BY BILL BRIGHT
Two gifted attorneys had great professional animosity, even hatred, for one another. Even though they were distinguished members of the same firm, they were constantly criticizing and making life miserable for each other.
Then one of them came to Christ through our ministry, and some months later, he asked me for counsel. “I have hated and criticized my partner for years,” he said, “and he has been equally antagonistic toward me. But now that I’m a Christian, I don’t feel right about continuing our warfare. What do I do?”
“Why not ask your partner to forgive you and tell him you love him?” I suggested.
“I could never do that!” he said. “That would be hypocritical! I don’t love him. How could I tell him I love him when I don’t?”
That lawyer had put his finger squarely on one of the great challenges of the Christian life. On the one hand, everybody wants to be loved. Most psychologists agree that man’s greatest need is to love and be loved. No barrier can withstand the mighty force of love. On the other hand, however, so many people never experience love. And many people don’t know how to express it especially to those with whom
they’re in conflict. But early in my walk with God, I made an exciting spiritual discovery that has enriched my life and the lives of tens of thousands of others. By learning and applying these truths, you, too,
can discover the life-changing power of love. It is a principle I call “How to Love by Faith.”
Five Truths about Love
There are three Greek words translated into the one English word love: ergs, which suggests sensual desire and does not appear in the New Testament; phileo, which is used for friendship or love of one’s friends or relatives and conveys a sense of loving someone because he is worthy of love; and agape, which is God’s supernatural, unconditional love for you revealed supremely through our Lord’s death on the cross for your sins. It is the supernatural love He wants to produce in you and through you to others by His Holy Spirit. Agape love is given because of the character of the person loving rather than because of the worthiness of the object of that love. Sometimes it is love “in spite of” rather than “because of.”
How does this kind of love express itself? The apostle Paul gave us an excellent description:
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. (1 Cor. 13:4-8)
Later Paul admonished, “Let love be your greatest aim” (I OCR. 14:1, TLB).). There are five vital truths about love that will help you understand the basis for loving by faith.
1. God loves you unconditionally.
God loves with agape, the love described in I Corinthians 13. His love is not based on performance. Christ loves you so much that while you were yet a sinner, He died for you (see Rom. 5:8).
The parable of the prodigal son illustrates God’s continuing unconditional love for His children. A man’s younger son asked his father for his share of the family estate, packed up his belongings, and took a trip to a distant land, where he wasted all his money on parties and prostitutes. About the time that his money was gone, a great famine swept over the land, and he began to starve. He finally came to his senses and realized his father’s hired men at least had food to eat. So he decided to return home, admit he had sinned, and ask for a job.
While he was on the road and still a long distance away, his father saw him and was filled with loving pity. He ran to his son, embraced him, and kissed him. Just as the son started to make his confession, his father interrupted to instruct the servants to prepare a celebration! His lost child had repented and come home, and he was lovingly restored to full status as a son.
Even when you are disobedient like the prodigal son, God continues to love you, waiting for you to respond to His love and forgiveness.
Just how much does He love you? Jesus once prayed to the Father, “. . . so that the world will know you sent me and will understand that you love them as much as you love me” (John 17:23, TLB, emphasis
added). Think of it! God loves you as much as He loves His only begotten Son, the Lord Jesus. What a staggering, overwhelming truth to comprehend! In fact, such love is beyond our ability to grasp with the
mind, but it is not beyond our ability to experience with our hearts.
2. You are commanded to love.
On one occasion, a teacher of the law came to Jesus and asked, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”
Jesus replied, ” ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these” (Mark 12:28-31).
Jesus also said, “There is a saying, ‘Love your friends and hate your enemies.’ But I say: Love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! In that way you will be acting as true sons of your Father in heaven…. If you love only those who love you, what good is that? Even scoundrels do that much” (Matt. 5:43-46)
When Christians begin to act like Christians and love God, their neighbors, their enemies, and especially their Christian brothers–regardless of color, race, or class we will see in our time, as in the first century, a great transformation in the whole of society. People will marvel when they observe our love in the same way people marveled when they observed those first century believers, saying, “How they love one another” (see Acts 2:44-41).
At one time in my Christian life, I was troubled over the command to love God and others so completely. How could I ever measure up to such a high standard? Two important considerations have helped me a
great deal. First, I found the assurance in the Bible that God has already given us what we need: “We know how dearly God loves us, and we feel this warm love everywhere within us because God has given us the
Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love” (Rom. TUB).
Second, by meditating on the attributes of God and the wonderful things He has done and is doing for me, I find my love for Him growing. I love Him because He first loved me.
As for loving others, when we are vitally yoked to Christ and walking in the Spirit, loving God with all our hearts, souls, and minds, we will fulfill His command to love others as ourselves. The apostle Paul explained just how wise this command is:
If you love your neighbor as much as you love yourself you will not want to harm or cheat him, or kill him or steal from him. And you won’t sin with his wife or want what is his, or do anything else the Ten Commandments say is wrong. All ten are wrapped up in this one, to love your neighbor as you love yourself. Love does no wrong to anyone. That’s why it fully satisfies all of God’s requirements. It is the only
law you need. (Rom. 13:9-10, TLB))
Love is also 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 is a sign or testimony to the world of our discipleship. Only love is.
