Let love be genuine.Romans 12:9
According to pop songs people are looking for real love. If we go by those pop songs, though, the idea of real love can get confusing in a hurry.
That’s not just an issue for pop songs or indeed popular culture. There are a lot of conflicting and confusing messages doing the rounds to define love. There are different types of love to be sure in different contexts. It helps, however, if there is a good foundation to understand the term and see it in action. It helps to make the difference between the junk versions and the real thing.
When the apostle Paul appealed to the community of grace in Rome to exhibit the true marks of a follower of Jesus He started at the same place that Jesus highlighted as the key distinguishing mark of His followers.
A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.John 13:34-35
The love that we have for one another reflects the love that Jesus shows us. This is a love that forgives and restores. This is a love that corrects and rebukes. This is a love that leads by example and encourages others to display the model presented. This is love that seeks the benefit of the other and esteems them highly. This is love by action to the point of self-sacrifice.
Paul in addressing another community of grace over in Corinth would highlight the qualities of that love in action in the context of the more excellent way in which the Body of Christ interacts.
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, 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 Corinthians 13:4-8
Compared to the confusing messages about love that the world presents – this kind of love is clearly one that goes beyond sentimental feeling, a desire for immediate self-gratification in the pretense of doing someone a favour and something done by dreary habit. This description of love is amazing in its depth and scope. Wonderful though the love of a parent is, this is an even greater love than that. Beautiful though the love of a spouse can be, this is an even greater love than that.
This is why it’s crucial that we experience this kind of love first and foremost. We experience this love from God to us to be able to relect it to Him. We experience this from God to us so we are able to display it to others. We experience it as we actively engage in the story of creation where we were made to be a part of the love story going on from eternity, but our rebellious and disobedient character turned from that love and entered a whole realm of mis-steps and mistakes. Looking to do it on our own and fialing all along the way and God in His mercy and kindness extended His love to us that we could be restored, forgiven, cleaned up and put to the purpose for which we were always created. We receive that love and as we do so become the best vessels to share that kind of love.
That love remains a challenge in our every day life, though. It’s a challenge in our interactions from intimate family relations to the community of grace. It’s a challenge because the closer we get to each other, the greater the likelihood of irritation, annoyance, exposue to each other’s sin and that particularly irksome time when they disappoint or worse betray.
It’s a challenge overcome by constant referral to the example in Jesus. Constant reminding of His patience, His focus, His restoring and forgiveness and His commitment to righteousness.
Real love that reflects the love of Christ is a mark of a true Christian.
(This blog series was inspired by the Christian meditation on The Marks of a True Christian from the Encounter podcast.)
For His Name’s Sake
C. L. J. Dryden