by Rayola Kelley
One of the most abused concepts in our society today is the idea of love. In my lifetime I have watched love treated as a romantic notion that caused many to pursue after, and fall in love with the idea of it. This notion is nothing more than a fantasy that often leaves people disillusioned and dissatisfied. Because this love lacks substance and enduring power it is demoted to some type of cheap commodity that results in feeding and justifying lusts and sexual immorality.
Sadly, this digression of love has been instituted into the way many perceive the love of God. God’s love which is not a notion or cheap by any means has been reduced to a sappy, unrealistic notion that has cheapened His character and work of redemption on the cross. This reduction of God’s love has taken the power out of the Gospel to save, and has stripped its authority to change lives.
Christians must make sure they understand what constitutes real love in God’s kingdom. It is the one fruit that sets them apart as truly belonging to God. The love of God operating in a person’s life verifies that God is in them and that they are disciples of Christ who are fulfilling the law (John 13:35; Romans 13:8-10; 1 John 4:8-10, 15-31).
Godly love can’t be faked. It is the compelling motivation behind a person’s commitment and service to God. Without it, servants of God could not turn the other cheek or go the extra mile. They would be subject to the conditions of pride and the limitations of fear. They would be judgmental towards others rather than discerning. They would have no concern for the lost, and would fail to contend for the faith of others (Matthew 5:41-48;Romans 5:5; 1 Corinthians 13; 2 Corinthians 5:14; 1 Peter 4:8-9; 1 John 4:18).
What sets the love of the world apart from godly love? It is simple. It is the mark of death. The love of God is selfless while the love of the world is self-centered and self-serving. God’s love entails self-denial and death to self on the cross, while the world’s love is about realizing self through worldly pursuits and relationships. The love of God expresses itself in the form of honoring others over self for the sake of Christ, while the love of the world is about self being honored by others according to personal whims and dictates. The love of God is about personal devotion to Him while self-serving love is about ego and self-serving pride. Godly love is enduring and everlasting while the love of the world is touchy, fickle, conditional, and temporary.
There is a clear contrast between God’s love and worldly love, but how many Christians test their Christian walk according to the love they possess? After observing Christians and ministering to them, I have found that usually God’s love is clearly missing in personal devotion to God and others. This is why there are so many divorces in the church and why many churches have divisions and strife. Obviously, the love of God is not compelling some Christians in their responses towards God or others.
How does this love express itself? Since this love comes only from God, one has to reason that the type of love he or she possesses hinges on the type of relationship he or she has with God. You can’t possess the love of God unless He possesses you. The Bible is clear that whatever holds the strings or affections of your heart is what possesses you (Matthew 6:21-24). This shows that you can’t possess a godly and fleshly love at the same time; therefore, you are either being compelled by God’s love or by the selfishness of the world’s love.
Since God’s love originates with Him, we must come to Him to allow His love to be developed in us. This love will grow as the relationship with Him matures. If love properly comes forth, God will be a person’s main focus and priority. It will give the individual a desire to grow in the knowledge of who He is, so that he or she will know how to please Him. This desire translates into loving God’s Word.
Sadly, many Christians appear as if they do not love His Word. If you do not love His Word, you do not care about whom He is or what His heart’s desire is concerning you and others. Failure to love and get His Word into you means that you will erect another God, receive another spirit and believe another Gospel (2 Corinthians 11:1-14). This is why many are falling for the rampant heresy that is present today. They do not desire to test what they perceive according to the spirit and truth of the Word because they do not love the truth (2 Thessalonians 2:10-12).
Once your relationship is right with God, He will help you properly maintain your relationships with others. The world puts emphasis in the idea of relationships. For instance, your relationship with family is of utmost importance. This concept sounds logical but according to God, relationships with family are worldly making them earthly, temporary and often perverted. Jesus clearly stated that if your relationships with others supercede your relationship with Him, you can’t be His disciple. He also taught that the truth would serve as a sword dividing these earthly relationships (Matthew 10:34-36; Luke 14:26-27).
When your relationship with God is right, you can gain an eternal perspective about earthly relationships. The world encourages relationships for the sake of having a relationship. But, God’s perspective reveals that it is not about relationships, but souls. If you have to compromise truth or the things of God to be in a perverted relationship, you not only are partaking of sin, you are condoning it.
Oswald Chambers put it well when he said your devotion to God will cost others. If you care more about souls than earthly relationships it will change your perspective as to what is important. And, what is important is that people truly come to salvation. This often means standing for truth, holding the line of righteousness and experiencing separation from those whom you love. Are you willing to risk the possibilities of losing valued relationships to see someone get a reality check about their spiritual condition and come to real salvation? If you are unwilling to do so it simply proves you do not have godly love. You are operating from an earthly plane where it is still about self-serving motives. Ultimately, you will accept less for yourself and encourage blindness and compromise in others.
When relationships are considered in light of God, godly love and submission play a predominate part in a person’s attitude and responses towards others. For example, godly love implies a commitment to do right by others while submission gives way to something greater than self. Love will prefer others over self while submission will give way to that which is righteous.
There is a staggering amount of resentment and conflict in marriage. The Apostle Paul points to marriage as a visible example of the relationship between Christ and the church in this lost, dark world (Ephesians 5:22-33). Godly love in marriage will be selfless and sacrificial while submission has the attitude of servitude. In the end, the husband does right by his wife because of love while the wife gives way to that which is right because of the Lordship of Jesus Christ. This type of relationship reflects Jesus Christ and reveals His commitment to the church in a powerful way.
February is a good time to examine the love you possess. This examination will show you who or what possesses your heart. Make sure Jesus is the preference of your soul. Ask the Lord to give you His love toward those around you. Do not settle for less in your life, rather hold the line of truth and righteousness so God can make your life and relationships with others godly, encouraging, satisfying, and acceptable before Him.