What's Wrong With Godly Love?

How can we be recognized as Christ’s disciples? Many thoughts may come to mind, but let us consider Christ’s clear and unambiguous answer, as recorded in John 13:35: “By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” Christ was talking about godly love, “agape” in Greek. This kind of love is not a sentimental, temporary fleeting emotion — it is the enduring outgoing concern for the welfare, benefit, enrichment and happiness of our spiritual brothers and sisters.

How about us? Do we have this kind of love for one another?

Paul describes godly love (“charity” in the Authorized Version, “agape” in Greek) in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7. Let us look at the Living Bible’s interpretation of this passage:

“Love is very patient and kind, never jealous or envious, never boastful or proud, never haughty or selfish or rude. Love does not demand its own way. It is not irritable or touchy. It does not hold grudges and will hardly even notice when others do it wrong. It is never glad about injustice, but rejoices whenever truth wins out. If you love someone you will be loyal to him no matter what the cost. You will always believe in him, always expect the best of him, and always stand your ground in defending him.”

God’s love fulfills His Law (Romans 13:10). Christ kept the Law perfectly, since He loved God perfectly. Since love is the fulfillment of the Law, and sin is the transgression of the Law (1 John 3:4, AV), we don’t love God perfectly, when we sin. To put it differently, if we had perfect love for God, we would not sin, by transgressing His Law. God’s Law defines HOW to love Him and our neighbor. Do you have this kind of love — a love which manifests and proves itself by conduct — how we act? 1 John 3:18 tells us: “My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth.”

If we truly love our neighbor, we won’t speak evil of him or judge him (James 4:11). We won’t hate (compare 1 John 3:10-15) or ignore him, acting indifferently toward him. Rather, this is what we will do, as clearly explained in Matthew 25:34-40: “Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was hungry and you gave ME food; I was thirsty and you gave ME drink; I was a stranger and you took ME in; I was naked and you clothed ME; I was sick and you visited ME; I was in prison and you came to ME.’ Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see YOU hungry and feed YOU, or thirsty and give YOU drink? When did we see YOU a stranger and take YOU in, or naked and clothe YOU? Or when did we see YOU sick, or in prison, and come to YOU?’ And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these MY BRETHREN, you did it to ME.'”

How often have we heard or read those meaningful words? But, how often have we FAILED to apply them? Our love must be “without hypocrisy” or partiality (Romans 12:9). Rather, we are to be “kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another, not lagging in DILIGENCE, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord… distributing to the needs of the saints, given to hospitality” (Romans 12:10-13).

We ALL have failed in this regard. Hurt feelings, negligence, indifference, past sins or transgressions, not yet forgiven, have created — to a slight or perhaps even not so slight degree — a wall between us and our brothers and sisters, thereby preventing, to some extent, godly love to fully flow from us toward our neighbor. This problem — this LACK OF DILIGENCE — must be overcome. We must become more and more perfect in love (1 John 4:17; Matthew 5:43-48), as GOD IS PERFECT LOVE (1 John 4:16), without partiality or hypocrisy (compare James 3:13-17).

When God’s love in us flows from us toward others, God WILL do mighty things, as He did in the early days of the New Testament Church. We read in Acts 2:44-47: “Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need. So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.”

Yes, people recognized Christ’s disciples, when they showed their godly love for each other. As a consequence, God called many of those people into that loving group of believers — the Church of God. Each believer was part of that group. Each believer, as well as his or her example, did count!

It is not any different today. We must act and live today, as the Church did then. And what God performed then, He will accomplish now. So let us ask ourselves: “What’s Wrong With Godly Love?”

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