Loving Your Neighbor With God's Kind Of Love

A line from a popular song of the 60's says: "What the world needs now is love-­sweet love." Everyone agrees that love is important. Millions long to experience it. Countless volumes written and sung throughout the ages extol it and explain it. But few people understand what real love is! In fact, love is probably the most misunderstood word in any language! So what is real love? Real love is the love that God has demonstrated to us in the person and work of His Son, Jesus Christ (Romans 5:8). Real love is also the kind of love that He requires of us in His Word (John 15:12; Matthew 22:37-40). It is not easy, nor is it painless. In fact, it is costly--so costly that it cost God His only Son (John 3:16). The Bible teaches us the meaning, motives, and importance of God’s kind of love—and how to put it into practice in our lives.

What Biblical love is not

  • It is not merely a feeling.
  • It is not getting (C.f. the Playboy philosophy of love).

Love: Hollywood Style!
Love, as commonly depicted by Hollywood, isn't something that you work at. It isn't something that grows or develops. It has nothing to do with commitment or personal effort. It certainly isn't something that you can will. It just happens. And when it happens--it happens in such a way that you know that it has happened! You feel euphoric. You hear beautiful music. You see brilliant lights. Life is exhilarating! But what happens when the happening no longer happens? What happens when the euphoria disappears, when the music hits the wrong note, or when the lights fade? What happens when the feelings die--or turn to someone else? Hollywood love may offer some initial excitement--but it falls far short of God's kind of love!

What Biblical love is

  • Love is an action.
  • I John 3:16-18:

    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. 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.

  • Love is giving.
  • John 3:16:

    For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

    Ephesians 5:25:

    Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.

  • Love is learned.
  • 1 Thessalonians 4:9:

    Now about brotherly love we do not need to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love each other.

    Titus 2:4:

    Then they can train the younger women to love their husbands and children.

Biblical love focuses on meeting the needs of others--even if it involves personal sacrifice, pain, and discomfort. It does not focus on me, but on helping the other person. It doesn't wait for the other person to ask for help or be helpful--it takes the initiative.

But What If I Don't Feel Love?
Someone might argue: How can I love someone for whom I have no feeling? Yet, God's kind of love is far more than a feeling. Did you know that Jesus Christ commands us to love our enemies? (Matthew 5:44). Loving your enemy hardly involves a warm feeling! But if you give your enemy something to eat, or in some other way meet a need, soon something begins to happen to your feelings. They begin to follow your actions. Why? Jesus put it this way in Matthew 6:21: "For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."

Relationships: Its What You Put Into The Box That Counts!
How do you view relationships--like a full box to be emptied--or an empty box to be filled? If we enter a relationship primarily looking for what we can get (i.e. a full box to be emptied) then we miss the joy of Biblical love and we set the stage for mutual hurt and disappointment! On the other hand, when we approach a relationship with the goal of giving (i.e. an empty box to be filled), we gain the joy of pleasing God, the satisfaction that comes from growing in the likeness of Jesus Christ, and a genuine relationship that can handle the challenges of living in a sin-cursed world.

Love Is Not A Ditch.
People do not "fall in love." They may fall into infatuation or a warm, tender feeling; but such a feeling is not to be equated with Biblical love. Biblical love may involve a warm, tender feeling at times, but there is much more to it than that! Biblical love can be taught and learned. It involves not just the emotions, but the mind and will. Therefore, if a person no longer feels love for a another person--it is not the end of that relationship. He or she can actually learn to love the other person!

Why Should We Practice Biblical Love?

  • Because of God's love that He has shown to us.
  • 1 John 4:9-11:

    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. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.

  • Because God commands it (and is worthy of our obedience).
  • John 15:12:

    My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.

  • Because it essential to our spiritual growth and maturity.
  • Ephesians 4:14-16:

    Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.

What Are Some Hindrances To Growing In Biblical Love?

  • Lack of a genuine relationship with God.
  • 1 John 4:8:

    Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.

  • Acceptance of false ideas about love: We may have picked up wrong ideas about love. Which of these have you observed?

    Love is an excuse for not disciplining children.
    Love is an excuse for not having or upholding convictions.
    Love is an excuse for not solving interpersonal conflicts.
    Love is an excuse to get married when real obstacles have not been dealt with.
    Love is another word for lust.
    Love is being wimpy.

  • Fear of risk. For which of the following reasons would our selfish natures tend to withdraw from growing in love?
  • It is too costly.
    It requires commitment and sacrifice.
    It means some changing will have to take place.
    It may expose me to some pain.
    I am sentimental toward the romanticism of magical relationships with no problems.

  • Dependence on self.
  • John 15:5:

    I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.

How Can We Grow In Biblical Love?

  • Learn to think of others more than yourself (Philippians 2:3-4).
  • Learn to communicate the truth in ways that help rather than hinder others (i.e. attacking or just ignoring) (Ephesians 4:15, 29).
  • Learn the great blessing of giving --instead of just receiving (Acts 20:35).
  • Learn to carry out loving deeds and actions as well as speaking kind words (1 John 3:18).
  • Learn to seek and grant forgiveness --rather than merely "apologizing" (Ephesians 4:32).
  • Daily contemplate God's love for you--and seek to love others out of gratitude to God for His love (Romans 8:38-39).

What Happens If We Ignore Growth In Love?

  • Problems with others resulting in isolations and loneliness (Galatians 5:19-21):

  • Lust
  • Greed
  • Indifference
  • Anger
  • Envy
  • Hatred

  • We can't walk in Light if we are not loving our brothers and sisters!
  • 1 John 2:11:

    But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness; he does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded him.

  • Problems with self. Tendency to be dominated by fear since only mature love can cast out fear (1 John 4:18).
  • Propensity toward insecurity since lack of love toward God and neighbor leaves a void to be filled by love for world's desires (1 John 2:15-17).

Life Application

To love others, you need to do three things: First, meditate on God's love for you. Then, ask God to help you. Third, start loving! Look for specific needs and meet them. Plan something to do for someone else--starting with those closest to you and moving out from there. If you are married, get busy loving your spouse. If you are a parent, work at loving your children. Look for opportunities at church to meet needs. Visit a sick person. Help someone with chores. Help out your neighbor. Tells others that don’t know about the love of Christ, and what He did for us on the cross.

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Recommended Resources

Love in Hard Places
D.A. Carson

The Four Loves
C.S. Lewis

Return From Loving Your Neighbor With God's Kind Of Love To Christian Character

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