walk in the word
“By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35, esv).
I grew up in a church where the new pastor typically stayed for only three or four years. Still, we’d be really fired up about the next one when he arrived. Everybody loved him and thought he was great. He thought we were great too. But then we got to know each other better. That’s when—again, about every three or four years—he decided (or we decided) it was time for him to go be the new pastor somewhere else.
This is actually a pretty awful thing in the body of Christ, where people and pastors move around from church to church. Life becomes little more than a series of short segments where we pretend we have it all together. Then once everybody starts to realize we don’t, we leave.“Love sees people not only as they currently appear to be, but as who, by God’s grace, they’re in the middle of becoming.” Click To Tweet
Instead of love.
Jesus said the best visual clue that tips others off to our identity as His disciples is “if you have love for one another.” And if we genuinely understood the nature of that real, biblical love—and its importance to our being God’s people here in the world—we wouldn’t be so quick to give up on each other. We’d stay when we felt like running. We’d sit tight when the pressure was on. We’d love one another through everything . . . through “all things.”
Isn’t that exactly what the Scripture says? “Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things” (1 Corinthians 13:7). Love bears the weight of misunderstanding. Love sees people not only as they currently appear to be, but as who, by God’s grace, they’re in the middle of becoming. Love leads us to make lifetime commitments to people, aware that we’ll eventually disappoint one another. But in choosing to go forward together anyway, we believe we’ll experience a power that only those who love through difficult times are able to experience. Love is what keeps us standing strong.
“Love never fails” (1 Corinthians 13:8, nasb). Think of the implications of that awesome promise. It means you can risk loving anyone in your life with your whole heart, and it will accomplish God’s highest and best purposes. You can embrace people who’ve hurt you or who fail to live up to even their own expectations, and your love will help bridge them over to better days. You can continue bearing, believing, hoping, and enduring with people who’ve taken your relationship to a bad place, and your love will take things to a better place. If that’s not what happens, it won’t be because of love . . . because “love never fails.”
Before my wife, Kathy, and I started Harvest Bible Chapel, we’d been praying, “God, we’ll go anywhere You want us to go, but we want to stay there. We want to put our roots down there.” The years have proven what a dangerous prayer that can be. And yet unless we’d started out with that kind of allegiance, we would never have known the power of love like we’ve seen it, shared it, and received it. “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” This God-empowered love will speak loudly to a watching world, and the Lord will use it to transform us as we depend on Him to supply it.
Father, I know You’ve given us no greater command than to love You and love one another. And even though my experience with life has shown me the impossibility of loving like that, You’ve promised to do it through me. Forgive what is sometimes my delicate hold on loyalty. Make me more anchor than sail. Even with the risk involved, help me realize “there is no fear in love” (1 John 4:18), only the promise that it will never fail. Renew my heart in Your love today, in Jesus’ name, amen.
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