1 Corinthians 13:4-8 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.
It’s clear in God’s Word that love is of the utmost importance. What’s less clear in today’s hyper-sexual, idolatrous society, is just what true love really is. We know we should love each other, but what does that look like?
The answer to this question lies in a scripture that is very often quoted in wedding ceremonies and very seldom remembered in marriages. The apostle Paul, again emphasizing just how essential love really is, points out a few key characteristics of love. Take the time to get familiar with these verses and begin to apply them in your relationships.
It’s worth noting that one thing Paul never says about love is that it’s an emotion or a feeling. There’s never any focus on how you feel about the other person, just how you treat them. Keep that in mind as you think about the nature of love and think about it more deeply.
———- Which of the characteristics of love seems to make the least sense to you based on what you have always thought about love?
John 13:34-35 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.
The most important commands we’re ever given by God are to love Him above all else and to love other people. This starts with loving our own fellow believers. By our love for “one another,” Jesus says, the world will know we’re His. We don’t always do real well at that, do we? Truth is, the outside world often sees the church as a bunch of bickering people who can’t get along.
It’s unfortunate that the people we call brothers and sisters in the family of God are often the ones who we’re least likely to get along with. It shouldn’t be this way. I submit to you that the leading cause of problems within the church is pride. If we’d put others’ needs before our own, we’d find a much healthier church with healthier individuals.
Pride eats away at the soul of a Christian, causing spiritual health to decline. We can’t get the other commands right if we can’t get the love part. No amount of prayer and Bible study is going to get us unstuck spiritually if we’re not willing to love.
Love is an absolutely essential element of the life of a believer. Without it, we’re flat and ineffective, not living out the calling God has given us.
1 John 5:1-5 Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome. For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?
Our faith is the victory that has overcome the world. And what is it that comes from faith? Good works. A natural response to faith is obedience. When we know God and experience His love for us, we want to keep His commandments and follow everything He says to do. If we remain faithful in this, nothing can stop us.
This passage says that everyone who has been reborn overcomes the world. Are you overcoming the world? Have you taken the time to actually evaluate whether or not you’re overcoming the world? What does it even mean to overcome the world? Does that mean we don’t ever fall into temptation or that we don’t sin?
Sadly, most of us don’t think in terms of victory when we look at our lives. We’re not operating in our spiritual gifts or showing any fruit out of the faith we proclaim. Some of us aren’t even showing love to our fellow Christians, let alone to the people out in the world.
But we’ve been equipped. We’ve got the victory already if we’ll just do the next thing God calls us to do. That’s what obedience is. It’s not some lofty, unachievable goal. Obedience is doing the next thing God calls you to do. And when you’ve done it, do the next thing He calls you to do. Then the next. Obedience is a lot like walking. It’s one foot in front of the other.
Walk in victory, knowing that Jesus has already won the battle. The odds are in your favor. You can’t lose.
1 John 4:7-21 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us. By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.
You’ve heard the quote “Preach the gospel. Use words if necessary”. While that instruction falls a bit short in regards to how to witness for Christ, there is something to be said about what our actions show the people around us. There are some who don’t know the name of Christ. They’ve never experience Him and never had an encounter with anyone who wanted to really share His love for them. For those people, how we represent Jesus makes all the difference in the world. We’re all they know of Him.
This passage from John’s letter brings up the point that no one can see God, but they can see us. And if God loved us enough to forgive us our sins, we ought to love those around us so that they can experience that forgiveness too. There are opportunities every day to love other people for the glory of God. Even in the little things that we so often overlook, we can be representing our Lord. How did you come to faith in Jesus Christ? It may very well have been through observing the kindness of a Christian.
Let’s not just love with our words, but with our actions. Let’s not forget the love that God has already shown us and our obligation to pass it along to others. There are lives on the line and our love plays a key role in how the world responds to Jesus. Take the opportunities presented to you today, tomorrow, and each day to show love to someone else. You never know what effect it can have on them.
1 John 3:11-24 For this is the message that you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another. We should not be like Cain, who was of the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own deeds were evil and his brother’s righteous. Do not be surprised, brothers, that the world hates you.We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death. Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him. By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth. By this we shall know that we are of the truth and reassure our heart before him; for whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything. Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God; and whatever we ask we receive from him, because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him. And this is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us. Whoever keeps his commandments abides in God, and God in him. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit whom he has given us.
Love is more than a word. It’s more than a feeling. Love is a constant decision, an intentional abandonment of selfish desires for the sake of someone else’s good. Love requires something beyond what we can manage in our own human condition.
The thing about real love is that it’s so different from anything we’ve been conditioned to recognize that most of us don’t even know how it works. We think love just means we tell someone nice things or that we give some gifts. But true love is sacrifice, and sometimes that means it hurts. Sinful humans don’t want to hurt for someone else, so it’s not our inclination to love truly. Only the Holy Spirit working in and through us can enable us to love others like Jesus said to.
Love others like you love yourself? How is that possible? Or how about this one? Husbands, love your wives like Christ loved the Church and gave His life for her. Any one of you loving like that? It’s what we’re commanded to do. No less.
