You are currently browsing the category archive for the ‘Love’ category.

Yesterday I was having a conversation with a co-worker who is Muslim. We were talking about matters of religion and the fact that we both recognize that we are bad people, or at least that we do bad things. She as well as I both recognize that we are in need of forgiveness. The problem is that her belief system does not provide a basis for a holy, righteous, and just God to forgive without compromising his character.

As I was thinking more about the nature of forgiveness and Christ as the exclusive basis for our forgiveness before God, I was reminding of Ephesians 4:32,

“Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.”

“Just as” – those words are strong and yet seem so vague. We are to forgive others “just as” God has forgiven us in Christ, but “just” how has God forgiven us in Christ? It is a question we every Christian must endeavor to answer, if they are to be able to forgive others in like manner. So if you will join me in considering the following ways in which God has forgiven us in Christ:

  1. He forgave those who had offended Him. This may go without saying, but the very fact that forgiveness is need points to an offense. That we have in some way offended and wronged God, that we have sinned against Him.
  2. He forgave in kindness not retribution. His forgiveness was done is such a way that we need not bear the retribution for the wrong that we have done to whom, rather He Himself has choose to bear the retribution do for the very offenses that were committed against Him. Even more He has done us good in giving us forgiveness. “For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God” (2Pet. 3:18)
  3. He forgave in a way of tenderheartedness and sympathy. The securing of our forgiveness before God was secured in a way of compassion and piety. For Christ knowing from times past the depravity of man’s hearts and the desperate state of His peoples condition, set to deliver them from their helpless condition. Yet Christ compassion and sympathy for His people is not merely cognitive, but experiential as well, in that He partook of the same nature and was made in the likeness of sinful flesh. As a man he endured those temptations and trials of heart which are common to all men. Yet as the Son of God, he endured them all to their fullest extent and yet was without sin. Thus their is no degree of temptation or trial with which the Lord Christ is not acquainted and has not overcome. Thus the author of Hebrews tells us, “Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (4:14-16, emphasis added)
  4. He forgave them completely and finally. In saying that He forgave them completely, I mean that He forgave their sins once for all. He has already satisfied all the demands of justice regarding both that obedience or righteousness required by the law and that wrath or penalty that our disobedience to the law requires. In saying that He forgave them finally, I mean that the death He died and the life He lived shall always and ever more be the believers also by means of their union with Him. All whom God in Christ forgave, he forgave forever more and He shall remember their sins no more.

Yet there is no other person who has provided the grounds for forgiveness and at the same time upheld the requirements of divine justice. And who so so in such a way of love and grace, that He would bear their iniquities so that He might forgive them. That He would become under wrath of God, so that God might turn His wrath from them and grant them forgiveness.

So might find it odd that I would right so much about Christ’s life and death at time of year when many will remember His birth. But is that not another testimony to His kindness and tenderheartedness in forgiving us, that He who gives to each of us breath and life and being would stoop down and become a man. Furthermore, that he he would enter into His creation in a way of humility being born in stable to a poor Jewish peasant. That He would be a king who came not to be served but to serve and to give His life – to die – as a ransom for many. So that God might in Him forgive us.

Advertisements

In my reading this last week, I came upon a rather profound statement:

What a mystery, the soul and eternity of one man depends on the voice of another!”

At first thought some of you might think that is a bit of a stretch, especially if your a Calvinist. I mean after all we know that “the soul and eternity of a man” ultimately depends upon God. He is the One who predestines, who calls, who justifies, and who will finally glorify His elect (Rom. 8:28-30). But have we forgotten that God works through human means. “Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God” (2 Cor. 5:20)
I think sometimes those who hold to what some would label as “Calvinistic” doctrine are more likely to fall into what could more rightly be labeled “hyper-Calvinistic.” We don’t see much of a need to act like ambassadors or to make an appeal to other men.

Have we forgotten that the God ordained means of saving people is through the preaching (or teaching) of the Word of God.

