Selfishness is when we pursue gain at the expense of others. But God doesn’t have a limited number of treasures to distribute. When you store up treasures for yourself in heaven, it doesn’t reduce the treasures available to others. In fact, it is by serving God and others that we store up heavenly treasures. Everyone gains; no one loses.
Fear is selfish because it about protecting myself, my feelings, my stuff, rather than asking how I could heartily show love to God and others. Love reaches out to give and to meet the needs of another, but fear focuses on what I might lose, making me move away from the problem. Love causes me to work toward solutions even when I don’t really feel like doing that. Fear makes my world grow smaller and smaller as I seclude, hesitate, and self-protect. Love is so powerful it can cast out my fear when I allow God’s love to flow in me and through me!
Fear is self-protecting. Love is self-giving. Fear asks, “What will I lose?” Love asks, “What can I give to others?” Fear moves away from the problem. Love moves toward the problem. Fear secludes self. Love reaches out beyond self. Fear hesitates. Love moves ahead. Fear can be cast out. Love can cast out fear.
Disturbers are to be rebuked, the low spirited to be encouraged, the infirm to be supported, objectors confuted, the treacherous guarded against, the unskilled taught, the lazy aroused, the contentious restrained, the haughty repressed, the poor relieved, the oppressed liberated, the good approved, the evil borne with, and all are to be loved!
I’m planning to be civil toward any of my neighbors who may be heading for the local mosque. But in no way will I accept the charge that to tell them of the truth of the gospel of Jesus is to jeopardize the “pluralism” that has made America a great springboard of freedom for so many generations. And no way either will I concede the right – a right that has now become a duty – to tell them that the error of their thinking is profound. I will do that not because I hate them, but because I love them.
Learning how to love your neighbor requires a willingness to draw on the strength of Jesus Christ as you die to self and live for Him. Living in this manner allows you to practice biblical love for others in spite of adverse circumstances or your feelings to the contrary.
Loving others in a biblical manner involves your thoughts, words, and actions and is a sign of your being a disciple of Christ. Loving others biblically is dependent on your commitment to the Lord Jesus Christ and is not dependent on people, circumstances, or your feelings.
For where love is wanting, the beauty of all virtue is mere tinsel, is empty sound, is not worth a straw, nay more, is offensive and disgusting.
We are trusted to spread the spirit of love. Tenderness in judgment, the habit of thinking the best of one another, unwillingness to believe evil, grief if we are forced to do so, eagerness to believe good, joy over one recovered from any slip or fall, unselfish gladness in another’s joys, sorrow in another’s sorrow, readiness to do anything to help another entirely irrespective of self – all this and much more is included in that wonderful word love. If love weakens among us, if it ever becomes possible to tolerate the least shadow of an unloving thought, our Fellowship will begin to perish. Unlove is deadly. It is a cancer. It may kill slowly but it always kills in the end. Let us fear it, fear to give room to it as we should fear to nurse a cobra. It is deadlier than any cobra. And just as one minute drop of the almost invisible cobra venom spreads swiftly all over the body of one into whom it has been injected, so one drop of the gall of unlove in my heart or yours, however unseen, has a terrible power of spreading all through our Family, for we are one body – we are parts of one another. If one member suffers loss, all suffer loss. Not one of us liveth to herself.
The perfection of God’s love, in perfect harmony with all of God’s other perfections, is inevitably displayed in different ways in the varied relationships He maintains. Similarly, mature Christian love should be nurtured as a reflection of the very being of God, in harmony with those other divine perfections we must emulate…and this love will be displayed in different ways in the very relationships we maintain.
To love this God means, among many other things, that we will be hungry to get to know Him better; conversely, in learning His words and ways, His attributes and His glory, what He loves and what He hates, we will find that our understanding of what it means to love God, what it means to love enemies, what it means to love brothers and sisters in Christ, will all be progressively modified and enriched. Precisely because, as created, dependent, and redeemed creatures, we are called to love our Creator, our Sovereign, our Redeemer with heart and soul and strength and mind, we will be firmly led to think robustly about what He is like, how He views evil, what rights and responsibilities He gives to the state in a fallen world, His role both in making peace and in judgment, and, above all, His commitment to His own glory as God.
If contemporary Christians ask themselves how much of their love reflects the love of God in its various dimensions, they should also ask themselves how much of their hatred reflects the hatred of God. Just as we can prostitute love, so we can prostitute hatred.
Part of our evangelistic activity has to do with the way we relate to each other as believers. Jesus said, “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:34-35). If you are not expressing proper Christian love to every member of your church, you are in disobedience to God and you are hindering the evangelistic work of your church.
The more excellent something is the more likely it will be imitated. There are many false diamonds and rubies, but who goes about making counterfeit pebbles? However, the more excellent things are the more difficult it is to imitate them in their essential character and intrinsic virtues. Yet the more variable the imitations be, the more skill and subtlety will be used in making them an exact imitation. So it is with Christian virtues and graces. The devil and men’s own deceitful hearts tend to imitate those things that have the highest value. So no graces are more counterfeited than love and humility. For these are the virtues where the beauty of a true Christian is seen most clearly.
