Thursday, March 27, 2008

The Nature of Loving Others

A pastor was once asked about people who love showcase signs with “John 3:16” written on them. Some of these individuals showcasing these signs were very forceful and vehement about others knowing about the content of this verse, but they did not seem to love themselves. The pastor pondered the question for a few moments. He looked down at his Bible, opened it and searched for a verse. He then said, “I am going to read for you from John 13, verses 34 and 35. It reads,

John 13:34 A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.
John 13:35 By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.

Perhaps these people that push around John 3:16 but do not show the love of God to others should read this verse and John 3:16’s its counterpart in 1 John 3:16, ‘Hereby perceive we the love of God, because He laid down His life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.’ It is equally important. Does not John also say in 1 John 4:20, ‘If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?’ It is important to know this if God is love, and he dwells in you, then His love dwells in you, and out of you His love will flow. And, how do we know someone really loves us? We know they love us, because they are willing to die for us, just as Christ died for us. This willingness can only exist when Christ dwells in us.”

We typically say that John 3:16 is good news. And, it is a true saying. But, it does not stop there. Christ wants to dwell in you - as the Holy Spirit dwelt in Him – so you can dwell with Him forever. As He dwells in you, through the Holy Spirit, He transforms you, from a self preserving, greedy, self centered, ego-maniac to a person that is willing to die for others - even those who hate you or can care less about you. When Christ transforms us, we are willing to do for others what Christ did for us. He died for us while we were yet His enemies, ungodly, or sinners (Romans 5:8).

We are not necessarily talking about kindness and sweetness. You can be kind and sweet in a hypocritical way. You can also have the wrong motives. This is especially true when we expect a reward. The sign of agape is not sentimental kindness, but a willingness to put others first even at a cost to us.

Perhaps the most effectual demonstration of agape was a woman’s outpouring of love toward Jesus. Let us read the account Matthew 26: 6 - 13,

Mat26:6 Now when Jesus was in Bethany, in the house of Simon the leper,
Mat26:7 There came unto him a woman having an alabaster box of very precious ointment, and poured it on his head, as he sat at meat.
Mat26:8 But when his disciples saw it, they had indignation, saying, To what purpose is this waste?
Mat26:9 For this ointment might have been sold for much, and given to the poor.
Mat26:10 When Jesus understood it, he said unto them, Why trouble ye the woman? for she hath wrought a good work upon me.
Mat26:11 For ye have the poor always with you; but me ye have not always.
Mat26:12 For in that she hath poured this ointment on my body, she did it for my burial.
Mat26:13 Verily I say unto you, Wheresoever this gospel shall be preached in the whole world, there shall also this, that this woman hath done, be told for a memorial of her.

We know from other gospel accounts that what this woman did was an act of love – agape. She did it because she was grateful to Christ for forgiving her and she wanted to honor Him. In the eyes of most she made a fool out of herself. They thought that her action was scandalous. But, when she started to pour the oil, she did not care what others thought. She had come to a point where self did not matter. She followed what the Holy Spirit prompted her to do. Christ, however, commended her work as good. Have we come to the point ourselves of following the Spirit’s prompting without caring what others may think? Eventually, the disciples did come to that point. In fact, we could say, that the scandalous act of honor that Mary did for Jesus, they eventually did for the poor that remained after Jesus ascended. If we love God indeed, we will love and honor those to whom God sends us, as if we were honoring Jesus.