3. You cannot love in your own strength.
Just as surely as “those who are in the flesh cannot please God,” so in your own strength you cannot love as you ought. How many times have you resolved to love someone? How often have you tried to manufacture some kind of positive, loving emotion toward another person for whom you felt nothing? it’s impossible, isn’t it?
By nature, people are not patient and kind. We are jealous, envious, and boastful. We are proud, haughty, selfish, and rude, and we demand our own way. We could never love others the way God loves us!
4. You can love with God’s love.
It was God’s kind of love that brought you to Christ. It is this kind of love that is able to sustain and encourage you each day. Through His love in you, you can bring others to Christ and minister to
fellow believers as God has commanded.
How does this love enter your life? It becomes yours the moment you receive Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit comes to indwell you. The Scripture says the “fruit of the Spirit is love” (Gal. 5:22). In other
words, when you are controlled by the Spirit, one of the ways His presence is demonstrated is by an outpouring of agape love in your life.
Now, this may all sound good in theory, but how do you make God’s love a practical reality in your experience? By resolutions? By self-imposed discipline? No. The only way to do it is explained in my final
5. You love by faith.
Everything about the Christian life is based on faith. You love by faith just as you received Christ by faith, just as you are filled with the Holy Spirit by faith, and just as you walk by faith.
But if the fruit of the Spirit is love, as we just saw, you may logically ask, “Isn’t it enough to be filled with the Spirit?” That’s true from God’s point of view, but it will not always be true in your actual experience.
Many Christians have loved with God’s love without consciously or specifically claiming it by faith. Yet, without being aware of the fact, they were, indeed, loving by faith. Hebrews I 1:6 reminds us that
“without faith it is impossible to please God.” Clearly, then, there is no demonstration of God’s love where there is no faith.
How, then, do we love by faith in a practical way? It works like this: We know God has commanded us to love. We also know He promised in 1 John 5:14-15 that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears
and will answer us. So we ask according to His command (His will), and then we receive His love by faith according to His promise, knowing His promises are always true. Let me illustrate how this happens.
In one case, I was having trouble loving a fellow staff member. I wanted to love him, and I knew I was commanded to do so. But because of certain inconsistencies and personality differences, I found it
difficult. Then the Lord reminded me of 1 Peter 5:7: “Let him have all your worries and cares, for he is always thinking about you and watching everything that concerns you” (TLB). So I decided to give the
problem to Him and love the man by faith to act lovingly toward him regardless of my feelings, depending on God’s love and strength within.
An hour later, I received a letter from that very man, who had no possible way of knowing what I had just decided. In fact, his letter had been written the day before. The Lord had foreseen the change in me. This friend and I met that afternoon and had the most wonderful time of prayer and fellowship we had ever experienced together.
One evening in Chicago, I spoke to a crowded room of more than 1,300 college students. They seemed to hang on every word as I explained how to love by faith. Early the next morning, a young woman with sparkling eyes and face aglow came up to me and said, “My life changed last night. For many years I have hated my parents. I haven’t seen them since I was 17, and now I am 22. I left home as a result of a
quarrel five years ago and haven’t written or talked to them since, though they have tried repeatedly to contact and encourage me to return home. I determined that I would never see them again.
“A few months ago, I became a Christian. Last night you told me how to love my parents, and I could hardly wait to get out of that meeting and call them. I now really love them with God’s kind of love,
and I can hardly wait to see them!”
Remember the lawyer whose story began this chapter? After he protested that he couldn’t love his critical partner, I explained how God commands His children to love even their enemies and that we love His way as a choice of the will, which we exercise by faith. I read to him the part of 1 Corinthians 13 quoted above. “You will note,” I said, “that each of these descriptions of love is not an expression of the emotions but of the will.”
Together we knelt to pray, and my friend asked God’s forgiveness for his critical attitude toward his law partner and claimed God’s love for him by faith.
Early the next morning, my friend walked into his partner’s office and announced, “Something wonderful has happened to me. I’ve become a Christian, and I’ve come to ask you to forgive me for all I’ve done to hurt you in the past and to tell you that I love you.”
The partner was so surprised and convicted of his own sin that he, too, asked for forgiveness and said, “I would like to become a Christian. Would you show me what I need to do?”
Other examples are endless. God has an infinite supply of His divine, supernatural agape love for each of us. It is for us to claim, to grow on, to spread to others, and thus to reach hundreds and thousands of others for Christ.
God’s love is the greatest power in the universe. It changed the course of history. It can change our world today. It can revolutionize your family, your neighborhood, your workplace, and your church. Nothing–absolutely nothing–can overcome it.
I encourage you to make a list of everyone whom you do not like and begin today to love them by faith. Include those people who have hurt you in the past. Pray for them. Ask for eyes to see them as Christ
sees them. Act lovingly toward them no matter how you feel. We don’t love people because they deserve to be loved–we love them because Christ commands it and empowers us to do so. Your relationships will
change as God’s love in you overflows to others. Further, you will be a channel of God’s own life and power into this needy world, and loving by faith, you will please your loving Master. The greatest force in the
world is love!
THE ABOVE MATERIAL WAS TAKEN FROM SEVEN PROMISES OF A PROMISE KEEPER, AND PUBLISHED BY FOCUS ON THE FAMILY PUBLISHING, PAGES 185-191. THIS MATERIAL IS COPYRIGHTED AND MAY BE USED FOR STUDY & RESEARCH PURPOSES ONLY.