“This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” (1 John 4:10)
The Apostle Paul’s prayer for believers in Ephesus requested “... that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” (Ephesians 3:17-19) The relationship is unequal when just one party is confident of the other party’s love. Yet you have a feeling that whatever the circumstances your other partner will not let you down. When this happens we say the relationship is built upon a rock.
That Rock is Jesus. “We love [Him] because He first loved us.” (1 John 4:19) We could not have known how profoundly He loved us until it became known that “... when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.” He further affirmed that “God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:6)
Armed with the knowledge that Christ, the Messiah, laid down His life for humanity on the cross, the least that is expected of us is to love Him in return and also obey His instructions for our own good. Jesus Himself stated: “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 will love him and show myself to him.” (John 14:21) That is the nature of love; you get to know yourselves fondly. The relationship becomes electric and intricately bound in trust and selfless sacrifice.
Genuine love is characterised as spontaneous and free-flowing; it is not governed by our moods. Sentiments waver depending on the nature of the circumstances, whereas true love is constant. So you cannot love someone whom you fear. Each time you run into that person the fear that has gripped you will rush to the surface. “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” (1 John 4:18)
The Apostle Paul’s conversion happened after Jesus had resurrected and ascended into heaven. Yet, his encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus changed his perspective of how he treated Christians as a devout Jew. He professed in faith: “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20)
If there was ever a vessel that spoke about the love of Jesus for humanity with boldness and sincerity, Paul could be counted among them. His experience was deep-seated. Remember that he had been persecuting the early church until he met its founder, the Lord Jesus, who stopped him in his tracks. “I am Jesus whom you are persecuting...” (Acts 9:11) Jesus used Paul, despite the initial suspicion of Christians of his character, to preach the gospel he was opposed to. “Go! The man is my chosen instrument to carry my name before the Gentiles and their kings and before the people of Israel. I will show him how he must suffer for my name.” (Acts 9:15-16)
Very often, you will observe that it is the poor in spirit whose love is down-to-earth and real. Jesus knew this when in his Sermon on the Mount He remarked: “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.” (Matthew 5:3) The Apostle James warned: “Listen, my dear brothers: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom He promised those who love Him?” (James 2:5)
To those who have it rough in life and accept their predicament in faith, the apostle James still has a word of assurance for them. “Blessed is the man who perseveres under trail, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love Him.”(James 1:12)
If we say we love the Lord Jesus, we must be obedient to His word for our good, because there is nothing that the Lord Jesus would ask us to do that should be daunting for us. “This is love for God: to obey His commands. And His commands are not burdensome.” (1 John 5:3)
If we are children of the Most High God there is a level of discipline we should display that would automatically show that we are God’s children. When a parent disciplines a child he or she does it out of love not for the mere pleasure of inflicting pain on the child. “Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent.” (Revelation 3:19)
It is a rare privilege that God should call us His children. “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God.”(1 John 3:1) Saint John, the Apostle, admonishes: “Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.” (1 John 3:18) He encourages us to love expressively by loving others. This world is full of hate. Christians ought to display the love the Lord Jesus showed the world on the cross of Calvary. “Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.”(1 John 4:7)
God wants us to walk in love and identify with Him in the way He dispenses love. “I have heard from the beginning, His command is that you walk in love.” (2 John 6) Obedience is key. Therefore “... if anyone obeys His word, God’s love is truly made complete in Him.” (1 John 2:5) “And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.” (1 john 4:18)
As God loves us, we are called to love our neighbours. “No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and His love is made complete in us.” (1 John 4:12)
God’s love for His creation is multi-dimensional. It is manifested in terms of depth, length and height. When you claim to love God, the yardstick becomes how deep and wide and long your love is toward your neighbours whom you see on a day-to-day basis - as against God whom you have not seen.
A songwriter penned these words: ‘The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning great is your faithfulness, O Lord.’
There should be no shadow of doubt that Christ loves you. There lies your challenge.