his people (Christians) to heaven.

That is sincere love. It is the type of love we are commanded to have. How does that compare to you and me? I find it hard to love people enough to give up my time money and energy to hang out with them when they need company. Jesus came and gave his life for sinners who hated him - would we die for people who hated and rejected us?

Firstly we need to ask this question: Do I even love God that much? Do I love him enough that I would die for him?
If the answer is yes, then do you love him enough to live for him here and now? To share the gospel even if it means people hate you for it? To be godly even if it means missing out on the "good" things in this life?
Without his mercy and grace we cannot even love God this much. Yet we are commanded to do so, and through the Holy Spirit God can work in our lives to change us and to create this unconditional love in us. He commands us not only to love him who has done so much for us, but to also love others that much.

What about loving those who are 'unlovable'? Those we just get annoyed at? Those who we clash with whenever we're around them?
We need to love them sincerely. That's hard! This isn't easy work - God doesn't call us to an easy life. It's so hard to love people, especially those we don't already get on with. And it's even harder to love them selflessly - not wanting anything back from them and not based on anything good about them. We need to love them because God loved us, because he loves them and because he has called us to love them. And we need to work hard to be sincere and honest in that love.

How do we develop this love?

  • It has to flow from our love for God. So the first step is loving Him more - knowing who he is and what he has done and praying for his help to love him more. We show our love for God through obedience to him, and we also build it through trusting him enough to obey him even when it costs us. He will enable us to do so as we trust in him, pray, read his word and start putting it into practice.
  • We also need to pray for his help to love others, realising that they are just as sinful as us, and yet Jesus died for them. There's no room for pride in sincere love, there is no room for selfishness. 
  • It also comes down to just doing it. It's easy to say we don't love people as much as we should. But when we realise that, we need to work immediately to change it and start loving people in our actions. As we do that we pray that God will help us through the Holy Spirit to sincerely love those people like he loved us.
What does this love look like?

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Between Christians it looks like having a genuine interest in the lives of fellow Christians. Being deeply involved with them and ready to help them however we can and whenever we can. When people are sick, we should get along side them and help them. When they're struggling we should do the same. We should be praying with them and for them, listening to them, encouraging them and sharing God's word with them lovingly. We should also be ready to lovingly rebuke them for sin and challenge them, while also being ready to be corrected ourselves for where we are falling short of God's standard.

For us and Non-Christians it primarily has to be sharing the gospel. The result of rejecting God is his wrath eternally - we all sin, and his standard is perfection. Jesus is the only one who could take our sin and God's wrath for it. Therefore, if we love these people we need to share the gospel with them - tell them that they are dead in their sins, and cannot save themselves. And tell them that God provided a way for them to be saved: He sent his one and only son into the world, so that whoever repents of their sins and puts their faith in Jesus will be forgiven. he will take their sin and they will be saved by God's limitless grace. 

We also need to share the gospel with them by living it: By loving fellow Christians and obeying God. In doing so we prove that God does in fact change lives and we should that we are different. Being salt and light involves both words and actions.

How are you going with love? Do you love God as you should? Do you love others as you should? How about those people you just really dislike? 

"Love must be Sincere"
Soli Deo Gloria!

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