Love Is Hard, but Not Impossible
Love. I read something once that said there isn’t a more talked about or written about subject in all the world. I know the love songs are endless, not to mention the romantic movies made and poems penned. But seriously, can I talk to you about the greatest love of all? (And it’s not what Whitney Houston sang, that “learning to love yourself is the greatest love of all.” Quite the contrary.) In the Bible, the word love is mentioned almost 350 times, which means it must be pretty important to its Author! Of all of those Scriptures, these two give the most full and beautiful picture of what God’s love is:
God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16).
God demonstrates his own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Rom. 5:8 NIV, emphasis added).
God loved, so He gave and He demonstrated. When you want to know what something is supposed to be, you go to the one who made it, right? So I want to take us to the Maker of love! I hope in this short piece to help us get a greater perspective of true love, strength for our hearts as we consider how much we are loved by God, and motivation to love and do good deeds (Heb. 10:24) with full force and reckless abandon!
Love Is Sacrifice
So often in our society, the word love is described as a feeling. Though biblical love is not detached from feelings, those feelings are not solely the warm and fuzzies that we normally associate with love. More often than not, when the Bible talks about love, it attaches words like pain, sacrifice, suffering, selflessness, obedience—and joy. They’re words that we don’t usually hear when the world talks about love. The world says “love doesn’t hurt.” We’ve got so much to learn! Praise God that we have the perfect example to teach us. Look at the love that God poured out on us at that old rugged cross. He crushed His Son, Jesus, to make us His children! Consider that our Lord had His face set to Calvary, knowing full well the cost. Remember, He loved us so much that He described it as “the joy set before him” (Heb. 12:2). Amazing!
Love Is More Than Words
Examine the relationships you have and how you demonstrate your love in them. With mostly words? Or in deeds, as 1 John 3:18 says, “Little children . . . love not in word or talk but in deed and in truth”?
Love is an action word. Our love needs to be seen, not to provoke pride or praise to ourselves, but to show the world how God’s people love. Our love is meant to put God’s beautiful love on full display. John 13:35 says, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” Yes, love is evangelistic!
Lest we think that this call to love is just from saint to saint or to our spouses, children, and family, consider that Luke 6:32–36 says that loving only those who love you back is without reward. No ma’am! God ups the ante and changes the whole game with Matthew 5:43–48: “You have heard that it was said, ‘love your neighbor and hate our enemy.’” Then Jesus says that instead we are to love our enemies. The goal is to be like Christ, right? Beloved, we were His enemies at the time He demonstrated His love for us! Exactly! So, sacrificial love became our mission when we accepted His gift of salvation.
Proverbs 10:12 says, Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all offenses.
And in 1 Peter, the apostle co-signs that in telling us that “love covers a multitude of sins” (4:8).
Just think about that. First of all, it covers. When something is covered, it can’t be seen. Consider that if we apply love as a covering, we could actually love those who’ve hurt us. For sure, this is a hard thing! This is a God thing! By His grace, I recently practiced this with a very difficult family relationship and what I can testify is that when you choose to love and forgive, you set two prisoners free: them and you! It takes the work of the Holy Spirit—but it brings God so much glory. In my case, it restored multiple relationships—the Helper was pleased to empower me in this, and God gets the glory.
Love Is an Equalizer
Loved ones, we are no more like our God than when we are operating in love—for our God is love (1 John 4:7–8)! When we remind ourselves of the tremendous way that He loves us, it helps us, as sinners, to love other sinners! The Lord, who was sinless, loved us while we were still in our sin. It’s simple! It’s not easy, but that’s the call. We are to respond humbly to what we have received like we know we don’t deserve it! It’s not like now that we are Christians, we deserve his love. No, apart from Christ, we are still unfit for God. This is why we praise Him! But wait . . . love doesn’t just cover, it covers a multitude! That ups the ante even more! Love isn’t some flimsy, one-and-done thing. No, it’s ongoing, it’s unconditional, it’s unending, and yet it’s possible. May we never forget that we have not been called to do anything that we have not been empowered to do. Hard does not mean impossible.
Before the Holy Spirit worked in our hearts to understand and believe the gospel, we were at a tremendous deficit! Frankly, we were enemies of God, headed for wrath, with no way to change course. But love stepped in! God sent someone who could close that gap, who could change the condition of our hearts, who could reconcile us, who could cancel the debt we owed. “Oh, how I love Jesus, because he first loved me!”
As a Christian, the power in this kind of love is at our disposal and we can use it in our relationships. We must use it, friends! Do you have people in your life who, for whatever reason, are just not able to hold up their end of the relationship? People who are very needy but unable to reciprocate it? Maybe they are in a difficult season of life or are just spiritually immature and the relationship requires you to do the heavy lifting. Love will give us the heart to do that, and the strength. Of course, no one wants to be in one-sided relationships where we are doing all the giving and sacrificing and getting nothing in return, nor are we called to be used in that way all the time. But consider that we may need to “make up the difference” for a season.
However, I would be remiss if I didn’t remind us that back in Matthew 5:44, he says to “pray for those who persecute you.” We are always called to respond in love like Christ. There’s no getting around it—that is the mark we press to. And it’s a press, Christian. Beloved, we brought nothing to our relationship with God, and out of his love for us, He made a way for us to live and not die, to be restored in fellowship with our Creator. Knowing the desperate and hopeless condition we were in before we were saved makes what we enjoy as saved folks beyond sweet! In fact, the gospel demands that we recognize that state of spiritual bankruptcy as the starting point. I can only imagine how heartbreaking it had to be for God to see His creation betray Him, but equally how joyful it had to have been for Jesus to restore us. Hallelujah!
The joy of restoring His siblings to our Heavenly Father! Oh, what a Savior! Just as the Lord endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God, we too must endure whatever comes with following Jesus. And one day, we will see Him face to face and be satisfied! We’ve heard it at many weddings and it’s real. Love is a lot of things according to 1 Corinthians 13:4–8: patient, not self-seeking, not keeping record of wrongs, and not delighting in evil but rejoicing in truth. And all of that demands sacrifice. I want to leave you with a quote from a book some of us gals are studying. There is a chapter entitled “What Is God Like” that goes through some of His attributes. Here’s what the author, Wayne Grudem, says about God’s love:
Because God has loved and will love us for us for all eternity, we are able to freely give that love to others. In fact, Jesus summed up our responsibility to God when he said, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. . . . You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Matt. 22:37, 39).
May we go forth loving others as if we know and accept that it’s our responsibility to God to do so!