Christian Love – Part II

As I urged you when I went into Macedonia, stay there in Ephesus so that you may command certain people not to teach false doctrines any longer or to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies. Such things promote controversial speculations rather than advancing God’s work—which is by faith.The goal of this command is love, which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.Some have departed from these and have turned to meaningless talk.They want to be teachers of the law, but they do not know what they are talking about or what they so confidently affirm.” (1 Tim. 1:3-7, NIV; emphasis added).

As the Holy Spirit has been teaching me about love these past few weeks, I have realized that, when commanding others not to teach false doctrine, the GOAL must always be LOVE. For me, I think the goal often ends up being the command itself – simply getting my point across – and I find the “means” becoming the “end”. That’s where lovelessness creeps in and I discover that I am “ordering others to do what they ought to do” rather than “appealing to them on the basis of love” (Philemon vs. 8-9). I am not saying that there is never a time and a place for such a demand, for Paul says to Philemon, “…in Christ I could be bold and order you to do what you ought” (Philemon vs. 8); yet, Paul chooses “the most excellent way” (1 Cor. 12:31) by appealing to Philemon in a loving way. In doing so, Paul shows that he is “considering how he may spur others on towards love and good deeds” (adapted from Hebrews 10:24) and that he truly understands what it means to, “above all, love each other deeply, because love covers a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8). 

I want to love like this – in a way that addresses and faces the sins of others, while simultaneously covering their sins – just like Jesus confronts and covers my sin.

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Christian Love – Part I

I am currently reading a book called “Love or Die: Christ’s Wake-up Call to the Church” by Alexander Strauch. ** Amazing stuff. I have found it very challenging and edifying at the same time. As I work my way through the book, I am realizing that I am often guilty of a lack of love, much like the church in Ephesus to whom Jesus says, “You have abandoned the love you had at first” (Rev. 2:4). In Revelation 2:2, it is clear that the Ephesian believers already had “works”, but Jesus told them to do what they did at first. Based on Revelation 2:2-3, Strauch says: “It may be that their present ‘toil’ and ‘patient endurance’ were largely confined to stopping false teachers, preserving sound doctrine from attack, and facing opposition from a hostile society.” (p. 22 of “Love or Die”).

While I know that “hatred of evil and falsehood is not a contradiction of love, but an essential part of genuine Christian love” (p.8), I think that I frequently “preserve truth…courageously, but forget that love is the greatest witness to truth” (D.A. Carson, as quoted on p. 11).

“…no amount of good works, wisdom, discernment in matters of church discipline, patient endurance in hardship, hatred of sin, or disciplined doctrine can ever make up for lovelessness.” ~ D.A. Carson, as quoted on p. 12 ~

 

“It is possible to successfully confront the grave danger of false teaching while succumbing to another equally deadly danger – lack of love.”
~ Alexander Strauch, p. 20~

I really need to lay hold of this truth. I know in my head that loving God and neighbor are the most important commandments, but I don’t know if my heart fully grasps that. Sometimes, especially in my correction of others, I sense a harshness and a cynicism…almost a superiority complex whereby I totally forget that many of the sins and misconceptions I come down so hard on others for were, in fact, my own sins and misconceptions at one time. How hypocritical and prideful! Rather than patiently bearing with other Christians in love (Ephesians 4:2), I find it easy to become irritated and frustrated with their immaturity and their rejection of sound doctrine.

But how does Christ deal with me when I am immature and sinful, rejecting His truth? How does He respond to my folly and insolence before His holy perfection? He responds with extravagant grace…the loving, firm, intentional and tender discipline of a caring Father. How very unlike Jesus I am, with my cynical spirit, indifference, anger, pride and contentious attitude. As John Eadie says (quoted on p. 15), “There is nothing so remote from Christ’s example as a hard and uncharitable disposition.” 

So today I repent of the ways I seek to serve God without keeping His law of love as the highest principle. May He help me to remember that “no religious act is of any value in His sight if it does not accompany and flow from Christian love” (Maurice Roberts, quoted on p. 17).

** all page references are from the book “Love or Die: Christ’s Wake-up Call to the Church” by Alexander Strauch.