Sometimes, God stuns me with His intentions for His church. I tend to view possibilities from the perspective of and realities of the church in the world. Other saints and I start with what the church "is." We gauge progress from the starting point of "now." God, instead, views the church from the standpoint of His original intentions, which still exist in His eternal thoughts. He sees something far different from what I regularly see. God begins with His intentions and ends there, too. He's crafting a church out of redeemed sinners into exactly what He planned, exquisite plans. His image of the finished church is majestic, perfect, divine. Five components of biblical love describe what He means for the church to become.
The Bible reveals God loving humanity and loving His church. It reaches further, calling humanity to love one another like He loves them. When His church understands what His loves looks like, His people possess a target, as standard, toward which to aim with their own love. Without that target, God's people resort or descend to contemporary versions of love and kindness, models that change and deteriorate with time. Conversely, God's love never changes, never fades and never ends. To such love He calls His church when Jesus says, "Love one another, even as I have loved you" (John 13:34).
The first component of biblical love is genuine desire. This component describes one person wanting to be with another, having the desire to be together. Christians sometimes sit in their worship centers, separated and focused more on sitting in their normal spot than sitting together. A person with genuine desire would enter the worship center and begin scanning those seated, struggling to choose who they will sit with today - desiring to sit with everyone there. Such a person would never consider sitting in his or her "normal seat." Christians, who love one another, desire to be together. Church members who love each other possess the same desire.
Biblical love’s second component is real affection. Affection is the delight a person experiences when he or she interacts with or thinks about another person. Something really positive happens emotionally. Real affection could describe why two people with genuine desire want to be with one another. It's pleasant. Imagine church members who have been so transformed that they not only want to be together, but the mere thought of one another brings delight.
Third is unshakable loyalty. The first and second components of love increase the possibility of the third. Desire and affection apparently justify the risks inherent to loyalty. Unshakable loyalty portrays an indestructible commitment and willingness to stand up for another person when they are wronged. As such, it undergirds human unity. While genuine desire and real affection represent realities internal to the one who extends love, unshakable loyalty is a visible and outward demonstration of love. It eliminates any doubt or confusion about the authenticity of one person’s love for another.
Fourth is rousing concern. This component, too, visibly demonstrates love. Here, concerns for the other person evoke more than unease and disquieted emotions. This concern motivates one who loves to action on behalf of the other. Experiencing rousing concern is compelling, not merely troubling. It actively pursues intervention and searches for relief. Rousing concern is restless and unsatisfied until action ensues. It cannot be quieted.
Finally, fifth, is lavish generosity. Generosity forms the capstone of love. Any distance not covered by unshakable loyalty or rousing concern is balanced by lavish generosity. Generosity is both an attitude and an action in which a person joyfully devotes their time, energy, and resources to another person. It is both prudent and responsible, but is none-the-less munificent. That which it devotes to another substantially and significantly outweighs situations where wisdom suggests hesitation. On top of the other components of love, lavish generosity takes love beyond extravagant, to a point where it becomes truly profound, almost unimaginable.
Together, these five represent biblical love. They capture the essence of God’s love toward sinful humanity, a totally undeserving sea of recipients. The five also capture Paul’s intent that husbands should love their wives as Christ loved the church (Ephesians 5:25, 28; Colossians 3:19) or Jesus instructions that the saints should love one another even as He had loved them (John 13:34-35; 15:12, 17; Romans 12:10; 13:8; Galatians 5:13; Ephesians 4:2; 1 Thessalonians 3:12; 4:9). These components, too, explain the startling injunction that righteous men and women even ought to love their enemies who hate and persecute them (Matthew 5:44; Luke 6:27, 35). Lastly, and most importantly, they describe how a sinner, saved by grace, should love God (Matthew 22:37, etc.).
None of these love relationships are possible by human discipline, zeal or fortitude. Every human capability proves inadequate for the task. Such love isn't a human feat, but is a work of God's Spirit within a believer. Each component is fueled by the indwelling Holy Spirit. God, alone, can supply the resources to love biblically. Only with such a source can anyone offer love even to someone who demonstrates none in return or who, according to human standards, deserves no love whatsoever.
Thus, Christians face the unfathomable realities of Scripture that speak of biblical love. “God proves His own love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us!” (Romans 5:8). Or, “Love consists in this: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:10). This is God’s plan for His church - love. Imagine a church with this love: genuine desire, real affection, unshakable loyalty, rousing concern and lavish generosity - loved by God and loving one another.
Crossing the Lines
The ideas behind this blog emerged from my study and preaching of a message I titled "A Single Step." It was an unexpected message out of Philippians 2:12-18. I'm the one who was surprised. I had a whole different idea of where the sermon would go. Then, I got into the text and followed it. That led, eventually, to the response by individuals after the message. God worked in me and in our congregation. He's still at work.
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