Love As a Recovery Mission

God makes it clear: he wants us to love others

From the words of Moses in Leviticus 19:18, to the teaching of Jesus, to the letters of Paul: God’s will for us is that we love one another.

And it's so important, says Paul, that if we don’t have love then whatever else we might do is just a waste (see 1 Corinthians 13:1–3).

It’s hard to imagine any stronger words than that when it comes to love.

But then we get to John. No biblical author wrote more about love than John, and it’s so important to him that he says its the go-to evidence to whether or not we are “of God” (1 John 3:10, 14).

Over and over again in his Gospel, and also in his letters, John is consumed with this topic of love, and I appreciate the way John goes about it.

When John brings love up in his letters, he starts with something like: Hey, look, this isn’t new. I’m not telling you anything here you haven’t heard before (see 1 John 2:7; 3:11; 2 John 5–6).

And I wonder if the reason John gives that kind of preface to the topic of love is because he’s afraid that people are going to check out on him. I mean, I wonder if maybe his readers have heard about love so much that when they hear the word it just sounds like white noise to them. Maybe John, there in the First Century, is concerned about love being overdone.

And even if John was just a little concerned about that back then, what does that mean for us today? 

If it’s possible for the concept of love to be stretched too thin, what does that mean for us who literally see “love” everywhere? And I mean: it’s plastered on t-shirts and bumperstickers and political campaigns — and what’s happened is that love in our culture has just become the catchall word that wears a million different hats because nobody wants to be against love. It's the Trojan horse for any agenda. In our day, at large, love is floppy and slippery, and so we’re kind of in a mess here. 

That's because love is a Christian virtue — it’s a Bible truth — but it’s been hi-jacked by our culture to mean so many different things that it means nothing at all, and so, a vital part of what we need to do is a recovery mission. 

We need to know what the Bible says about what it means for us to love others. And that’s where the three practicals from Sunday’s sermon can help. Here they are again. This is love in the pattern of Jesus:

  1. Love is always congruent with truth (and so expect resentment; Jesus said so)
  2. Love always makes difference (it does real, tangible deeds)
  3. Love is sacrificial in nature (it means, most basically, caring for others when it costs)

And the only way we live in this love is if we’re overcome by the love of God. Hands-down. That’s it. We can’t run off with our list of to-do’s, at least not for long. We need the heart, not the how-to’s. And the good news is that God’s good news is in the heart business. 

Keep yourselves in the love of God...
— Jude 21