“Whosoever calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher? How will they preach unless they are sent? Just as it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news of good things! (Romans 10:13-15)

As I have thought about this the last few days, I have been increasingly aware at how self absorbed we can be (myself included). How often do we tend to our day to day affairs and never stop to consider that if the people in our lives do not know the gospel, if they do not know the God of the gospel, if they do not believe the gospel, they will perish in their sins. It is true that we do not know whom God has chosen for salvation, but should we not preach as though they all were. Or should we assume that God has chosen none and therefore keep our mouths closed.

The way I see it we really have two choices:

1) We continue to be self absorbed people who care nothing for the salvation of others and continue to keep the truth about God and His gospel to ourselves.

2) We start acting like ambassadors of the King, who love God and love others enough to declare to all men everywhere the greatness of God and the beauty of the Savior.

Oh, that God would teach us all to be the latter!

 Romans 12:9-13 is one of those passages that always seems to get under my skin, probably because every time I read it I am reminded of some way that I fail to show love for others. Paul begins this section by calling the believers in Rome to “let love be without hypocrisy,” and then proceeds to give some descriptions of what love without hypocrisy should be like. For the sake of something different, I will present them as ways in which to promote hypocritical love in the hopes that we might better see the ways in which we breed hypocrisy in our lives.

  1. Instead of abhorring what is evil, abhor what is good. The first step to having hypocritical love is to hate all that is good. Just think about the last time someone held the door for you. Can you believe that they had the nerve to do something nice? It would have been better if they would have slammed the door in your face.  
  2. Instead of clinging to what is good, cling to what is evil. This is really just the flip side of step one. Once you have decided that you are going to hate all that is good, it only makes sense that you will want what is evil. I have seen this expressed in my own life, as well as others. It is sad to see those times when a person is so committed to holding onto their sin, even at the sake of their own soul.
  3. Instead of being devoted to one another, give up as soon as possible. If you still are looking for another way to show just how hypocritical your love can be, pail out when those you “love” need you the most. You know when your best friend’s life is like a country song: their dog died, their wife left them, they lost their job, etc, instead of helping them to bear their burden, find the quickest exit and let them handle it on their own.
  4. Instead of giving preference to one another, demand that preference be given to you. Yet another great way to demonstrate a hypocritical love is to demand that you be the center of attention. You know the next time you and a friend want to go to a movie make sure it is the one that you want to seen, because the last thing you would to do is let someone else have their way.
  5. Instead of keeping up with the pack, make sure you lag behind in diligence. I am sure we have all seen this. We are a part of a group and there is always that one person who lets the rest of us to all the work. If you want to have a hypocritical love, make sure you’re that person. Make sure that you sit around and let every one else handle the work that needs to be done. If the 80/20 rule is true that 20% of the people do 80% of the work, then that is clear evidence that 80% of the people are lagging behind.
  6. Instead of being fervent in spirit, be apathetic. That’s right the last thing you want to do is to give someone the idea that you really care or that you really want to help. So when you know someone needs help instead of being excited to help, just pretend like you don’t care. After all someone else will take care of it eventually.
  7. Instead of serving the Lord, serve yourself. Probably the most effective way to promote a love full of hypocrisy is to make sure that everything you do has you at the center of it. Instead of letting service be done for and to God, endeavor to have it done for and to you. (I hope you are beginning to see just how disgusting love with hypocrisy can be, and there are still five to go… )
  8. Instead of rejoicing in hope, act depressed and without hope. I’ll be the first to admit that this one can come pretty naturally to me. Instead of “considering it all joy” as James says, you sulk in self pity, saying, “Woe is me!” Until some someone comes along and is willing to devote their time to trying to cheer you up. 
  9. Instead of persevering in tribulation, give up. Much like #3, only this time the shoe is on the other foot. Instead of someone else being a trial and needing you to help them out, you are the one in the midst of the fire. If you want to promote hypocritical love, then despite all the encouragement of friends give up anyway. I have to say the ultimate example is probably the person who commits suicide. They lack love for others so much that they are willing to give up on life. 
  10. Instead of being devoted to prayer, don’t even think about other people. What another great way to be a hypocrite. Tell someone you care about them that you love them, and then spend absolutely no time asking God to help them. Act like you care when your with them, but then don’t give them another moments thought after you leave.
  11. Instead of contributing to others needs, keep everything for yourself. This is probably one of the most practice steps of loving in hypocrisy in the United States. You go get the best job that you can, and then you come home and spend all your money on yourself. You don’t stop and thing about the needs of other people in the church or in your community at large or even about needs that exist in other parts of the world.
  12. Instead of practicing hospitality, lock yourself in your room. The final step to practicing love in hypocrisy is to simply avoid people all together. Make sure that you never invite anyone over to your house, and be sure to reject any invitations…after all you’re supposed to abhor what is good, see step 1.

