Saturday, January 24, 2009

Producing Love

And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight.

                        Philippians 1.9 

Lost in the Love Talk

We talk a lot about love here and rightly so. Since God is love, talking about love is talking about God. Loving Him and our neighbors unconditionally as Jesus commands makes His living presence known to the world. This explains why love is the first fruit of the Spirit Paul lists in Galatians 5.22. Love outranks all other spiritual traits because it alone identifies us as Christ’s followers. “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another,” He says in John 13.35. In 1 Corinthians 13.2, Paul writes, “Without love, I’m nothing.” And 1 John 4.7 admonishes, “Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.”

No believer could possibly question love’s priority position. Yet what often gets lost in the love talk—in the Word, here, and anywhere else it’s discussed—is how to develop the kind of love we’re all talking about. Paul sums up the love God gives us to give others like this: “It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” (1 Corinthians 13.7) This is no ordinary love for the asking, and it’s imprudent to confuse it with human affection. They are not the same. They’re born of different origins, pursue different objectives, behave differently, and are measured differently. Human affection, romantic or friendly, seeks rewards: companionship, completion, validation, and so on. It draws like unto like, meaning it inherently discriminates according to each person’s preferences and needs. Christ’s love is the opposite. It’s its own reward, received by loving indiscriminately without expectation. It’s crucial we understand this before attempting to love as Jesus taught. If we force-fit His love into the narrows of human affection, we’ll quickly be frustrated, disappointed, and discouraged.

The Art of Love

Producing love that meets Christ’s standards involves a non-instinctive, totally counterintuitive process. It’s altogether divorced from feelings, coming and going. We don’t love out of a sense that people deserve or need our love, nor do we love to brighten our emotions or situations. Yes, some merit our love and others hunger for it. Yes, love makes us happy and turns bad to good. But, no, none of these factors is a motive for love. We love because we're born of God, we know God, and God is love. For followers of Christ, love is the truest expression of God, an art requiring skill and discipline. The harder we work at it the more adept we become at bearing love’s fruit. Thus Paul prays our “love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight.” Increasing all we know and understand about God’s love, he says, enables us “to discern what is best,” to “be pure and blameless,” and “filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.” (Philippians 1.10-11)

Remaining in Love

“I am the vine; you are the branches,” Jesus teaches us in John 15.5. “If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” He continues in verse 9: “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love.” Producing love happens by remaining in love—clinging tenaciously to the knowledge and understanding of Christ’s unqualified love for us. We never allow awareness of His great love to slip from our minds. We’re ever strengthening our connection to Him by prayer, meditation, and study. We can't love properly and effectively our own; without Him, we can do nothing. Remaining in His love causes our love for others to blossom and grow like ripe summer fruit—enticing to the eye, sweet to the taste, and healthy for all who receive it.

Love is a summer fruit.

(Tomorrow: Blooming Joy)

1 comment:

johnmichael said...

This is another awesome post!!