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Love, the mark of a true Christian

Copyright © Andrew J. Shreeve 2013

This teaching is available in video format on my YouTube channel - Andrew Shreeve

 

Jesus said… By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another

John 13:35

 

Above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfection

Colossians 3:14

 

The love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us

Romans 5:5

 

The mark of a true Christian is love. The greatest Christian is not the person with the biggest church or international ministry; but the person who most yields to the Holy Spirit of love.

 

In the pursuit of business or ministerial 'success', we should never act in unloving ways when trying to control, or influence, a situation. When faced with any challenge the Christian should ask himself, or herself, the question: how would love deal with this issue?

 

1 Corinthians 13 gives us a deeper insight into what it means to love somebody. The Greek word 'agape' is translated charity in the King James Version; agape is also defined as love (Strong's Dictionary).

 

Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. Charity never faileth… now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity

1 Corinthians 13:4-8, 13

 

In the above passage there are sixteen attributes of love. As love is the greatest, it would be good for us to study, and constantly remind ourselves of, these sixteen profound attributes of love.

 

Hatred stirreth up strifes: but love covereth all sins

Proverbs 10:12

 

This verse reminds us that in interpersonal relationships love does not reveal and expose other people's sins, mistakes and weaknesses. Rather, love makes allowance for the weaknesses of others and believes, prays and hopes the best for their lives.

 

The meaning of 'agape' (love) includes: "the deep and constant interest in an unworthy object" (Vine's Dictionary). Every person should be treated with respect and value. Some people have trained themselves to disregard those who they think will not be able to add value to their lives, businesses, or ministries. They communicate nicely and intently to those who they think can advantage their situation, whereas they show little interest to those who they perceive will not bring them a significant advantage. This attitude is akin to the teaching of the apostle James when he instructs against preferring rich people over the poor (James 2:1-9). James writes in this context: if ye have respect of persons, ye commit sin (James 2:9).

 

In the ministry, we are often approached by 'poor ' people, or people we may not think have much to offer. My experience has been that the 'poor' are often faithful and honourable people who bring tremendous blessings into our lives. We have been so pleased that we did not judge them, count them as worthless, and treat them without love. We see a similar experience in the life of King David of Israel, where the distressed, indebted and discontented were those who initially gathered unto him:

 

David… escaped to the cave of Adullam… and everyone that was in distress, and everyone that was in debt, and everyone that was discontented, gathered themselves unto him: and he became a captain over them

1 Samuel 22:1-2

 

David received the distressed, indebted, and discontented. It was these who later became David's mighty men (1 Chronicles 12:1). The scripture says of these mighty men: they were armed with bows, and could use both the right hand and the left in hurling stones and shooting arrows out of a bow… men of might, and men of war fit for the battle, that could handle shield and buckler, whose faces were like the faces of lions, and were as swift as the roes upon the mountains (1 Chronicles 12:2, 8).

 

God believes in and sees great potential in every person, regardless of their current state of affairs. As we love all the people who come across our path, we are lifting them up to fulfil their potential, just as David helped the distressed, indebted and discontented to become mighty men of valour and war. When we love we are not selfishly seeking our own profit, but rather opening our hearts to treat the poor and unworthy with respect.

 

Let us examine the example of Jesus' love: Jesus chose to come to earth and take on a human body (John 1:14). Before His incarnation, Jesus was perfectly safe, and secure, with the Father and the Holy Spirit in heaven (John 8:58). He came to earth because we were all condemned to hell because of our sin, and we could not save ourselves (John 3:18). Even though we were enemies of God, Jesus came and did what was necessary to provide an escape from what would otherwise have been an eternity in hell for us (Romans 3:19, 5:10, 2 Thessalonians 1:9). It was love that motivated Jesus to leave heaven and come to earth as a man (John 3:16).

 

On earth, Jesus ministered to the sick, poor and sinful. Jesus did not isolate himself in an ivory tower of luxury and riches, but walked the earth during a period when there was no electricity or modern comforts like we have today. Jesus' life was focused on loving people, He was not focused on building a ministry per se; rather Jesus was led by the Holy Spirit to do what was necessary to love people. We should follow Jesus' example.

 

People, however, incorrectly judged Jesus' actions and accused Him of being a man gluttonous, and a winebibber, a friend of publicans and sinners (Matthew 11:19). But Jesus' motive was love, as He said; they that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick… for I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance (Matthew 9:12-13). When we step out to love the unlovely and mix with sinners, we run the risk of being judged by the self-righteous. But like Jesus, love is prepared to risk one's reputation to help the sinner.

 

Jesus was also not primarily focused on the accumulation of financial wealth (Matthew 6:19-24); as He was more interested in the wellbeing of people. When we place money as our first priority we diminish our capacity to love people, as our decisions and priorities are based on financial gain rather than love. Jesus said no man can serve two mastershe cannot serve God and mammon (Matthew 6:24). Rather than coveting after and loving money, we should follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness (1 Timothy 6:11). But note, the scripture adds that as we do not trust in uncertain riches but in the living God that the Lord will give us richly all things to enjoy (1 Timothy 6:17).

 

There is also sometimes a glorification within Christianity of performing the miraculous, or having great intellectual capability. Whilst these are good and notable achievements they are not the pinnacle of Christian achievement: the greatest attribute and mark of a Christian is love (1 Corinthians 13:1-3). When discerning which leaders to follow we should not primarily look for giftedness, persuasiveness or popularity; but for the distinguishing mark of love (1 John 4:7-8).

 

Sometimes we act in ways which are out of harmony with love, resorting to unloving methods to promote and maintain our status, in pursuit of our own 'success', even sometimes withholding the common courtesies of love and respect towards other human beings. When we act without love we are damaging our lives and ministries. We may be deceived into thinking our unloving actions will protect and advance our situation, but if there is a gain it will only be for the short term. Ultimately, unloving actions are the sowing of sinful seeds which will hinder us receiving our godly inheritance (Galatians 5:19-21). On the other hand, the fastest way to success is to yield to the Holy Spirit of love. When we love our neighbour as ourselves we, do well and, are fulfilling the royal law according to the scripture (James 2:8).

 

Let us pray: "Father in heaven, thank you for the wonderful example of love which we see in your Son Jesus Christ. We can see that Jesus was not primarily motivated by the desire for His own promotion and accumulation of wealth. Rather, Jesus was motivated by the desire for the healing, welfare and eternal salvation of others. Thank you that your love is also shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit. Please strengthen us to love those around us by yielding to your Holy Spirit of love. We know as we love those around us we are fulfilling the greatest of your commandments and causing your kingdom to grow and expand. We pray this in Jesus' name, Amen."

 

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