What is the surest character of true, divine, supernatural love that distinguishes it from counterfeits that arise from a natural self-love? It is the Christian virtue of humility that shines in it. Divine love above all others renounces and abases what we term “self.” Christian love or true love is a humble love… In that person we see a sense of his own smallness, vileness, weakness, and utter insufficiency. We see a lack of self-confidence. We see self-emptiness, self-denial, and poverty of spirit. These are the manifest tokens of the Spirit of God.
There are people who love those who agree with them and admire them, but have no time for those who oppose and dislike them. A Christian’s love must be universal!
Let a man have what he will, and do what he will, it signifies nothing without charity; which surely implies that charity is the great thing, and that everything which has not charity in some way contained or implied in it is nothing, and that this charity is the life and soul of all religion, without which all things that wear the name of virtues are empty and vain.
And at the end of the world, when the church of Christ shall be settled in its last, and most complete, and its eternal state, and all common gifts, such as convictions and illuminations, and all miraculous gifts, shall be eternally at an end, yet then divine love shall not fail, but shall be brought to its most glorious perfection in every individual member of the ransomed church above. Then, in every heart, that love which now seems as but a spark, shall be kindled to a bright and glowing flame, and every ransomed soul shall be as it were in a blaze of divine and holy love, and shall remain and grow in this glorious perfection and blessedness through all eternity!
But it is doubtless true, and evident from these Scriptures, that the essence of all true religion lies in holy love; and that in this divine affection, and an habitual disposition to it, and that light which is the foundation of it, and those things which are the fruits of it, consists the whole of religion.
In some ways, this is the fullest expression of what Christian love is all about. It does not seek its own; it does not believe that “finding oneself” is the highest good; it is not enamored with self-gain, self-justification, self-worth. To the contrary, it seeks the good of one’s neighbor – or enemy.
Imagine [in heaven] being able to love another human being without even a tinge of selfishness. Imagine appreciating, no, reveling in the exalted capacities and stations that God bestows on another without so much as a modicum of jealousy.
[Christian love] is that benevolent disposition or kindness which consists in good-will to all creatures, and which leads us, as we have opportunity to promote their happiness… Such is love – not a mere natural amiableness of temper—not a soft, weakly, disposition. No! but a fruit of the Spirit. It is a benevolence, which is the result of regeneration; cherished by a sense of God’s love to us in Christ Jesus; guided in its exercises by the Holy Scriptures; and directed, as its end, to the glory of God.
Love is a grace which many professing Christians think far too little about; but it is of infinite value in the eyes of God. Love is the most characteristic feature of Christ’s image in a renewed man. Love is the most precious fruit of grace; and yet the fruit which too many of His professed followers seem to think themselves hardly under any obligation to cultivate.
It is this lack of love among Christians which today makes the church an insipid, lukewarm institution. People come to find affection and are turned off by our tepidity.
Do I love the world the way God loves the world, or do I love the world the way the world wants to be loved?
The Christian is supposed to love his neighbor, and since his wife is his nearest neighbor, she should be his deepest love.
Christians have no excuse for not loving, "because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us" (Rom. 5:5). We do not have to manufacture love; we only have to share the love we have been given. We do not have to be humanly taught to love, because we ourselves "are taught by God to love one another" (1 Thes. 4:9). We are therefore told to "pursue love" (1 Cor. 14:1), to "put on love" (Col. 3:14), to "increase and abound in love" (1 Thes. 3:12; Phil. 1:9), to be sincere in love (2 Cor. 8:8), to be unified in love (Phil. 2:2), to be "fervent" in love (1 Pet. 4:8), and to "stimulate one another to love (Heb. 10:24).
Selfless love does not serve in order to prevent its own harm or to insure its own welfare. It serves for the sake of the one being served, and serves in the way it likes being served – whether it ever receives such service or not. That level of love is the divine level, and can be achieved only by divine help… Unregenerate man can never come up to the standard of selfless love – the love that loves others as oneself and that treats others in the same way that one wants to be treated.
God seeks and values the gifts we bring Him – gifts of praise, thanksgiving, service, and material offerings. In all such giving at the altar we enter into the highest experiences of fellowship. But the gift is acceptable to God in the measure to which the one who offers it is in fellowship with Him in character and conduct; and the test of this is in our relationships with our fellow men. We are thus charged to postpone giving to God until right relationships are established with others. Could the neglect of this be the explanation of the barrenness of our worship? (Matt. 5:24)
The badge of courage does not require that we walk through something dangerous. It simply requires that we continue to share God’s love whenever and wherever we are (Tom White).
Biblical love is not primarily about physical attraction, but spiritual contentment (Tom Pennington).
Nothing can ever be done in the name of love that is not done in the name of God (Austin Duncan).
The severest self-denials and the most lavish gifts are of no value in God’s esteem unless they are prompted by love.