We’re not doing anyone any good if we’re just saying we love. We’re not providing a good witness for Christ, nor are we having any effect on people’s lives for the kingdom. We’re just talking. And talk isn’t enough. Love. Love truly. Give of yourself for the sake of others.
Ephesians 6:23-24 Peace be to the brothers, and love with faith, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Grace be with all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with love incorruptible.
There are few things as awe-inspiring as the love of God that He showed in Jesus Christ. When God put on flesh and dwelled on the earth, He professed His love in a way that is hard to understand, but powerful to feel.
His love is incorruptible, and since we love Him because He first loved us (1 John 4:19), ours ought to be incorruptible as well. If it’s real, and it’s true, then there is nothing that can stop it. We know that there’s nothing that can stand between us and the love of God (Romans 8:38-39).
God’s love comes with some things, like peace and grace. You want to really know peace? Experience God’s love for you. You want to really know what grace is? Turn to the Father in your lowest moments. He’s real and He loves you. Don’t take it for granted, bask in it. Breathe it in and let it fill you with awe.
Ephesians 5:33 However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.
A lot of people read through Ephesians 5 (or choose to ignore Ephesians 5) without really considering the context in which it was meant. It’s not just about commands for husbands and wives. To see it as that makes marriage cold and it makes it seem like God doesn’t intend for us to be happy in marriage.
In reality, asking men to love their wives and women to respect their husbands is going to result in happiness for both. Marriage is about a mutual benefit, not just that of one or another. In depicting the relationship between Jesus and His bride, the Church, there is no authoritarian role, no slave role, just love and respect.
A man loves his wife by caring for her, protecting her, providing for her, and forever being a student of her. Likewise, a woman shows respect to her husband by tending to his needs, and helping him to be the man God has called him to be. When both a husband and a wife fulfill their God-given purposes, they’re both happy and godly. Both can enjoy the marriage and the spiritual growth that comes as a result.
How do you look at marriage? Do you see it as a gift from God to benefit both man and wife and to illustrate the relationship between bride and Christ? Or do you see marriage as constraining and unhealthy? Do you see it as God meant it or as how it has come to be viewed in society?
Ephesians 5:31-32 “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.
How important does something have to be for the Bible to quote it multiple times? It’s obvious that something mentioned so frequently is worthy of our attention. The picture of Jesus and His bride, the Church, that we see exemplified by marriage is not to be overlooked.
The fact that a man and a woman become one flesh upon marrying is mentioned no less than four times in Scripture (Matt. 19:5; Mark 10:7, 8; Gen. 2:24; Eph. 5:31). The call to leave behind the parents and become joined together as a new family is emphasized through this. Two individuals who were once separate, had their own rights and freedoms, their own preferences, and looked after their own needs and desires, become one unit, no longer separate. They now look to each others’ needs and desires, give up some of their own rights for the sake of the other, and bind themselves to their spouse.
It’s often said at weddings, “What God has joined together, let no man separate” (Matt. 19:6) and the imagery is apparent. A couple is more than just two people who live together and have affectionate feelings for one another. They are an imperfect reflection of the perfect Bridegroom and His bride.
The breaking apart of a marriage is no simple thing. It’s not uncomplicated, mostly because two souls have joined together through a union that’s not supposed to be dissolved. Christ and His bride are joined together for eternity, inseparable, and that is the meaning of marriage. If you’re married, ask yourself if you’re reflecting the Bridegroom and His bride well. Even if you’re not married, consider how this earthly example of a heavenly concept is evident.
Ephesians 5:28-30 In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body.
Husbands don’t get off very easily in the Bible. Many assume that the calling of a wife to submit to her husband is a heavy burden, but in reality the heaviest responsibility falls on the husband himself. He is ultimately accountable for the marriage relationship and the spiritual well-being of his family.
It should be noted that God’s Word repeatedly tells men to love their wives. This is a command, not just to act with loving emotion towards their brides, but to serve them, protect them, lead them, and provide for them. To love one’s wife is to love oneself.
Because it’s so powerful, the notion that marriage is intended to provide a picture of Jesus’ relationship to God’s family, the Church, is also repeated many times. Jesus loves the Church and so husbands should love their wives. He cares for and nurtures the Church and therefore husbands should care for and nurture their wives.
Husbands, love your wives.
Ephesians 5:25-27 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.
Continuing with the idea that marriage is intended to depict an earthly example of Jesus Christ’s relationship to His Church, the role of the husband is a heavy one. Men are called to love their brides as Christ loves the people of God.
Many of us gloss this over and simply boil it down to an instruction to “love your wife” without grasping the depth of the statement. Husbands, love your wives, AS CHRIST LOVED THE CHURCH AND GAVE HIMSELF UP FOR HER. How far are you willing to go in putting your wife before yourself, men? Have you given your life for her? This isn’t just a literal laying down of one’s physical life for another, it’s also a laying down of one’s own desires for the sake of another. If you’re keeping score at home, that means husbands AND wives are called to submission.
Furthermore, husbands bear the weight of responsibility for their wives’ spiritual state. Just as Christ overlooks the well-being of His bride, that she might be presented without spot or blemish, so too are husbands to look after their wives and assist in any area where they may need to grow. Husbands are to lead their wives in spiritual matters and failure to do so is disobedience.