“Therefore, be imitators of God, as dear children. And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma. But fornication and all uncleanness or covetousness, let it not even be named among you, as is fiiting for saints” (Ephesians 5:1-3).
When we speak of “love” here, we mean the kind of love that God has for us. Its a self-sacrificing love that endures personal pain and seeks the benefit of the other person. It has got nothing to do with a “love life” of a sexual nature, nor are we really talking about the kind of love friends have between them, which is based on a common interest or some kind of desirability in the other person. There is a special word for the God-kind of love – “agape”. Its a word picked by the New Testament writers to distinguish the love of God from other loves, even parental love or affection.
Jesus said that the whole law of God hangs on the commandments to love God with everything you’ve got, and to love your neighbour as you love yourself. (see Matthew 22:37-40). Paul pointed out that all the commandments are summed up in the saying, “You shall love your neighbour as yourself.” (Romans 13:9)
This means that understanding how to love as God wants us to is really important.
It is so important that Paul basically says in 1 Corinthians 13, that even if you move in all the spiritual gifts, including gifts of revelation and power, but don’t have love – God’s kind of love, you are nothing.
This kind of Love is not an option. A life which manifests NO love for others is a life where the seed of God is not germinating. The basic motivations of such a person are all wrong. A person whose principle motivations are to make a name for themselves, to feed their pride, to satisfy their fleshly longings, or their desire for more stuff is a person who is living according to the flesh. Such a person, whether they claim to be a “born again Christian” or not, is on the path that leads to destruction (Romans 8:5,6). “Those who live like this shall not inherit the kingdom of God” (Galatians 5:21). “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him” (1 John 2:15,16).
Its one thing to know that God demands the fruit of love from us – but how do you do it?
I know for many years my life was totally devoid of the love of God, even though I was brought up with the Bible in a good Christian home. I didn’t have the love of God in my heart – therefore I could not give it out or walk in it. Even after encountering the reality of God it was a slow process to learn to walk in the love of God, and I am still learning.
The first step to walking in the love of God, is to be born again and receive a new nature from God, which is able to love. That step is vital. If you are not born again, you can be born again simply by calling upon the name of Jesus, asking Him to save you and make you a new person, trusting in His sacrifice of Himself for you, and his resurrection, and giving your life to Him.
Once born again, we still need a lot of change before we are really walking in love. The programming of our brain does not cause us to react in love. Rather, until our minds and hearts and renewed, we may act with the same kind of irritability, selfishness, pride, anger, envy and faithlessness in certain situations which “press our buttons”. There is an ongoing process of sanctification which we must embrace if we are going to walk in love, as God requires us to. Although our spirits are made new when we are born again, our minds are not – they need to be renewed also, by an application of the Word of God to our lives.
Receiving God’s Love
“We love Him because He first loved us.” (1 John 4:19)
Unless you experience the love of God for yourself you cannot love God or others with this kind of love. We are not originators of this God-kind of love. We have to receive it first. We must know it experientially, then we can give it out.
We find healing from God as we realise that in Christ, God truly accepts us. He doesn’t love us stoicly – sort of grinning and bearing us only – he actually likes us. And with our sins taken away through the atonement of Christ, God actually has a real pleasure in us. He loves us. He wants us to respond to His love.
Its a work of the Holy Spirit to come to know this love. “The love of God has been poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us” (Romans 5:5). We cannot achieve this knowledge of God by striving, by trying to, or anything like that. We have to be willing at some point just to “open our hearts” and receive it. What can make this hard for us is when our hearts are hardened and crusted over by layers of pride, cynicism, anger, selfishness and unbelief. This can be happening even when we are not conscious of it. I know from my own experience. It can take a work of God to soften a hard heart. It takes a work of God to heal a heart that has been hurt by rejection over the years. But God can do it, and does do it.
If you want to know God’s love for you, don’t try too hard. Instead, just talk honestly with God. And talk out loud. This helps a lot. Tell Him how you feel. Invite Him to work in your life. Then wait. It may not happen immediately. He may be talking to you about forgiving others first. Respond to what he shows you, and in time, He will reveal His love to you personally.
Our Needs are Met in God
In order to begin walking in love, we need to believe that “my God shall supply all your needs according to His riches in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19). Even though this verse has a definite financial application, I believe it applies also to all our emotional needs as well.
We need to trust that God will give us what we need in terms of companionship and love. Even if there is no human being who gives us this, God Himself can truly satisfy our hearts. Jesus truly is both the bread of life and the water of life. He does satisfy.