Selfishness seeks its own private happiness at the expense of others. Love seeks its happiness in the happiness of the beloved. It will even suffer and die for the beloved in order that its joy might be full in the life and purity of the beloved.
Let us note that our Lord does not name gifts or miracles or intellectual attainments as the evidence of discipleship, but love, the simple grace of love, a grace within reach of the poorest, lowliest believer, as the evidence of discipleship. If we have no love, we have no grace, no regeneration, no true Christianity!
In John 13 the point was that, if an individual Christian does not show love toward other true Christians, the world has a right to judge that he is not a Christian. Here (in John 17:21) Jesus is stating something else which is much more cutting, much more profound: We cannot expect the world to believe the Father sent the Son, that Jesus’ claims are true, and that Christianity is true, unless the world sees some reality of the oneness of true Christians.
My friends, according to the Bible, every person is a special creation of God, personally stamped with His image. Our Lord’s response is to love all people and treat them in a way we would like to be treated. It’s to respond with good for evil, blessing for insult; love extended to those we deem offensive and opposition.
Perhaps most of all, our children need to hear that we love them. And why do we love them? Simply because they are our children. Period! They do not earn our love, nor can they lose our love regardless of what they do. This is modeling the divine love of God. Why does He love us? Because He chooses to do so. The love is unconditional and not based on our performance. And the Bible says the only reason we love Him is because He first loves us (1 Jn. 4:19). And how did He show that loved? Through His own sacrifice. “In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:10). Children can easily see where your priorities are and where your love is directed.
When Christ raises the bar in the New Covenant to love others as He loves us (John 13:34-35), He provides the Holy Spirit. And that power, in the Person of the Holy Spirit is reigning in the life of every believer. As we yield to the Spirit, He bears fruit in our life enabling us to obey and hence fulfill the commandment to love one another because the fruit of the Holy Spirit is love (Gal. 5:22). Displaying this love then becomes no longer a duty or a chore, but rather the natural overflow of God’s love already in our heart vertically given, flowing back to God and horizontally from us to others.
Love considers how in advance I can build someone up. Love creatively and aggressively meets another’s need. Love thinks less of self and more of others. Love grieves when others suffer. Love put the church over personal interests. Love models devoted Christian living to be an example to others. Love desires God’s people to have strong relationships with Christ.
Biblical love is one that is first deliberate and modeled after God’s love. It starts in the mind, but it is not stoic. It’s personal, passionate and practiced, flowing from the heart as a fruit of the Holy Spirit.
Love is not just emotional. Biblical love starts and continually involves the mind. The affections are merely the expression of the love. Jeremiah tells us the heart is desperately sick. If we let our affections direct our love, we’ll be no different than the world – falling in and out of love. Biblical love is also a self-sacrificial action that puts the needs of others above ourselves. Affections will never get you to that level. Additionally, biblical love only loves what God loves. Again, mere affections will never rise to that level.
True love is God’s character and the reflection of that as it is revealed in Scripture. Who He is and what He loves is the definition of love. If God is indeed the embodiment of all true love and truth and goodness and we are His created beings made in His image to reflect His glory, it makes absolutely no sense – it’s blasphemous and self-destructive behavior – to imply we know better than Him when it comes to love.
[Jesus Christ’s] victory, of course, does not mean that we rush off to kill all our enemies. It means instead that we are to love them. Our love for them must be strong enough, however, to tell them with both passion and compassion, that their hopes are in vain, that their gods are mute and dumb, and that there is only one name under heaven by which a man must be saved. Our love for them does not present the Christian Gospel as an option. It does not lead us to argue that it’s a good option that has worked well for us. Our love instead commands all men everywhere to repent and believe the Gospel, lest they perish. Our love calls on all our enemies to kiss the Son, lest He be angry and they perish along the way (Ps. 2:12).
If sinners will be damned, at least let them leap to hell over our bodies. And if they will perish, let them perish with our arms around their knees, imploring them to stay. If hell must be filled, at least let it be filled with the teeth of our exertions, and let not one go there unwarned and unprayed for.
We have unfortunately come to believe that a watching world will know that we are Christians by the worldly things we avoid or the churchy things we do. Christ has a different perspective. Our identity with Him is marked by the oneness that comes from our mutual love for each other.
Most often, people who say that others have no love are themselves the ones most lacking. They think the new commandment says, “Love me or I’ll destroy you and your church.” They sit around waiting for other people to love them. How easy it is to see the speck of lovelessness in another’s eye but miss the log of self-centeredness, hypocrisy, and anger in your own eye (Matt. 7:3-5).
Christian love is never theoretical or abstract; it is always practical.
It is our care for the helpless, our practice of lovingkindness, that brands us in the eyes of many of our opponents. “Only look,” they say, “look how they love one another” (they themselves being given over to mutual hatred). “Look how they are prepared to die for one another” (they themselves being readier to kill each other). Thus had this saying become a fact, “Hereby shall all men know that ye are My disciples, if ye have love one to another.”
God has given us people to love and things to use, not people to use and things to love.