[forthright] The Greatest Love

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From: Forthright Magazine <forthright@...>
Date: Tue, 08 Nov 2005 16:39:01 -0600
Forthright Magazine
http://www.forthright.net
Straight to the Cross

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COLUMN: Square One

The Greatest Love
by Richard Mansel

"Love is the sweetest thing that ever grew in a
human heart." /1 Love is the fuel that makes the
world go around. Ultimately, it is the essence of
joy and happiness.

Used of everything from spouses to sandwiches, the
English word "love" is completely inadequate to
describe the shades of meaning ascribed to it.
These definitions vary from "a profoundly tender,
passionate affection for another person" to
"sexual activity" to "a strong liking for." /2

The confusion caused by the muddled definitions of
love dilutes the understanding we have of the
passionate love of our Lord for his children. The
Bible is a story of love, beginning with creation
and ending with the swinging open of the gates of
heaven. John writes that God is the whole of love
(1 John 4:8).

In John 13:34, Jesus said, "A new commandment I
give to you, that you love one another; as I have
loved you, that you also love one another" (NKJV).
Jesus later tells his Apostles, "This is My
commandment, that you love one another as I have
loved you. Greater love has no one than this, than
to lay down one's life for his friends" (John
15:12,13).

This was not the first time that love had been
commanded. Instead, it was new because his
disciples now had Christ as the model for love. It
is new in that it "invokes a new standard: as I
have loved you." /3 Christ's selfless sacrifice on
the cross framed the word "love" in a completely
new light.

Love was now the "distinguishing mark of
Christians in this new age, the identifying
characteristic of true believers before a watching
world." /4 We will be known by the love we show to
everyone. The love God describes transcends man's
definition.

Christians are criticized for being unloving when
they condemn sin in people's lives. Yet, Jesus
said, "If you love Me, you will keep My
commandments" (John 14:15). God charges his
followers to stand against sin (Romans 3:23; 1
Peter 5:8,9, et al).  Sin destroys lives and souls
(Romans 6:23). Guiding people away from sin is not
unloving but displays a great love for souls.

The love God desires for us demands action. Jesus
taught his disciples that love was service rooted
in humility (John 13:4-12). Paul wrote, "Let us
not grow weary in doing good" (Galatians 6:9).
Matthew 25:34-46 shows us that love for God is
expressed in our assistance to others in need.

"A beggar at a street corner, with bony hands and
pallid lips, asked an alms. The passerby searched
his pockets and found that he was without money.
Then he took the beggar's hands and said: 'I'm
sorry, my brother, but I have nothing with me.'
The worn face lighted up, and the beggar said:
'But you called me brother -- that is a great
gift.'" /5

Laying down our lives for our friends need not
require physical death. Instead, it is expressed
in humble service to others. Giving up some of our
time, money, talents, and energy to offer a
willing hand to those around us. For our enemies,
Jesus required nothing less. We must love our
enemies and do good to all men (Matthew 5:43-49;
Galatians 6:10).

This would create a world we all would want to
live in; a place of peace among men. There would
be no more hatred, crime, war, racism, prejudice
or other despicable acts. John Lennon sang in
"Imagine" that if we were to rid ourselves of
religion and God we would all live as one. Yet, it
is only through God that this goal can be
attained. Sin separates men, only the love of God
unites. John Lennon had the right dream, but the
wrong answer.
        
1/ Leroy Brownlow, The Fruit of the Spirit (Fort
Worth: Brownlow Publications, 1982), 29.

2/ Robert Costello, editor. The Random House
Webster's College Dictionary (Grand Rapids: Random
House, 1991), 804-805.

3/ D.A. Carson, The Farewell Discourse and Final
Prayer of Jesus: An Exposition of John 14-17
(Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1980), 101.

4/ Ibid.

5/ Leroy Brownlow, Making the Most of Life (Forth
Worth: Brownlow Publishing, 1968), 63.

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