We come into this world selfish, self-absorbed, thinking only of ourselves. A baby is all about itself, its desires, its wants, its needs being met. As we mature, we become more concerned about the needs of others. This is love – being concerned about the needs of others; wanting what is good for others. Love is the opposite of selfishness. It’s the desire to help others, to care for others, to give to others, to do good for others; to build others up; to help them reach their maximum potential as creatures made in the image of God.
Human beings love in various degrees. Some love no one. Some love only themselves. Some love their families and their friends. God is different. He loves fully. He loves completely because that is His nature. That is who He is. God is love. His caring, His grace, His mercy, His forgiveness, His efforts to redeem, His efforts to save, His gifts of life and eternal life – flow out of His nature – which is love.
If we are born again, which means we have received a new nature, a nature like God’s – more and more we will love like God loves. John tells us: Let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.
What does love look like? John gives us a description: This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Love looks like the Son of God leaving the glories of Heaven; limiting Himself; becoming a man; living in a fallen world and suffering all the indignities that are part of that; being despised and rejected, tortured and killed by being nailed to a cross – all to meet our greatest needs, to save us from the things we couldn’t save ourselves from – Satan and the demons, sin and the sin nature, death and Hell. Yeshua is what love looks like. And that is what we need to be like.
In his first letter to Messiah’s Community in Corinth, Rabbi Paul gives us a different description of love. Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.
Love is patient: We must understand that people are made in the image of God, with amazing abilities and the amazing potential of being the eternal sons and daughters of God. And we must also understand that people are very damaged. When Adam and Eve sinned and joined the rebellion of the fallen angels, every aspect of human nature was damaged – our mind, emotion and will; our body, soul and spirit; our sexuality; our relationships with one another, and with the creation, and our relationship with God.
We respond to damaged people who have amazing potential with patience. When they do or say something foolish, mean, hurtful, selfish, wrong – we respond with patience. Before we respond, we consider – not our hurt feelings, not our anger, and then respond from hurt or anger – which won’t be the right response – but we consider what is the best thing to do to help that person. We think about what we can say or do to help that person so that he won’t continue being foolish, mean, hurtful, selfish and wrong.
That’s why we can dislike someone and yet love that person. That’s why we can love our enemies.
When we love, we look at people with God’s redemptive perspective and therefore we are patient.
Love is kind: People can be mean, cruel, rude, nasty, thoughtless, inconsiderate. Love is the opposite: Good. Gracious. Gentle. Thoughtful. Considerate. Kind.
Love is kind, but there are times when those who love will say or do things that don’t seem to be kind. There are times when the one who loves will hurt the person who is loved. The surgeon who cuts open the chest of his patient to repair his heart is hurting him, but he is doing him a kindness. The father who disciplines his child is doing what is good for his child, even if the child experiences pain.
But even in those situations where love is tough, the tough love needs to be mingled with kindness. The surgeon who is about to cut open the chest of his patient does everything he can to reassure him. The parent who, before spanking his son, says to him: “my child, I’m doing this because I love you. I am doing this because it is what you need. I am doing this to help you” – is mixing tough love with kindness.
Love does not envy: God will allow others to have things we don’t have, or have things we find desirable and want. If we love, we don’t resent those who have those things. We are happy for them. We want them to have those things, and have even better things, especially the best things – the salvation and eternal life that comes from faith in Yeshua.
Love does not boast: If we love, we have no desire to call attention to ourselves, to seek praise from others. Instead, we want to praise others for their accomplishments. We call attention to them for their achievements.
Love is not proud: Pride is thinking of oneself more highly than one should; and thinking of others as less than they deserve. If we love, we have no desire to elevate ourselves more than we deserve. We have no desire to put others down so they are thought less of than they deserve. If we love, we want others to be thought of the way they should be, and to be esteemed – and we are happy when they are.
Love does not dishonor others: If we love, we don’t want others to lose any honor they deserve. We want them to get the honor they deserve. We are happy when they are honored, sad when they are dishonored. We do our best to honor others, to give them the honor and respect they deserve, and not dishonor them.
Love is not self-seeking: This is essential to love – getting beyond self-seeking – beyond seeking our interests and our desires and instead seeking the interests of others. This comes naturally for most parents. They put the interests of their children before their own. This comes naturally for most siblings. They love their brothers and sisters and help them. We need to look at the people around us as if they were our children or our brothers and sisters and seek to help them. What a world it would be if we could see all people as our children and brothers and sisters and seek what is best for them.