If you have read this far, I hope that you are about as sick to your stomach as I am to be even thing about these things. Unfortunately, I think a lot of us, Christians included, act exactly the way that I described. Our love is seeded with hypocrisy. So let us all take the words of Romans 12:9-13 to heart,

“Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor; not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer, contributing to the needs of the saint, practicing hospitality.” And may God grant us the grace to live a life of love without hypocrisy.

“You believe that God is one You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder.” (James 2:19)

As I was sitting in church this Sunday attempting to listen to the pastor’s sermon, I was having trouble paying attention. As I tried to captivate my thoughts on the sermon at hand, my mind kept being drawn to the consideration of James 2:19 and the distinction between genuine faith and demonic faith. I have been greatly excited by the fact that our church, Omaha Bible Church, is currently going through the book of James in our care groups. This last week we did an overview of James with regard to how James distinguishes between genuine faith and demonic faith.

As I have continued to think on this verse in connection with the rest of the book of James and the Old Testament that would have been the foundation of James understanding of the gospel. I have begun to see more and more the point that James is driving at in James 2:19-24 is not just the works that are being done, but the motive behind them. I realize I am about to make an argument from silence, but I think if you will bear with me for a moment you will realize that there is a connection. I would like to assert that when James proposes that faith works, he is referring to a faith that acts out of a love for God and that James is in no way asserting any form of legalistic justification.

First, James makes reference to the demons faith with regards to the nature of God. They believe “that God is one,” and James tells his readers that those who agree with this fact have “done well”. Given the fact that He is writing to a Jewish audience I cannot help but think that James is here applauding them for their recognition of Deuteronomy 6:4, “Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD is one.” This makes sense in light of the fact that James has just argued that you must be a doer of the law and not just a hearer (James 1:22-25) and that Deuteronomy 6:3 says, “O Israel, you should listen and be careful to do it.”

Second, if indeed James is drawing from Deuteronomy 6 here in James 2 it would makes sense to conclude that what the demons lack is what Israel was called to do in Deuteronomy 6:5, “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.” It seems clear that the demons have no genuine love for God, but rather hate and despise him. And so the natural man also in Romans 1:30 are referred to as “haters of God.” Therefore it seems likely to assume that what James expects to see from those who have been justified is a love that flows out in obedience to God and His word.

Finally, James uses Abraham’s sacrifice of Isaac (James 1:21) as the example of how Abraham was justified through His works. Clearly James cannot be speaking of the initial justification by which Abraham was credited as righteous because of His faith (Genesis 15:5), because the sacrifice of Isaac doesn’t take place until Genesis 22 when Isaac was a young lad (at least old enough to carry a load of wood for the sacrifice). The question the must be asked what was God trying to assess in the the testing of Abraham. We are told in Genesis 22:12 that as a result of Abraham’s obedience God knew that Abraham feared Him. In addition, I would add to that the fact that God now knew who had the preeminence when it came to Abraham’s affections, because in Genesis 22:2 Abraham was told, “Take now your son, your only son, whom you love, Isaac, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I will tell you.” The issue was not ultimately just Abraham do you believe that Isaac is the one through whom you will be blessed as I said, but do you love Me enough to sacrifice your son whom you love.

You see faith is not just about believing and acting…the Pharisees believed the law otherwise they would not have went to such great lacks to keep the law (at least in outward appearance. The problem was that they hated the Law Giver, which is why when He came to earth in the person of Jesus Christ and asserted things like He did in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7). Things like if you are angry in your heart your a murder and if you lust in your heart you are an adulterer, they could not handle it. So the did the one thing that every one of us wants to do, they attempted to kill God! And they thought they had succeeded until Christ rose again on the third day and demonstrated for all that not only had He satisfied the wrath of God, but it is impossible to kill God. In the struggle between God and the rebellion of His creation, God demonstrated that not even His rebellious creation could over come Him.

