“Love Your Neighbor”

8 Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law. 9 The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not covet,” and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”  10 Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law. — Romans 13:8-10 NIV

God is love, Jesus was God in the flesh, so Jesus is love and therefore He was the fulfillment of the law. The death of Jesus on the cross for our sins was love beyond our comprehension.  It wasn’t just love squared or love cubed, it was, and still is love to the power of infinity. The flesh is incapable of love in any degree, much less to the level of love that God has for us. Yet, we are instructed to work toward that goal. Is it a work  of futility?  For the flesh, yes.  For the Holy Spirit, no. While there is a plethora of emotions associated with love and acts of love, those feelings and emotions are not the reason we love. It is a decision we make. The death of Jesus on the cross was not a result of some emotional explosion in heaven, it was a decision made by the Trinity. Jesus paid all of our sin debt and we can never repay Him for that.  But, we still have a continuing debt that we can never pay in full. It is somewhat like a “full life” insurance policy. As long as you live, you owe regular payments on it.  Our debt of love will never be marked “Paid in Full”.  But we still need to be sure that it stays “paid up to date”.  Are we making regular, daily payments on our debt of love?

“The Gospel has come to you because it’s on its way to someone else.” – Anonymous

“Crushed For Our Sins”

5 But he was pierced for our rebellion,
    crushed for our sins.
He was beaten so we could be whole.
He was whipped so we could be healed. – Isaiah 53:5 NLT

Love Hurts

Because   He loved us, God gave us His Son who loved us so much He gave His life for us.  He suffered the most painful, undignified death that one could suffer. Love hurts.  Despised, rejected, acquainted with deepest grief. Love hurts.  “Pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins, beaten so we could be made whole, ​and whipped so we could be healed.”  No one took His life from Him, He gave it freely. And still, He is rejected. Love hurts.  Redemption requires blood, blood requires wounds. Love hurts.  ​Our love for Him will cost us our lives which we freely lay down to gain eternal life with Him. But instead of wounds, we receive healing spiritually and physically. On a lesser scale, showing His love to others can cause us to be rejected and yes, even beaten and persecuted. Love hurts.  The difference?  He suffered alone but we are partners with Him when we suffer.

Partners 

Love hurts​ but in the end, it brings glorious joy!

“The Gospel has come to you because it’s on its way to someone else.” – Anonymous

“Love Each Other Deeply”

22 You were cleansed from your sins when you obeyed the truth, so now you must show sincere love to each other as brothers and sisters. Love each other deeply with all your heart. – 1 Peter 1:22 NLT 

1 Peter 1:21-25 NLT

In these verses, we are reminded of how limited the English language is in words to express love.  We have one word, the Greeks had at least six words expressing different levels and types of love. Philia which means friendly and/or brotherly affection and is the word used here for the “love for each other”.  The second word used here for love is agape which is the word that comes closest to expressing the kind of love Jesus showed for us when He chose to die on a cross for our sins. It is a totally selfless, unconditional love. It is a love that is unquenchable and no matter how much it gives, it is never satisfied.  It only wants to give more and more. It is the kind of love that God wants us to have for Him and our brothers and sisters, as well as our enemies. The last part, “love for our enemies” is the one that gets our flesh in an uproar.Our flesh screams out, we have been wronged by that person and there is no way that I will ever forgive or love that person or those people. But Jesus told us in His model prayer to pray “forgive us as we forgive others” and we are also told:

14 For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins. — Matt. 6:14-15 NIV

​This is a requirement for those of us who have been born again. Our flesh is perishing but we are being renewed daily by the living Word of God. So, we must mortify the flesh and follow the leadership of the Holy Spirit that so richly abides within each of us. That leadership will require us to love and to forgive at all costs.