This is true even for single people wanting a spouse. If you are single, God is able to satisfy the longing of your heart until such time as he is ready to give you a good spouse. But you need to go after God in prayer and with meditation on the Word, and the cross also, if you want to know this fulfilment in reality. God does not allow us to be tempted beyond what we are able to endure, in terms of loneliness and sexual longing (1 Corinthians 10:13). His plan is good for us. He requires us to be pure in heart while we wait. But we need to make sure we are looking to HIM for the provision, and not in other directions. Because if we are looking elsewhere – to ourselves or to others, we will be miserable. The true love of God will enable us to give ourselves in joyful service to God and others even while we are still waiting for the right partner.
When we truly have our security in the Lord, and we know that He will provide our material needs as well while we follow Him, we are then freed to think about others, and how we can bless them.
“Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.” (Philippians 2:4). We are free to do this when we TRULY believe that we have a Heavenly Father who is watching out for us. Then we don’t have to use all our mental energy on getting what we need or want, instead we trust God, and start to consider how we may be a blessing to those around us – our immediate family, our friends, neighbours, the people at church, our colleagues, and so on. When this consideration translates to actions of kindness, a joy is released in our life that surprises us. And many unexpected blessings of favor and goodness tend to come our way also, as we begin to be released from the tyranny of selfishness and pride.
Some Practical Things
Loving God will reflect itself in voluntarily choosing to spend time with God, listening to Him, praising Him, praying to Him. If we love God, we will love His Word, the Bible, and read it, and let Him speak to us through it. We won’t do this if we are hiding from God, or unwilling to have His Will done in our lives. The love of God is closely related to doing the commandments of God (see John 15:10 and 1 John 5:3).
Jesus said that the things we do for others we are doing to Him. In Matthew 25, Jesus said of those who visited the sick, visited the prisoners, fed the hungry and thirsty, and clothed the naked in their life – that they did these things for him. So what we do counts – if it is done in faith and love! If we never do those acts of mercy despite having had the opportunity, we will end up as the goats in Jesus’ parable.
In the gospels, Jesus keeps emphasising the idea of doing good to those who cannot repay us back. Many times worldly people will show kindness and favor to those they hope to receive something back from in the future. This is not the love of God. Jesus told us that when we put on a banquet, we should invite the poor, the blind, the lame, the crippled – those who will never be able to repay us – and then we will be repayed by God at the resurrection of the righteous.
Its is possible to give thing to people without showing love. If by our attitude we show that we really hate being with the people we are serving, this is not love. If we are impatient with them, or gloomy, there are defects in our love walk. May God help us to show mercy with cheerfulness, as the Scripture says! (Romans 12:8).
We need to show the love of God in our families. Love can be expressed in different ways. Two very important ways that we can show love is through words of affirmation, and through acts of service. The world can be cruel out there and things don’t always go as we hope. Words of affirmation can rekindle hope and confidence in a person who has suffered blows in life. They are also needed by people who do well. We need words of affirmation to spur us on to greater levels of fruifulness and achievement.
Acts of service are important. It can mean a lot to parents for children to volunteer to do the dishes, or to vacuum the floor. Many wives need the practical help of their husbands at times. If the husband is always pursuing his own interests and not helping his wife, this is not an expression of the love of God. Normally it is women who show far more of the character of God than men, through their unselfish acts of service. Men need to follow the Scriptures, and “Lay down their lives for their wives” (Ephesians 5:25). One way they can do this, apart from words of love and affirmation, or simple acts of service, is to SPEND QUALITY TIME WITH THEIR WIVES. Many women feel emotionally alone and abandoned by their spouses. They need someone to tell their story to. Sometimes it can take years before the story of past hurts is fully told. Men need the love of God to listen and be there for their wives. And sometimes, the giving of flowers is exactly what a woman needs.
We need to be quick to ask forgiveness of one another if we fail and get angry or irritated with one another. It is very important to be humble enough to say words like “I was wrong”, “I am sorry”, “Please forgive me”. We are to forgive one another if we have a complaint against one another.
This is a Huge Topic
More ought to be written on this theme of walking in love, and I hope to do so as the Lord enables me. Its a challenging area to write on, because it deals with personal character, and not simply giftedness. May God help us to abide in Jesus, and be renewed in the spirit of our minds, so we can better express the love of God in every area of life in which we are involved.
“The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen”. (2 Corinthians 13:14).