Love is not easily angered: Giving into anger and responding in anger might make us feel better, but it is selfish and makes the situation worse. I confess that I am too easily angered. It’s not right. It’s not good. In fact, it’s destructive. If I was filled with the Spirit and walking in love the way I should be, if I was angered by a situation, before I responded in anger, I would take a deep breath, or two or three; I would count to 10, or 100; or I would take a walk which helps me to cool down; and after I was calm and had time to think about the best way to respond to help the person I was angry with, and do what is best for him – only then would I respond.
Love keeps no record of wrongs: People keep a record of wrongs to use that record to hurt someone. The one who loves doesn’t want to do that. If a wrong has been committed, the one who loves goes to the person who has done something wrong, confronts him with the wrong and helps him make the wrong right. The wrong is dealt with and no record of the wrong is kept to be used later. The record is expunged.
A couple of years ago I experienced the dislove of a man who was part of Shema. Is that a word – dislove? If there is like and dislike, shouldn’t there be love and dislove? Anyway, this man disloved me. He came to my house one day to talk to me and pulled out a folder, a dossier, with pages and pages of things he thought I was doing wrong – and I emphasize “he thought.” You know someone doesn’t love you when he is keeping a record of your wrongs.
Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth: Truth and love are connected. To love, we need to know the truth; know right from wrong; find joy in the truth and abhor what is evil. Love is based on truth. Love means doing good to others. However, if we don’t know what is good, we are not acting in love. The father who takes his teenage son to a prostitute for his first sexual experience in not acting in love. He is not doing what is good for his son. He is hurting his son. That is not love. The man who says he loves a woman but has sex with her outside of marriage, and will not commit himself to her and to the children they may produce is not being good to her. He is hurting her. That is not love.
Love always protects: If we love, we meet the needs of those we love. We live in a dangerous world and one our needs is protection. To fully protect those we love, we must protect their body and their soul. We must be concerned for their spiritual well-being. We must be concerned for their salvation. Those Christians who claim to love the Jewish people and won’t protect our souls by sharing the Gospel, which alone can save our souls, do not have true love for us.
Love always protects: The protection inspired by love is not limited to once or twice or several times or many times. It is an always kind of protection, an all the time kind of protection, an in every situation kind of protection. It’s always there to protect.
Love always trusts: this does not mean that we trust people when we know they are untrustworthy. It means that when we love, we are generous with our support for others as long as possible. We give people the benefit of the doubt.
Love always hopes: When we love, we hope that, no matter how bad or rebellious or far from God a person is in the present, the God who redeems will work so that the person will change for the better. Love always hopes. If we are disappointed by someone we love, we keep on hoping for change. If we loved the thief who died on the cross next to Yeshua, we would keep on hoping that he would turn to God and be saved until the very end of his life – which of course is exactly what happened.
Love always perseveres: When we love, we are committed to people for the long run. We are not quick to give up on them, to throw in the towel. We hang in there with them. We suffer with them and for them. We endure troubles, hardships, burdens because of them. If someone rejects the truth we give them, we don’t write them off. We give it some time and try again later.
Love never fails: Some people love and then their love grows cold. They fall in love and fall out of love. Their love comes to an end. But the love that God has for us never ends. His love will never grow cold. It Because He is eternal and infinite, His love for His sons and daughters is eternal and infinite. God’s love for us never fails because it causes Him to do extraordinary things for us – to do whatever it takes to help us – like sending His Son from Heaven to Earth to die for us.
That’s what we need to be like – to love and keep on loving; to seek out the solutions that will help the ones we love; to never give up on those we love; to move Heaven and Earth to help the ones we love.
Let’s pray: Avinu Malkaynu, our Father and our King, we know that love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. Heavenly Father, help us love in this way.
Father, You showed Your love for us by sending Your one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. And Your Son showed His love for us by coming into this world and suffering and dying for us. Help us love like You love. Help us to love like Your Son.
Father, love is concerned with helping others; with meeting their needs. You have told us that the greatest need of human beings is salvation – which means that if we aren’t telling people the good news about Yeshua, then we are falling short of loving them the way You want us to love. Father, help us love people enough to share the Gospel with them.