Ultimately, what distinguishes false faith from true faith is a love for God that overflows into a love for others, and so fulfills the two greatest commandments.

Having already discussed the fact that love is patient and love is kind and now turn my attention to the fact that love “is not jealous 

In 1 Corinthians 13:4, we are told that love “is not jealous” (NAS) or “does not envy” (NIV). As I have pondered this idea over the last few weeks, I have found myself at odds with certain truths. For example, 1 John 4:8 says, “The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love.” Thus it seems evident that our love flows from the knowledge of God, which by necessity means knowledge of His love, because He is love.  Thus the knowledge of God acts as the backing so that we might know what love really is. Yet we see in several passages that God is a jealous God (Ex. 20:5, 34:14, Deut. 4:24, 5:15, 32:16, Josh. 24:19, Nah. 1:2). How is it that God can be a jealous God and a loving God, if love is not jealous?

I have heard it explained away as follows. Clearly since 1 Corinthians 13 refers to believers, specifically in the context of misused of spiritual gifts, one cannot apply the descriptions of love mentioned here to God, because the same rules do not apply to Him. For example, God can be jealous because He is the one deserving of all praise, but we cannot because we do not deserve the praise that is offered another.

I do not agree with this simply because it seems to deny the very goal of salvation. “For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren” (Rom. 8:29). If we are to be conformed into the “image of the Son,” it does not make a lot of sense to say, “Well I know God is jealous, but you should not be. God to express His character in jealous, but you do not have a right to reflect that character to others.” Therefore, I am left to conclude that God must be both a jealous God and a God who is not jealous, and that we are to reflect both His jealousy and His lack of jealousy to the rest of His creation.

For my purposes here, I have limited myself to that of which God is jealous. I hope to at a latter date discuss the issue of that for which God is jealous (or zealous).

Who is God Jealous of?

For the sake of those who think that I am mistaken in my previous assumption, I will begin by addressing that which God is jealous of. First, I will not hesitate to affirm that God is jealous of all that which would rob Him of the glory and honor that are rightly due to Him. So the second commandment sets forth, “You shall not worship them or serve them (idols); for I, the Lord your God am a jealous God” (Ex. 20:5). And later the Israelites are warned, “For you shall not worship any other god, for the Lord, whose name is jealous, is a jealous God” (Ex. 34:14). It seems clear that God is not jealous of His people, but of the idols which have stolen their affections.

Second, it seems clear that those whom God is jealous of are not His friends, but His enemies. At the end of the book of Deuteronomy in the Song of Moses we read, “They have made Me jealous with what is not God; they have provoked Me to anger with their idols So I will make them jealous with those who are not a people; I will provoke them to anger with a foolish nation” (Deut. 32:21). It is interesting that Paul applies this to the nation of
Israel in Romans 10:19ff, but in pointing out that God has not abandoned
Israel completely (Rom 11:25-29), he tells the Gentiles that “from the standpoint of the gospel they are enemies” (11:28).

Finally, I would add that those of whom God is jealous will not be privileged to the blessings of God but to the eternal wrath of God. This is especially set forth in Ezekiel where we see God’s jealous linked with His wrath:

“I will bring on you the blood of wrath and jealousy” (16:38)

“So I will calm My fury against you and My jealousy will depart from you” (16:42)

“I will set My jealousy against you, that they may deal with you in wrath” (23:25)

“in the fire of My jealousy” (36:5)

“I have spoken in My jealousy and in My wrath because you have endured the insults of the nations” (36:6)

“In My jealousy and My blazing wrath” (38:19)

Those who find themselves face to face with the jealousy of God have only to find wrath, fury, and indignation. They will not see the love of God, but His holy hatred of sin and the necessity of divine justice.

What God is Not Jealous of?

However, we see that God is love, and as I will attempt to demonstrate, that God is Not Jealous of those whom He loves. First, we must consider the love demonstrated between the Father and the Son, as it is the image of the Son that we are to be conformed into. In John 17, we see Christ offer up a prayer to the Father in which He says, “I glorified You on the earth, having accomplished the work which You have given Me to do. Now, Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was” (17:4-5). Christ purpose on earth was not to be jealous of the Father, but to seek to honor and glorify Him. Likewise, the Father is not jealous of the Son, but will give to Him the glory that is due to Him (cf. Php. 2:9).

