Love that is Compelling

Love that is Compelling

Why invest our precious time and energy into loving our brothers and sisters in Christ?  John gives us four reasons in John 13:34-35 and 1 John 4:19-21, each of which would be compelling on its own!

  • Because God first loved us
  • God the Son and God the Father commanded us to
  • It is impossible to love God when we are not loving our brothers and sisters
  • Our love for one another is a beautiful and attractive witness to unbelievers

Knowledge of something is one thing, but how to apply it is another thing altogether. So, how might we love one another in a way that glorifies God?

Firstly, we remember that God commands us to love – so in this sense love is an action, not a feeling.  We decide to give another person love, and then we go ahead and do it.  In other words, we give love regardless of whether or not we feel love.

Secondly, we love broadly.

We don’t just love the person where everything feels easy – the “similar” person with a similar culture, life stage, job, gifting, interests or cause.  Nor do we just love the person who has loved us first (Luke 6:32-33).  It’s good to love those people, but that happens in every worldly community, built on similarity.  When a Christian community (a local church) becomes unified and harmonious despite huge apparent differences, that showcases and reveals to the world that a supernatural love and unifying force is present, and points to the power of the gospel.  And we look to Jesus as our model – who regularly astonished his disciples and the Pharisees with the breadth of the people he loved.

Thirdly, we love deeply.

We aim for deep relationships and strive to imitate the depth of Christ’s love for us.  We remember the depth of His mercy, grace and forgiveness to us and aim to pass it on to others.  We ‘let love be genuine’ and ‘outdo one another in showing honour’ (Romans 12:9-10).  We put on compassion, kindness, humility, meekness and patience.  We bear with one another and forgive one another (Colossians 3:12-13).  We have sympathy and a tender heart (1 Peter 3:8).  We commit to our local church (eg through membership) to show our commitment to loving our brothers and sisters.  We sacrifice many things for one another – our comfort (reaching out to new people), our preferences (eg music), our resources.

Fourthly, we invest ourselves and our time.

We serve the Lord alongside one another in many ways.  We invest in discipling or mentoring relationships to grow one another in Christ.  We bring down the barriers and invest in hospitality – inviting others to share in our lives in all sorts of creative ways.  We pray together, praising the Lord, confessing and presenting our needs and requests to Him.  Being part of “the prayer team” is a crucial part of loving one another and becoming united.  I think of my hockey team – it’s obvious when a couple of players are absent as we have no subs on the bench and we get exhausted and the other team runs all over us in the second half.  It’s perhaps less obvious when people are missing from a prayer meeting, but no doubt the impact on our church community, our spiritual battle, our fruitfulness and witness is much more profound than losing the hockey match!

And of course, all of this can only happen if it’s powered by the Word and the Spirit.  In our flesh we don’t want to do any of these things.  But the Spirit yearns for us to love our brothers and sisters as Christ loved us, to shine forth His glory.

Will all this internal focus make us insular, and ignore evangelising the lost?

We can do both!  We can love one another by partnering in evangelism and spurring on each other’s efforts.  We can pray for one another, bounce ideas off one another, and invite our unbelieving friends to join several of us for a meal, or to study the Bible together.  And as they mix with us,

by this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” – John 13:35

This was what we discussed at our men’s breakfast on Saturday: how might we as Christ’s people live out Christ’s love in a compelling way that proclaims to the world that God is in this place?

Let me finish with an analogy from The Compelling Community by Mark Dever and Jamie Dunlop, a book which inspired many of the thoughts in this post.

‘If you want to heat a large room with… burning coals, what do you do?  Do you spread the coals evenly through the room?  No!  You push the coals together – and as they burn brighter and hotter, the fire’s warmth fills the space… you must believe that God’s plan for reaching the lost is for local churches to burn brighter and hotter.’

May the Lord grant us the grace to burn hotter as we burn together for Christ.

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