Last year we did a series titled "What is Love?" that went through 1 Corinthians 13. Now we will learn how to apply what we learned about love and put it into action. To learn what real love is, click here. The love referred to in this post is Philia love (brotherly/friendship) and Agape love (unconditional, sacrificial).
"Watch, stand fast in the faith, be brave, be strong. Let all that you do be done with love." (1 Corinthians 16:13-14). Love is a choice, it is not a feeling. You make a choice to either love someone or not. Yes, some people are harder to love than others, but it is not up to us to decide who is "worthy" of our love, it is our responsibility to love our neighbor period. The first step in loving someone is to choose to love him or her.
Second, you make a conscious decision to accept their flaws, forgive past sins and never bring them up, and unconditionally love them going forward. People will disappoint you just as you will disappoint others, it is our sinful and imperfect nature. Once we understand this concept, we can move onto the next phase.
As God says in 1 Peter, "But the end of all things is at hand; therefore be serious and watchful in your prayers. And above all things have fervent love for one another, for “love will cover a multitude of sins.” Be hospitable to one another without grumbling. As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God." (1 Peter 4:7-10). Love covers a multitude of sins, it ameliorates and chastens to produce righteousness and godliness. When we are loving another person, we pray fervently for them, seek their good above our own, and if any sin is in their life we lovingly approach them, desiring to bring them to repentance.
As 2 Corinthians states, "For out of much affliction and anguish of heart I wrote to you, with many tears, not that you should be grieved, but that you might know the love which I have so abundantly for you." (2 Corinthians 2:4). As a Christian we grieve over all sin knowing the hurt it causes God, others, and ourselves and understanding the separation it puts between God and us. When a member of the body of Christ sins, it affects the whole body, it is damaging and destructive. The Bible tells us how to deal with sin in the church and how to approach our brothers and sisters in Christ so that the body will grow, become stronger, unify, and be cleansed. Whatever God says is a sin, is a sin! We are not to accept/tolerate sin or change God's Word based on our own thinking or feelings. God's Word is truth, it is final, and it is what, as Christians, we are suppose to live by. Matthew 18: 15-17, "Moreover if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother. But if he will not hear, take with you one or two more, that ‘by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.’ And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church. But if he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector."
Third, actions prove our intentions and words can heal the heart. Our words should be seasoned with truth and love and our actions should demonstrate the fruit of the Spirit and show the person what real love is. Showing our love comes in many forms, this includes being patient, kind, humble, selfless, caring, comforting, protecting, and honoring.
As Ephesians 4 says, "but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ— from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love." (Ephesians 4:15-16). Honesty with love produces fruit, honesty without love can ruin relationships and your testimony. We are to be honest and speak the truth but do it in a way that is kind and respectful, not in a demeaning or harsh manner.
As Ephesians 5 states, "Therefore be imitators of God as dear children. And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma." (Ephesians 5:1-2). We are not to imitate God for others to think highly of us or to be a god, but we are to imitate God as children do with their role model. Most children imitate their parents, their mother or father who they look up to and want to be like. A son will try to be like his father, may try to wear his father's shoes and put on a tie or sit at a desk and act like he's working. These actions are imitations of respect and love, because the child wants to grow up to be like his father. When we imitate God as children we are respectfully trying to demonstrate His character out of love and because we desire to be like Christ (holy, pure, without sin, kind, loving, etc.). We don't want to be God which is a sin, but we want to be like Him.
As Philippians states, "Therefore if there is any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others." (Philippians 2:1-4). When we truly demonstrate real love, it brings joy and harmony to others. The body of Christ is suppose to be in unity, when we truly love our brothers and sisters in Christ and show God's love to unbelievers, we are showing the world the bond that Christ provides and demonstrating the true nature of Christ and the peace only He can provide.
The world is full of hate, war, arguments, lawsuits, fights, and viciousness. As believers, we are set apart from the world and those actions and evils of the hearts have no place in the Church. We are to work together to handle any issues or disagreements/arguments that come up with others and handle them in a way that is honoring to God and the helps strengthen relationships if at all possible. Sometimes you have to walk away from someone or end a relationship because it is harmful, sinful, toxic, or destructive, but to the best of our ability we are to be at peace with one another. God builds, restores, unifies, bonds. The devil deceives, destroys, separates, and breaks. As Romans 12 says, "Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord." (Romans 12:17-19).
We need more Philia Love (brotherly love, friendship, goodwill) and Agape Love (unconditional, sacrificial) in this world, especially in the churches because believers are the example of real love and good fruit (the fruit of the Spirit). The world is full of darkness, hate, and evil. Christians are called to be the light to shine God's goodness, mercy, grace, and blessings for others to see, to plant the seed of salvation, and advance the kingdom of God.
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