“The Gospel has come to you because it’s on its way to someone else.” – Anonymous

“Love Never Fails”

8 Love never fails. — 1 Cor. 13:8​a NIV

God’s Love

“Love never fails.” When I read these three words, I am at once convicted, confused and totally devoid of understanding what they mean. In a world where the divorce rate of the general population is at or higher than 50 percent and parents abuse their children, where does “love never fails” fit in?  In a world filled with violence and wars over religions, how do we reconcile the fact that “love never fails”?  Is it possible that what we, as humans, think of as love, isn’t love at all?  Is it possible that what we have come to know as “love” is nothing but an emotion or a word we use so we can have a close association with others? Have our fears of rejection and loneliness caused us to settle for something that is far less than what God intended and demonstrated to us?  Do we “love” to get or to give? It seems that humans love to get what they want and/or need and God loves to give us more than we could possibly ever need. As a human, I am not capable of love that never fails, but my GOD IS LOVE THAT NEVER FAILS. We are saved by grace through faith that gives us the hope of eternal life and full understanding one day. All of this because the greatest of all things is the love of God that has never failed and it never will. So, I cling to God and cry out to Him, “teach me God how to love in the truest sense of what You mean by love.”

“The Gospel has come to you because it’s on its way to someone else.” – Anonymous

“Is Always Hopeful”

7 Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.– 1 Cor. 13:7 NLT

The Standard for Love 

What if our every thought had to pass a test before it could be converted to spoken words or to actions?
Does this thought show others that I have patience?
Does it show kindness?
Is it truthful?
Does it show concern?
Does it reflect my trust in God?
Does it show the hope I have in Jesus?
Will it help me or those around me to endure trials and persevere?


All the above should be answered with a “Yes”
All the below should be answered with a “No” 

Is it boastful? Does it make me appear to be envious?
Does it disrespect or harm others?
Is it just for my benefit?
Is it a knee jerk response to something that has angered me?
If it fails in any area, we need to reconsider before we speak or act
.

26 Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” ​ –​- Matt. 19:26 NIV

“The Gospel has come to you because it’s on its way to someone else.” – Anonymous

“But If I Didn’t Love”

3 If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing. – 1 Cor. 13:3 NLT 

1 Cor.13:1-3 NLT

Anyone can do good works and have good intentions. You can help people without getting involved in their lives. It seems that in today’s society, that is the preferred way to help. If we just throw some money at the issue, maybe it will go away. But, our example, Jesus, got involved. He knew and we are learning that money is not the cure for a sinful world. We can take vows of poverty and give away all we have, but if we don’t love, it is a useless endeavor. Our churches can exercise all the God-given gifts, but if we don’t show love, it will not bring others to Jesus. We tend to show others “love” when it is convenient and costs us very little in terms of investing time and touch. Before anyone can really show love, they must have the love of God in their hearts. True love comes only from God.

16 We know how much God loves us, and we have put our trust in his love.​ God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them. 17 And as we live in God, our love grows more perfect. ​ – 1 John 4:16-17 NLT​

“The Gospel has come to you because it’s on its way to someone else.” – Anonymous

“Desire the Greater Gifts”

31 Now eagerly desire the greater gifts.​ ​1 If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.–1 Cor. 1​2:3​1-​1​3​:1 NIV

​In chapter 12, Paul has been explaining the importance of each individual in being part of the body of Christ. He ends chapter 12 with the instructions to desire the greater gifts. Before the translators came up with  divisions of chapters and verses, this would have been a continuation of Paul’s words without an interruption. Paul immediately launches into an elongated definition of love, giving us the “love” chapter of Corinthians 13. This is a pretty strong hint in what Paul considers to be the most important aspect of Christianity. Unless our words are backed up with actions of love, we are just making noise and creating much ado about nothing. Then Paul starts chapter 14 with this verse

Let love be your highest goal! But you should also desire the special abilities the Spirit gives—especially the ability to prophesy   –1 Cor. 14:1 NLT

Paul continues his letter with a discussion of gifts and their use in  the church.  Remember that Paul wrote these two letters to the Corinthians because they were having issues in the church about gifts and who was the most important. So, right in the middle of this discourse on the body of Christ and the gifts God has given us, he pauses to emphasize that none of this is about us.  It is about serving God in love and unity. Use your gift in love to edify others, but don’t think that it makes you any more important than anyone else in the congregation.

