Theme of the Week: Four Essential Loves
Bible Verse: “Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.” 1 John 3:18
Scripture Reading: Luke 15:1-32
When talking about authentic love for our neighbor, we must bring it down out of the general, ethereal love for a faceless mass of people known as humanity. Loving the lost or loving my neighbor assumes that we actually know some lost people; that we are developing the kind of relationship with people who need the good news of God’s grace; that we strike up conversations as friends; that we do not treat the unsaved as projects. It also assumes that we are making every effort to understand our neighbor as much as we possibly can.
Genuine love for lost people is not something we froth up like a good latte. This type of love is something that only Christ himself can do in and for us by the Holy Spirit.
Jesus made it very clear that loving God with our whole person is not made manifest most effectively in the lifestyle of a hermit. A God-oriented life does not foster isolation from others. In fact, Jesus stated in no uncertain terms that the opposite is true by weaving a seamless link between Leviticus 19:18 and Deuteronomy 6. Love for God in and of itself, according to Jesus’ teaching, does not fulfill all the law and prophets. It is love for God and love for one’s neighbor that accomplishes this. “On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 22:40).
The Greek word that is translated by our English word love here is agape. This term describes an aggressive, boundless extension of goodwill to those who have neither earned such love nor have the capacity or perhaps even the willingness to repay. Yet as we love and serve our neighbor to this degree, we love God. Was not this what Jesus meant when he said, “Truly I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me” (Matthew 25:40). However, when we allow that love for neighbor alone to be the foundation of our ethics or religious activities, we have succumbed to a humanistic paradigm that will inevitably run aground. Love for our neighbor must be organically linked to our wholehearted love for the Lord himself.
We show ourselves to be true children of God, and therefore demonstrate our wholehearted love for him, in the way we love the lost. We must love them as God loved us in Christ. Love for our neighbor cannot be separated from our love for God. We love our neighbor and in particular, lost people, in the very same way God loves us – we choose to love them. Love for our neighbor that is divorced from our love for God is nothing more than noble humanistic effort; and love for God divorced from neighbor love is empty, self-centered religion.
We love our neighbor and in particular, lost people, in the very same way God loves us – we choose to love them.
Personal Reflection: What would you say has been your greatest fear or hindrance in loving lost people enough to witness or evangelize, or both?
Taken from Four Essential Loves: Heart Readiness for Leadership and Ministryby William R. McAlpine Copyright © 2013 by William R. McAlpine. Used by permission of Wipf and Stock Publishers, 199 W. 8th Ave., Suite 3, Eugene, OR 97401
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