Second, we must consider the love God has for the elect. It seems abundantly clear from scripture that God is not jealous of His people. In fact, it is an evidence of His love that He turns His jealous anger away from them. “I will heal their apostasy, I will love them freely, for My anger has turned away from them.” (Hos. 14:4).After all why would God ever be envious of His people? He is the one who has “blessed them with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places” (Eph. 1:3). Furthermore, the Father has honored them by betrothing them to the Son as His beloved Bride (2 Cor. 11:2, Eph. 5:25-32, Hos. 2:19). And He has placed their name in the book of life and has prepared a place for them to spend eternity with Him. So I find it extremely unlikely that God will be jealous of any of His people’s enjoyment of spending an eternity with Him. Nor do I think that Christ is in the least bit jealous of the fact that God has made us co-heirs with Him (Rom. 8:17).

Are We Jealous of God?

I think it is fair to say that jealousy of God is the motive of all sin and the most pointed demonstration of a lack of love of God. It is the nature of the wicked to be jealous of God. It is the nature of the human heart to want to set itself in the place of God, to desire the position and power that come from being the sovereign God. It is like the king of
Tyre of whom it was said, “Because your heart is lifted up and you have said, ‘I am a god, I sit in the seat of gods in the heart of the seas’; yet you are a man and not God, although you make your heart like the heart of God” (Ezek. 28:2).

In our sinful condition, we all desire to be the center of our own universe and we find no place for God. We are resentful of the idea that someone else has control of our lives. We find it find it infuriating that God is God and that He does not do things the way that we believe that they should be done. We consider His character and find it to be flawed. We would rather that God was confined to space and time, a finite and weak creature, who knows no more than us. We find repulsive the idea that God is holy and righteous and that He would find fault with us and condemn us to an eternal punishment.

Yet for those who have experience the love of God, we are no longer jealous of God, but find our confidence in the greatness of His character. “We exult in hope of the glory of God” (
Rom. 5:2). Having recognized our own inability, we are overjoyed to know that God is omnipresent and eternal, the infinite and omnipotent Creator, who knows the beginning from the end. We delight to know that God is holy and righteous and that He has taken the condemnation that we rightly deserve and bore it on the cross.

Are We Jealous of Others?

So it is no wonder in the end that we are instructed that love “is not jealous.” When we love someone else we find joy in celebrating the blessings that God has brought into their life, knowing that neither we nor they are deserving of them. Christian love thus demonstrates itself in the humbling of oneself so that others might be exulted.

Last week I began a serious on the characteristics of Christian love with a consideration of fact that “love is patient” (1 Cor. 13:4). Today I will be considering the fact that “love is kind.” It would seem that patience and kindness are simply opposite sides of the same coin. While patience is the withholding the punishment someone rightly deserves, kindness is the act of doing good to others.  

 God is Kind to Us

Have you ever stopped to consider just how kind God is to us. God’s kindness is an evidence of His unconditional love to all  people. This is most evident in His giving blessings to all men, even those who are evil and ungrateful (Lk. 6:35). Matthew points out two specific ways in which God has demonstrate His kindness to all men when he writes, “for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous” (Mt. 5:45). You see God’s kindness to us is not based on anything that we might do, but is simply a demonstration of the very character of God.

The most significant demonstration of the kindness of God is the salvation of sinners. For we read, “But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit” (Tit. 3:4-5). The kindness of God is necessarily link to the grace of God, since all have fallen there are none who are deserving of God’s kindness. In fact, we read in Ephesians 2 that we are “dead in our trespasses and sins” and are “by nature children of wrath.”

