“See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are… Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure… For this is the message that you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another… Do not be surprised, brothers, that the world hates you… 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.” 1 John 3:1-3,11,13,16-18
When we confront and deeply contemplate Jesus’s love for us– the ultimate sacrificial love of our Savior– it captures our hearts. And when our hearts are seized and enveloped, Jesus’s love swells in our hearts and spills over into love for Him and for our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. There is nothing like familial love in His body– generous, life-giving, fruit-multiplying love.
First, we see His love, what kind it is, what it does when lavished on us. This is a love that saves forever and promises we will one day be like Him. This is a love that knows all about us, and scoops us in a holy embrace in unbreakable affection, adopting us into God’s family. We become children of God! Siblings of Christ! We reciprocate this love between parent and child. (Romans 8:15; Ephesians 1:5; Hebrews 2:11)
This certain truth and hope of two-way love compels us to pure hearts washed clean of grudges and preconceptions, favoritism and the puffery of superiority and irritations we give room. The palpable reality of Jesus’s love wells up in and out of us so we forgive as we have been forgiven, demote our preferences in honor and deference to others, genuinely care for the needs of individuals and the brokenness of our world. Laying down our lives for others means saying every morning, ‘Lord, I am available. My breath, my agenda, my resources, my time– all for You. Love through me. Work through me in deed and truth so others see, hear, and feel reflected the magnetic, perfect love of Christ.’ (Romans 12:3,9-10,15-16; Ephesians 4:32)
As God has freely set His affection on me, how freely and deliberately do I set my affection on others? What alien loves and pet indulgences must I forsake in order to make my heart accessible to develop and extend His love to others? Where am I holding back tenderness or compassion because of inconvenience, prejudice, selfish wants, past hurts that have grown bitter roots? (Deuteronomy 7:7-8; Philippians 2:3-7; Hebrews 12:15)
Lord of love, complete Your love in me and help me love as You so love– lavishly, sacrificially, without reservation. Spread Your love abroad in my heart so fully that the body of Christ, and the world, will know and adore You. (Romans 5:5; 1 John 4:11-12,16-17)