By Bill Bright

Among all the words in the Bible, one simple word stands alone as the supreme description of the essence of the Christian life. That word is love.

Why is love so important? We could give many reasons, but here are a few:

First, we’re told that love is not just one of God’s attributes, but the very essence of His being: “God is love” (1 John 4:8, NIV). All true love finds its origin in God and flows forth from Him, who is love

Second, it was God’s love that caused Him to create us in the first place. Love demands an object. God created us as an object of His love and to share with us His eternal riches. Even after God’s creation
failed Him and rebelled against Him, He demonstrated His love toward us in that “while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8).

What incredible love! God’s love for us is unconditional and undeserved. He loves us in spite of ourselves.

Third, the command to love is the greatest commandment and the summation of all the law God gave His people to live by. When a Pharisee asked Jesus which was the greatest commandment, He replied,
“`Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: `Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law
and the Prophets hang on these two commandments” (Matt. 22:37-40). Paul reiterated this truth when he insisted that “love is the fulfillment of the law” (Rom. 13:10).

Fourth, love is a sure sign of our discipleship. “All men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another,” Jesus said (John 13:35). Our doctrine should be sound. Our faith should be strong. But
neither of these is a sign or testimony to the world of our discipleship. Only love is.

For that reason, love must be foundational in our lives, motivating everything we do. “Follow the way of love,” Paul tells us. “Do everything in love” (1 Cor. 14:1; 16:14).

Loving by Faith

What is love? Paul describes it best in 1 Corinthians 13. He tells us, among other things, that love does not seek its own way (v. 5). It is selfless rather than selfish. Without this love, Paul says, we are
nothing. Supernatural knowledge, spiritual gifts, mountain-moving faith even being martyred for our Lord-have no value apart from love to motivate and guide them (vv. 1-3).

How sobering are God’s priorities! When we read the scriptural criteria for genuine love, we may be tempted to despair. Jesus even commanded us to love our enemies (Matt. 5:44); how can we live up to such a standard? In our own human strength, it’s simply impossible.

Does this mean God commands us to do something we’re not capable of doing? Of course not. The solution to this dilemma lies in understanding two great spiritual realities.

The first reality is that we can actually love others with God’s own love. In fact, that’s why Paul speaks of love as a “fruit of the Spirit” (Gal. 5:22). Love is an outworking of God’s own personality through us by His Holy Spirit.

The second reality is that we can appropriate God’s love by faith, based on His command and His promise. That’s one reason why the Scripture says that “without faith it is impossible to please God”
(Heb. 11:6)- for only through faith can we love according to His command.

How does God’s love enter our lives? It comes to us whenever we receive Jesus Christ, allowing His Spirit to indwell us: “God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us” (Rom. 5:5). God has actually supplied us the resource we need to love others: His own love. We can share this love with others using the same principle we’ve used to receive Christ, to pray and to receive other gifts from the Lord. It’s the principle of faith.

We know that God has commanded us to love-that it’s His will for us to love. We also know that “if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us” and promises to answer us (1 John 5:14-15). So we can ask God to give us the ability to love others, confident that what we’re asking is according to His will. Then we can receive what we’ve asked for by faith in His promise to answer such a prayer.

What does that mean in practical terms? Here’s a simple guideline for walking in God’s love: As decisions arise throughout the day involving others, pray for God’s love, then by faith apply it to each decision and person. It works.

I once challenged the students at a college conference to become a part of a revolution of love. I suggested they make a list of all the individuals they found it difficult to love and then begin to love them by faith. Early the next morning, a young woman with sparkling eyes and face aglow came up to me.

“My life was changed last night,” she said. “For many years I’ve hated my parents. I haven’t seen them since I was 17 years old, and now I’m 22. Last night you told me how to love my parents, and I could hardly wait to get out of that meeting and call them. Can you believe it? I now really love them with God’s kind of love, and I can hardly wait to see them!”

On another occasion, two gifted attorneys had great professional animosity, even hatred, for one another. One of them came to Christ through our ministry. After learning how to love by faith, he went to his partner, told him that he had become a Christian and asked forgiveness for all he had done to hurt him. The partner was so moved that, to his friend’s surprise, he also asked forgiveness. And he asked
how he, too, could become a Christian.

Other examples of loving by faith are endless. God has an infinite supply of His divine, supernatural love for each of us. It’s there for us to claim, to grow in and to spread to others so that hundreds and
thousands can be reached for Christ.

When we love by faith, we discover that God’s love is the greatest power known to the human race. It has changed the course of history. It can change our world today.

(The above information was published by CHARISMA, May 1993)

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