The importance of Christian love

Friday June 24, 2016 Written by Published in Church Talk
Jesus gave love priority over all other Christian virtues. 16062307 Jesus gave love priority over all other Christian virtues. 16062307

LOVING people can be difficult.

 

Yet this is what the Bible commands: “For this is the message you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another” (1 John 3:11).

We spend time on what we deem important. For many of us these choices are valid: time with family and friends, work, prayer, serving the poor, fighting for rights, protesting wrongs.

But as the Scripture reminds us, “And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor,…and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing” (1 Cor. 13:3).

Even though we have the freedom to set our own priorities, Jesus made a point of defining certain priorities for us: “’…Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it. Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself’” (Matt. 22:37-39).

Love, then, is not a grey area in the scriptures. Jesus gave love priority over all other Christian virtues. Every thought, response, and act of goodwill must first pass through the fine filter of love, or it means nothing at all.

In “Strength to Love,” Martin Luther King, Jr encouraged us to realise that, “our responsibility as Christians is to discover the meaning of this command and seek passionately to live it out in our daily lives.”

But why love? What makes it so important?

When Jesus spoke to the disciples regarding the first and second greatest commands, he explained that, “On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets” (Matt. 22:40).

To the people of Israel, as well as for many believers today, it would seem more logical for obedience to be the peg from which the Law hangs, since the point of writing a law is adherence to it. And it is written, “If ye love me, keep My commandments” (John 14:15).

Yet Jesus also said, “A new commandment I give unto you, that ye love one another as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.” (John 13:34). The apostle Paul goes on to tell us, “Love worketh no ill to his neighbour. Love is the fulfilling of the law” (Rom. 13:10).

The logic of Paul’s interpretation of Jesus’ command that love fulfils the Law seems equally simple. For if one loves his neighbour, he will not treat his neighbour unkindly and there will be respect and harmony, peace and compassion.

If we look at our neighbour as a son or daughter of God, it will help us to truly love that person because that person is a child of God. We have to understand the worth of each person, of each soul in the sight of God. “Remember, the worth of souls is great in the sight of God…” (D&C 18:10). We will not have a desire to hurt or violate that person or persons, thus we will fulfil the law as we obey the law. God established love as the impetus for obedience.

When we demonstrate Christian love, it distinguishes believers from the rest of the world. Jesus goes on to say, “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another” (John 13:35).

Notice Jesus did not say that people will know that you are my disciples if you promote my agenda, or wear Christian t-shirts or even attend church services. But rather if you love one another, unconditionally. A watching world will be persuaded not when our values are promoted but when they are incarnated, when we become purveyors of love. It is as though Jesus has given the entire world the right to judge whether or not one is His follower simply on the basis of their love for fellow human beings. The vibrant virtue of love distinguishes the Christian.

From the very beginning, God’s plan was to develop a people that reflected his character. And what is his character? Love.

“…God is love, and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him. Herein our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgement. Because as he is, so are we in this world.” (1 John 4:16-17).

Believers are God’s advertisement to a watching society as to how individuals could best live in that society. Being a disciple of Christ means not only preaching or teaching the word of God, but by living the teachings and the word, so that the manner of godliness is manifested in you.

Following is a story of Charity – The pure love of Christ.

Love gets its hands dirty. Love takes a chance. It goes out on a limb. It takes a gamble. Love makes a statement and leaves a legacy. It does the unexpected, surprising, and stirring. It performs acts that steal the heart and leaves an impression on the soul.

Often these acts are never forgotten.

I recently read a moving story about the founder of World Vision, the international Christian relief agency. Bob Pierce had advanced leukaemia, but he chose to visit a colleague in Indonesia before he died. As he and others walked together through a small village, they came upon a young girl lying on a bamboo mat next to a river. She was dying of cancer and had only a short time to live.

Bob was indignant. He demanded to know why she wasn’t in a clinic. But his friend explained that she was from the jungle and wished to spend her last days next to the river, where it was cool and familiar.

As Bob gazed at her, he felt such compassion that he got down on his knees in the mud, took her hand, and began stroking it. Although she didn’t understand him, he prayed for her. Afterwards she looked up and said something, “What did she say? Bob asked his friend.

His friend replied, “She said, ‘If I could only sleep again, if I could only sleep again.’” It seemed that her pain was too great to allow her the relief of rest.

Bob began to weep. Then he reached into his pocket and took out his own sleeping pills, the ones his doctor had given him because the pain from his leukaemia was too great for him to sleep at night.

He handed the bottle to his friend. “You make sure this young lady gets a good night’s sleep,” he said, “as long as these pills last.”

Bob was 10 days away from where he could get his prescription refilled. That meant 10 painful and restless nights. That day his love cost him greatly. But even in the midst of his suffering, God infused him with a supernatural sense of satisfaction that he had done the right thing.

I’m not saying that we should constantly abuse ourselves or become passive doormats. But Christian love inevitably carries costs. Even when the cost is high, we can nevertheless count on God to bring fulfilment to His followers. True love always costs.

“Greater love hath no man than this, than a man lay down his life for his friends”  (John 15:13)

In the end, the goal of the Christian life is love. The measure of our maturity is our love for God and our love for others.

            John Mateara

            The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

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