“But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindnesstoward us in Christ Jesus.” (Eph 2:4-7)

Yet God’s kindness is not meant to make us comfortable in this life, but to lead us into repentance so the we might enjoy the next. (Rom. 2:4) In fact, our unwillingness to return to God and embrace salvation is evidence of hardness and unrepentant of our hearts. And as sad as it may seem, it is also evident from scripture that some will continue to reject of kindness of God until the end. “Behold then the kindness and severity of God; to those who fell, severity, but to you, God’s kindness, if you continue in His kindness; otherwise you also will be cut off” (Rom. 11:22). It is significant to note that the same action of God can be viewed in two different ways based on those who are evaluating it. To those who continue in faith there is the appearance of kindness, but to those who fall away from the faith is only the appearance of judgment.

 Are We Kind to Him?

Once again some may protest at this point. It seems some what irrational to think that we need to be kind to God. I mean after all we have already seen that in God’s case He demonstrates kindness by giving good to those who do not deserve it. And God has never done anything wrong, so it would seem impossible to demonstrate kindness toward God. Yet would seem like it should be even easier for us to do good to God, in light of His kindness to us. While us must often return good to those who do evil, it is the nature of sin to return evil for His good.

This may be most evident in light of trials. As the tendency of our sinful hearts is to accuse God of our misery condition in the midst of trials. This seems to be the type of attitude that James was attempting to challenge in the first chapter of His epistle. It seems that some people were blaming their temptations on the situations they were placed in. If only God had not placed the temptation in front of them they would not have been inclined to sin. But James counters this thinking by saying that they should “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials” (Jam 1:2). James basic argument is that God is only capable of giving good things, thus they should see their circumstances as a blessing from God (1:17). In addition, their trials are a means of their sanctification (1:3-4). In the end, they should know that when temptation comes it is not the circumstance that should change, but them. So instead, of responding in bitterness and anger they should thank God for situation they are in and embrace it as an opportunity to offer up their obedience as a sacrifice to God.

 Are We Kind to Others?

The ability to be kind to others must begin with an understanding of the kindness and goodness of God as it relates both to salvation and to the every day events of our lives. God clearly desires us to be kind to other, especially to those who have wronged us or done evil to us (Col. 1:12, 2 Cor. 6:6). In fact it is in the demonstration of forgiving and doing good to those who have done us evil that we are to emulate the forgiveness that God has offered us in Christ. “Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you” (Eph 4:32). To illustrate the nature and depth of kindness that God expects of us I would like to consider to men where not only genuinely kind to their enemies, but ironically were also great friends: Jonathan and David.

Most of you will be familiar of the story of David and Saul. Saul was the first king of Israel, but after disobeying God, God decided to replace him. God selected David a man who He knew to be a man after His own heart. When David began to rise in prominence, Saul attempted to kill Him. For several years David was constantly on the run from Saul. Yet David refused on several occasions David refused to kill Saul and take vengeance for the things that Saul had done to him. Yet even when Saul finally died David was happy to hear that Saul had been buried and blessed those who had buried Saul saying, “May you be blessed of the LORD because you have shown this kindness to Saul your lord, and have buried him” (2 Sam. 2:5).

But why Jonathan you may ask. Clearly he was never persecuted to the extent that David was, but Jonathan to had a revile, a person he might consider an enemy…David. Yes, his dear friend was also his greatest rival. You see Jonathan was Saul’s son and was likely considered to be the heir to the throne of Israel prior to David’s anointing. So Jonathan would have had plenty of reason to be jealous of David and to treat him poorly. In fact, on one occasion Jonathan also had the opportunity to turn David over to Saul, but out of his love for David, he protected him and sent him away instead. (1 Sam. 20)

For a great example of a person who demonstrated kindness in the midst of bad circumstances, consider Joseph. His brothers sell him off into slavery and then he is falsely accused and thrown into prison. Here is a man who has every reason we might thing of to be bitter and angry about his situation. Yet in the midst of it all He maintains a kind spirit, as demonstrated by his willingness to interpret the baker and the cup-bearer’s dreams, after all it was dreams that had gotten him into trouble in the first place. When his brothers come for help, he gives it to them. And when they finally become concerned that he might take revenge after the death of their father, “Joseph said to them, “Do not be afraid, for am I in God’s place? As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive” (Gen. 50:19-20).

Indeed that is the attitude we should have in every situation we encounter in which we have been wronged. “You may have meant it for evil, but God meant it for good.” So let us demonstrate the love of God by being kind to others and returning good for evil.

