What’s love got to do with it?
The Apostle Paul asks us to take a closer look at our love life
Romans 12:9-13 (NASB95) 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 saints, practicing hospitality.
Have you figured out that many of the creative folks producing movies and TV entertainment have a pretty narrow and one-dimensional definition of love? “Love” is a word that has been cheapened, diluted, degraded and even perverted in our culture today. I “loved” eating my donut (APPLE FRITTER!) this morning. That is a sad statement in so many ways… but back to the topic at hand! With so much common (over) usage, comprehending the real God-given concept of love requires some deeper reflection on our part. Actually living out the real definition of love is even harder. As Christians, we often pay lip service to the concept of love as the “greatest” of the three “high words” of the Christian life (do you know the other two—see 1 Cor 13:13?), but an honest assessment might just reveal serious shortcomings in the Christian community today when it comes to believers loving one another, much less their neighbors or their enemies.
We know of course that love “for one another” is commanded by the Lord Jesus Christ himself (John 13:34). However, in Romans 12:9-13, Paul reiterates this command as primary (i.e. the most important) in his list of Christian ethics. That list is pretty comprehensive, and a daunting one at that. However, note that all of the things that Paul wants us to do in our daily walk with the Lord flow out of both the concept of “agape” love in verse 9 and “phileo” love in verse 10. Agape love is not an emotion; it is an intentional action of the will to seek the welfare of others over our own. It is a response to being loved by God. “Phileo” love is love of brother—the blood bond. It evokes the concepts of fierce loyalty, trust, protection, compassion, honesty, and fidelity. Both are a priority to Paul. So what does “loving” really look like in our daily life experience?
Someone once noted that love is the circulatory system of the spiritual body of Christ. It is what unifies us as Christians and allows us to work together in a harmonious way. In fact, when Jesus prayed for you and me to His Father in John 17, His overarching request was for unity (vs 22-23: “that they may be one…so that that they may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that You sent Me, and loved them, even as You have loved Me”). So we see that loving each other is also THE BEST WITNESS to a dying world (see John 13:35). Ultimately, we need to remember that God is the source of all Christian love (Rom. 5:8), and our faith makes loving others possible (Rom. 5:5).
This is especially important here at Frontier Camp as we serve our campers this summer. We admonish our staff to keep their faith growing and their walk with the Lord strong throughout the summer in order to attain and sustain the love that we are commanded to have for our campers, their parents, and for each other. This rules out cliques, gossip, “us vs. them” alignments, public disagreements, sarcasm (ouch!), whining, complaining, jealousy, and hypocrisy. Following Paul’s admonition, we will intentionally seek to be diligent, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer, contributing to the needs of the saints [our campers], and practicing hospitality! One person’s shortcoming in any area can affect the whole group! There is a good test to determine how well we are doing in the “love one another” department. All one has to do is to look to see how unified we are.
This is true for you, your circle of friends, and the community you love and live in as well. Most relationship conflict and “drama” can be laid at the feet of selfishness due to pride. Think about that. Normal life presents many temptations for disharmony and if we are self-centered, it supplies fuel to those fires. Unfortunately it is always easier to see that ailment in someone else than it is to see in oneself. So just as I will challenge our FC staff, I challenge you to love outside of your comfort zone this summer. Love the unlovely, the undesirable, and the unlovable. Love the unworthy. Love the irritating, the conniving, and the manipulative. Love those that wrong or hurt you. Love those that curse you. Just love. And do it because the Lord loves you—there is not a better example of true love than that. I look forward to loving this summer!