Thursday, October 31, 2013

The L Word

                Love is a four letter word that is used to describe food, clothing, television shows, relationships, hobbies, as well as anything else that we deem worthy of the word today. Love is used so casually today that I believe we have forgotten what it truly means. Studying the book of John these past few months have been eye opening for me. I have come to see my deep need for Jesus, a need I have always had, but more so now than before. I have come to understand the depths of His sacrifice and the hope that He gives in a more intimate way. The book of John has become more of a treasure with each passing day than any other book I have studied so far. One of the things that stick out at all of us who are studying this book is love; the Love that the Savior has for us, the love that the Father has for Him, and the love that we are to have for one another.  
                Love is more than just a word we use to describe something we admire or crave. Love is more than just a word we use to tell someone how we feel. Love is not a feeling, love is a commandment. Love is not a suggestion; love is commanded by God the Father and Jesus Christ our Lord. Love is not love if it is not seen.
                “As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love. If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love. These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full. This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.” John 15:9-13
                As the Father loved Jesus, so has Jesus loved us; what a statement! Our English language has made the word love become of little importance, and we have lost the meaning of what love truly is. When Jesus says that the Father has loved Him, He is saying that He is beloved of the Father. This kind of love expresses a deep and constant love, a love that is perfect and never failing. In Matthew 3:17 God the Father says, “This is My beloved Son in whom I am well-pleased.” Jesus was beloved of God the Father, and we are beloved by Jesus. Jesus’ love for us is deep, it is constant, it is not dependent upon me or what I do, it is dependent on the love that the Father has for the Son. Jesus’ love is bestowed upon us, unworthy and undeserving as we are, His love will never leave us. The same love that God the Father has for Jesus Christ His son, is the same love that we have been given.
                What God the Father says of Christ, He speaks of us also. He stated to the world at large that Jesus was His well-beloved. All who were near heard the voice of God speak His approval over Jesus. That same voice speaks over us today- it says, “You are my child, in whom I am well-pleased.” We are His beloved. You are His beloved. He speaks it to the world at large.
                Jesus goes on to say that we are to abide in His love. If we keep His commandments we will abide in His love. You cannot love unless you abide. You cannot understand and know love unless you abide. Abide is a term used to draw us into intimate fellowship with Jesus Christ. It is a personal term that should awake in us a need for Jesus. When you hear the word abide what comes to mind? I see a baby, huddled close to its mother’s bosom, sleeping peacefully. Abiding is a close connection that cannot be broken, it is a desire to be as close to Jesus Christ as one can possibly get. It is a constant dwelling in the love that Jesus has just told us He has for us.
                He also states that if we keep His commandments we will abide in His love. What does Jesus command us? He commands us to love the Lord our God with all our heart, all our soul, all our mind, and all our strength, and to love our brothers as ourselves. (Matthew 22:37-39) These are commandments, not suggestions. A commandment is a directive given and is meant to be followed. It is not something we to toss aside or leave. We are to cling to them, to give all our attention to them, and to keep them, no matter what.
                Jesus says that because we are His, we are beloved. That means that all who He gave His life for are beloved, they are loved by Him. He commands that we love the same. Jesus tells us that if we keep His commandments we will abide in His love. It is through our obedience that love is defined and fulfilled. Love is a choice, it is not an emotion; it is not just a word used to describe our favorite food. It is a choice we make each day to do.  “Notice, it’s a commandment- which means love is not a matter of emotion, but of volition. It’s a choice. Jesus doesn’t ever command us to feel something. He commands us to do something.” (Jon Courson, New Testament Commentary on John 15) Jesus says to us, “My commandment is that you make the decision to love.”
              
  Love is a commandment. Just like all the other commandments, we have a choice to either do them or ignore them. There is no picking and choosing who you will love, there is no picking and choosing who is worthy of our love. Love is commanded of us, just as loving God is commanded of us. The two go hand in hand. You cannot love God and not love your brother. If you say you love God, then we are to love our brothers and sisters in the Lord. John tells us in his epistles that if we say we love God and do not love our brothers then we do not know nor understand God at all. John says that if we love God and do not love our brother than we are liars, and the truth is not in us. (1 John 4:20-21)
                When you sit down in your chair or pew at church, and a person you are not really fond of sits beside you, you have a choice to make. You can either choose to love that person, or you can choose to ignore them. You can choose to say, “I love you and I will show you my love by my actions”, or you can choose to ignore them, and ignore the commands of God. The choice is in your hands. Jesus also tells us that no one has ever experienced greater love than one who would lay down his life for another.
                That is the true meaning of love. Love is letting go of you and picking up someone else. Love is saying, “You are more valuable than I am, so therefore I choose to love you.” Love picks up the broken and hurt of this world and takes their pain upon themselves. I have had many people tell me they love me, but have not seen that love in any aspect of our relationship. Love is not about you- it is about the person you are told to love. Love is about others, not about you.
              
 Jesus tells us to lay down our lives. He commands us to love and then shows us how through His cross. Love purposes in the spirit to set aside one’s own self for the sake of others. Love always requires death. Someone has to be willing to die to their pride, desires, passions, and wants for the sake of someone else. 1 John 3:16, “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.”

                Love, my brothers and sisters, is more than just a word. It is a commandment given to us so that we may abide and dwell in the peace and joy of our Lord God Jesus Christ. Love is not a suggestion, it is not something we can pick up on Sunday and lay aside on Monday. It is to be the defining aspect of our lives, the steps that lead us to Christ and the hope that points others to the perfect example of Love ever given to mankind. It is in our love that others see Jesus; it is through our love that we become the children God desires us to be. Love is not a suggestion, it is a commandment. The choice is yours. You choose to love or you choose to leave it by the wayside. In the end, love never fails. In Jesus Name, Amen and Amen.