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Christian Love

What is the only thing that really counts in the Christian life?"The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love" Gal 5:6 Love is not just an expression of our faith, it is one of the primary outward indicators that we are children of God. "This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not a child of God; nor is anyone who does not love his brother." 1John 3:10  And "We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love our brothers. Anyone who does not love remains in death."1John 3:14

But what constitutes Christian love? Christian love is an attitude, but not a mere feeling dependent upon the whims of our emotions. It is the intention to meet the real needs of others. Christian love furthermore has measurable outworkings. Just as with Christian faith, Christian love is application oriented.

"If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him?  Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth. This then is how we know that we belong to the truth" 1John 3:17-19
How do we know what love is? "This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers." 1John 3:16

As for some particular instructions concerning Christian love:

Loving the brethren involves meeting with them regularly

"Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.  Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another— and all the more as you see the Day approaching." Heb 10:24,25
Loving the brethren involves encouraging them in the faith
"Encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called "Today," so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin." Heb 3:13
Loving the brethren involves humbly bearing with them
"Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love." Eph 4:2
Loving the brethren involves avoiding unnecessary controversies
"Command certain men not to teach false doctrines any longer nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies. These promote controversies rather than God’s work— which is by faith. The goal of this command is love, which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith." 1Tim 1:3-5
Loving the brethren involves respecting their convictions concerning disputable matters
"We then who are strong ought to bear with the scruples of the weak, and not to please ourselves." Rom 15:1

"If your brother is distressed because of what you eat, you are no longer acting in love. Do not by your eating destroy your brother for whom Christ died. Do not allow what you consider good to be spoken of as evil.  For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and approved by men.  Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification.... So whatever you believe about these things keep between yourself and God. " Rom 14:15-19,22

Loving the brethren involves practicing generosity
"I have received full payment and even more; I am amply supplied, now that I have received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent. They are a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God." Php 4:18

"But do not forget to do good and to share, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased." Heb 13:16

These are just a few aspects of Christian love towards other Christian brethren. So also there are many other categories of Christian love such as love towards one's family, love towards God, love towards society and love towards the unsaved. But just to touch on a few of these:

Loving Authority Figures

The measure of love towards one's own legitimate authority figures - whether they be civil authorities, church authorities, one's own husband or parents, and even God - is largely a function of one's obedience and respect to them within their legitimate realm of authority.
"Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord." Col 3:20
"Wives should submit to their husbands in everything."Eph 5:24
"Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities" Rom 13:1
"Show proper respect to everyone: Love the brotherhood of believers, fear God, honor the king." 1Pe 2:17
Of course while it comes to human authority figures obedience and honor is with respect to their limited sphere of God-given authority as His representatives, but with respect to God obedience is absolute and honor is worship.
"This is love for God: to obey his commands." 1John 5:3
"Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him." John 14:21
Now here are also a few verses with speak of loving one's family

Loving your Wife

"Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless." Eph 5:25

"Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them." Col 3:19

"Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect " 1Pet 3:7

Loving Your Children

"Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord."Eph 6:4 "Fathers, do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged." Col 3:21

"For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children, encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into his kingdom and glory."1Thess 2:11,12 "We were gentle among you, like a mother caring for her little children." 1Thess 2:7

"Children should not have to save up for their parents, but parents for their children." 2Cor 12:4

Loving Needy Parents

"But if a widow has children or grandchildren, these should learn first of all to put their religion into practice by caring for their own family and so repaying their parents and grandparents, for this is pleasing to God." 1Tim 5:4

"If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his immediate family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever." 1Tim 5:8

Loving Others in the Society

"I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth." 1Tim 2:1-4

"Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and to show true humility toward all men." Titus 3:1,2

Attributes of Christian Love

One other significant instruction to mention concerning love is the teaching of 1Cor 13:4-6 which certain attitudes associated with love.
Love is patient,
love is kind.
It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.
It is not rude,
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.
Notice first of all that all of these speak of attitudes or the expression of attitudes. Secondly notice that love can be measured not only by the presence of certain good attitudes such as patience and kindness, but also by the lack of certain bad attitudes. Thus for example by not envying or boasting or being easily angered one is practicing love just by not doing those things.

It is helpful to keep this list in mind when considering applications of Christian Love. For love is not just about doing certain things and abstaining from other things, but also about the attitude of the heart, the motivation, and the manner in which things are to be carried out or expressed.

Discussion Questions

What is the only thing that really counts in living the Christian life?
What is the primary indicator distinguishing a child of God from a child of the devil?
What kinds of things are involved in loving other Christians?
What is particularly characteristic or the measure of love towards authority figures?
What are examples of the practice of love towards one's wife, children, and needy parents?
What are examples of love towards others in the society in general?
Of the list of attributes of love given in 1Cor 13:4-6, discuss areas in which these may or have been a challenge to apply.
What things do you suggest would be or have been helpful in developing and maintaining these attitudes?

The Berean Christian Bible Study Resources Dec 29,2023