God is Patient With Us

1 Corinthians 13:4 tells us that “love is patient.” If “God is love” (1 Jn. 4:7,8), and “love is patient,” then we should see God as being a patient God. Indeed, scripture else where upholds this truth. We see God’s patience demonstrated in the tolerance of sin for the sake of His people whom He loves. Consider first God’s love in the days of Noah “when the patienceof God kept waiting in the days of Noah, during the construction of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through the water” (1 Pet. 3:20). When we consider the days before the flood, we should consider how God patiently endured the wicked by withholding the flood waters long enough for Noah to built the ark that God would use to preserve Him from His wrath. God’s patience is first demonstrated in the fact that He endures the wicked out of His love for His people. “What if God, although willing to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction? And He did so to make known the riches of His glory upon vessels of mercy, which He prepared beforehand for glory” (Rom. 9:22-23).

God’s loving patience is not limited to the His withholding judgment on those who are not His own, but also is demonstrated in His tolerance of the sins of those who would be His people. If you do not see God as tolerant I suggest you stop and ask yourself why God has not struck you dead because of your sin. And “If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us” (1 Jn. 1:8). Clearly God tolerates sin does not mean that we should continue in sin, but is intended to lead us into repentance. “Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance?” (Rom. 2:4).  “The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance” (2 Pet. 3:9).

God expects us to see His patience as an opportunity to repent of sins in our lives and pursue righteousness. “And regard the patience of our Lord as salvation; just as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given him, wrote to you.” And who else but Paul was most qualified to speak of the patience of God, as He had be a zealous persecutor of the church and by the grace had become an equally zealous lover of the church. As Paul himself tells us, “Yet for this reason I found mercy, so that in me as the foremost, Jesus Christ might demonstrate His perfect patienceas an example for those who would believe in Him for eternal life” (1 Tim. 1:16). God’s patience is meant to lead us to repentance, so whether you are an unbeliever in need of repentance for the first time, or a Christian who continues to wage war with sin, look at God’s patience as an opportunity to change your ways and run to Him.

 Are We Patient With Him?

Some may protest at this point that we have no need to be patient with God, because God never does anything wrong. However, I would disagree after all we are to love God (Mt. 22:37) and “love is patient,” so their must be some aspect in which a love toward God expresses itself is patience. I would like to propose to specific ways in which we demonstrate patience with God: in enduring hardship and in awaiting His return.

Let us first consider patience with God in hardships. For everyone who has every endured a hardship or trial, I am sure they have reached a point when they wished it would end. They longed for better days. Yet as believers our attitude in trials should be that of the Psalmist who wrote, “I waited patiently for the LORD” (Ps. 40:1) or “Rest in the LORD and wait patiently for Him; Do not fret because of him who prospers in his way,Because of the man who carries out wicked schemes” (Ps. 37:7). Someone who is willing to be patient with the Lord, to wait on Him, will have an attitude much like Job who could say, “The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away. Blessed be the name of the LORD” (Job 1:21). They do not demand that God removed the trial that He has set in their path, but they wait patiently for Him to bring them through it.

Yet the redeem patiently await more than the removal of the temporal trial; they await the return return of the Lord or their departure to be with Him. As apostle Paul tells us, “And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body” (Rom. 8:23). However, this eager expectation cannot be a demanding of Christ’s return, for elsewhere we read, Therefore be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. The farmer waits for the precious produce of the soil, being patient about it, until it gets the early and late rains. You too be patient; strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is near” (Jam. 5:7-8). The author of Hebrews sets Abraham as an example of one “who through faith and patience inherit the promises” (Heb. 6:12). And so, having patiently waited, he obtained the promise” (Heb 6:15). And we are to imitators of that faith and patience…that love.

Are We Patient With Others?