“The Gospel has come to you because it’s on its way to someone else.” – Anonymous

“Be Devoted to One Another”

10 Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. 11 Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.–Romans 12:10-1​1​ NIV

We should always be humble in allowing others to go before us, that is one way we can show our love for them and for Jesus. Jesus is our example. He left all of His glory in heaven, came to earth as a “man of sorrows” and had a servant’s heart. Though He never sinned, He was obedient even to death on the cross. In those days when someone was hanged on a tree, He was considered to be cursed by God. This curse by God for our sins was the agony that Jesus wanted to avoid, but He could not be disobedient to the Father. There are times when love calls us to be meek and lowly just as Christ demonstrated.  But there are other times when love and devotion to God calls for another kind of action. Jesus also demonstrated this when He drove the money changers from the Temple. His zeal for the Father’s house consumed Him. God is love, Jesus was all God, so Jesus was love, but that never caused Him to compromise His stand against wickedness and evil. He sometimes spoke very harshly to the scribes and Pharisees.  God doesn’t need us to defend Him or His Word.  He needs us to be His representative and stand for Him.

13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.–Ephesians 6:13 NIV


“The Gospel has come to you because it’s on its way to someone else.” – Anonymous

“Really Love Them”

9 Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. 10 Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other. – Romans 12:9-10 NLT

Unfortunately, the English language has one word for “love” so it can be confusing as to what we mean sometimes. To say we “love” our family, “love” our car and “love” ice cream, we use the same word, but the depth of feeling for each category would not be the same (at least, one would hope not). So, what does sincere love mean and how do we show it?   The Greek language has five or more words that can be translated “love”. The Greek word used here is “agape” which means affection, good will, love, or benevolence. So, the definition gives us some hints of what it is and how we can show it. Affection means to show tenderness or warmth to others. There are instances of people who have broken into tears because someone has tenderly touched them.  The human touch is an amazing thing and it is one way we can show sincere love.  Just as Jesus touched the lepers, we must be willing to touch the “untouchables”.  We can show sincere love with our benevolence. This can, but does not necessarily, include monetary gifts. Jesus said a cup of water given in His Name was showing your love for Him. It can be as simple as a smile or a hello or it can be complex, as shown in the story of the Good Samaritan. Either way, it requires us to be involved in the lives of those around us. One study has shown that  it takes at least seven touches to lead someone to Christ. We can show sincere love by being one of the seven.

“The Gospel has come to you because it’s on its way to someone else.” – Anonymous

“Serve One Another In Love”

13 For you have been called to live in freedom, my brothers and sisters. But don’t use your freedom to satisfy your sinful nature. Instead, use your freedom to serve one another in love. 14 For the whole law can be summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”15 But if you are always biting and devouring one another, watch out! Beware of destroying one another.– Galatians 5:13-15 NLT

Those who choose Jesus are “free indeed”. Jesus died to set us free from the bondage of sin. But, we must never take that liberty as a license to live a lifestyle of sin and indulgence in sinful pleasures. Whereas, before our repentance, we were bound to do those things that the flesh desires, we are now free to do the things that the Spirit desires. True repentance means turning from one way of life to a new way of life. In our old lifestyle, there was no compulsion to forgive anyone for anything or to love any one. Now, with the love of God and His Holy Spirit living in us, we are compelled to forgive and love. It is impossible for man to do that without the leadership of the Holy Spirit. If we truly love Jesus, we keep His commandments. Those commandments require us to love and forgive. Loving and forgiveness are not products of our emotions, they are willful decisions that we make. If “loving your neighbor as yourself” takes you to the cross, are you willing to go?
Jesus was!

“The Gospel has come to you because it’s on its way to someone else.” -Anonymous