If we have come to know the love of God and have come to love Him, it will only follow that we will love others. As we begin to appreciate the patience of God and grow in our willingness to wait patiently on Him, we will begin to show patience to others as well. The expectation for us to be patient with others is seen specifically in our dealings with others short comings. This is evident from Paul’s (the example of His perfect patience) instructions to the Ephesian church:

 Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. (Eph. 4:1-3)

Does this mean that we should just let sin go and never address it? May it never be! Remember the patience and tolerance and kindness of God are meant to lead us and others to repentance (Rom 2:4, 2 Pe. 3:9). So to we are to be patient with others in the process of trying to lead them to repentance. Paul told the church in Thessalonica, “We urge you, brethren, admonish the unruly, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patientwith everyone” (1 Thes. 5:14). Paul  understood how hard it was to move people to repentance (something ultimately only God can do) for he instructs the pastor Timothy to “preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patienceand instruction” (2 Tim. 4:2). For those who have been Christian’s very long I’m sure they can relate to the difficulties the Thessalonians were having. You tell the rebellious and unruly person in your church to stop and it seems like it falls on deaf ears. You talk to another who is unable to bear their burden, and you tell them that God’s grace is sufficient for their weakness, only to see them continuing to try and carry their burden on their own.

Most people can appreciate the need to be patient with those they are admonishing, encouraging, or helping. As a teacher I can definitely understand the need for patience in trying to teach others, especially math since most of them have not desire to learn it. But how many of us think of our need for patience when someone else is instructing us. When was the last time you patiently endure someone else instructing you. Paul begged King Agrippa, “I beseech thee to hear me patiently” (Acts 26:3). It seems that Paul understood that when we are being told something that we do not want to hear, we need patience to actually hear the person out.

Are patient with those you “love”? If you are not patient and you really love them, then ask God to change your attitude and your actions so that you will be more patient with them? If, however, you are not patient and you have no desire to change, then you need to face the fact that you do not really love them, because “love is patient.”

The other day I wrote about the nature of true love from a biblical perspective. I indicated that true love is demonstrated in self-sacrifice. In an attempt to guard against people who might think that because they do a lot for others or give a lot to others that they were being loving, I mentioned that love is not just giving, but giving up something. Yet as I have examined my own life, I have become increasingly aware that I do not know what love really looks like. I say that I love God, but what does that look like? I say I love others, but what does that look like.

Over the next few weeks I hope to look more closely at what love really looks like using 1 Corinthians 13 as a guide. As I consider the question, I will attempt to approach it from a biblical perspective. Considering first that “we love, because God first loved us” (1 Jn 4:19). Then I will proceed to show who we should demonstrate that love to God and to others. So for each characteristic of love I will attempt to answer three questions:

  1. How does God show love to us? 
  2. How do we show love to God? 
  3. How do we show love to others?

I have heard parents tell there children, “I love you this much” as they spread their arms open wide. I have heard people tell their spouse that they love them. Parents often tell their children that they love them. And I am sure once in a while the children actually tell their parents they love them too. However, there are also times that I hear of people who do not think that their spouse loves them. Or as a teacher more commonly I hear that their parents or guardians do not love them. Yet as I have continued to ponder what it means to love someone in my own life, I have been faced with the reality that I really had no clue what it really means to love someone.

This is a rather sad think to admit, being a Christian I should know what love is after all the two greatest commandments are: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind” and “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Mt. 22:37, 39)” So what is love and how do we measure how much someone loves us, or more importantly how much we love someone else?

The Bible says that “God is love” (1 Jn. 4:8). We are not simply told that God is a loving God, but that if you could summarize the character of God it could be done in one word: love. Therefore, if we are to understand what true love looks like we must consider first and foremost what God looks like. For true love can only flow from a God like character thus we are told “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.  The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love” (1 Jn 4:7-8). Thus there must be a parallel between growth in love and growth into the image of Jesus Christ.

For the time being let me limit myself to the foundational ground upon which love must be based: self-sacrifice. For we see that the ultimate demonstration of God’s love was the sacrifice of His Son for the sins of those who would believe. Consider the following verses:

“In this is love, 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)

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)

“But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)

“But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.” (Ephesians 2:4-7)

Thus measure of our love is not measured by how much we do for someone else, but how much we give up for them. If you want to measure your love, you must consider how much have you given up for someone else. Christ Himself has told us “Greater lovehas no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends” (Jn 15:13). You and I will not ever grow in love in less we grow in the laying down of our own lives. Greater love means greater sacrifice. If there is no sacrifice, there is likely no love. So how do you measure up?