|Vol. 16 No. 11 November 2014||
Gary C. Hampton
In many areas of life, children teach through their simple examples. An author, unknown to me, wrote the story of her little girl who showed the love of a true friend.
One day my young daughter was late coming home from school. I was both annoyed and worried. When she came through the door, I demanded in my upset tone that she explain why she was late.
She said, “Mommy, I was walking home with Katy and halfway home, Katy dropped her doll and it broke into lots of pieces.”
“Oh Honey,” I replied, “You were late because you helped Katy pick up the pieces of her doll to put them back together?”
In her young and innocent voice, my daughter said, “No, Mommy, I didn’t know how to fix the doll. I just stayed to help Katy cry.”
I believe her actions demonstrate precisely the type of love Jesus commanded His disciples to have for one another.
Immediately after they left the place where Jesus washed the disciples’ feet, He explained that He would soon be glorified and go to a place they could not come. So, He told them, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:31-35). Peter, who was present to hear the Lord’s words, later wrote, “And above all things have fervent love for one another, for ‘love will cover a multitude of sins’” (1 Peter 4:8).
To Peter, there was no doubt that love had to come first. Paul saw it as an essential ingredient in the Christian’s service.
Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become as sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing. (1 Corinthians 13:1-3)
He went on to conclude, “And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love” (1 Corinthians 13:13). So, at the end of the letter, Paul urged the Corinthian brethren, by saying, “Let all that you do be done with love” (16:14).
For love to truly be effective within the family of God, it must be practiced to the fullest. Remember, Peter said, “have fervent love for one another.” Vine says the word translated “fervent” means strained or stretched out. Imagine one of your children fell in a river and was floating downstream toward a waterfall. As you run down the bank, you see a limb extending out over the river. You climb out on the limb and reach down, only to discover you cannot quite reach out far enough. I believe you would stretch and strain to reach that child before it went over the precipice. That is the idea I find in Peter’s command.
Paul joined Peter in stressing the importance of love in Christian relations. He wrote, “For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ But if you bite and devour one another, beware lest you be consumed by one another!” (Galatians 5:13-15). In Hebrews 12:12-15, Christians are pictured as running a race, like a marathon, through enemy territory. They are urged to support each other and make special provision for those who are weak. Further, they are urged to be sure no bitterness arises that could cause people to be troubled and defiled. After similar admonitions, Paul wrote, “Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others” (Philippians 2:1-4). John went so far as to say the brother who had what another brother needed and withheld it did not have the love of God in him (1 John 3:16-19)!
When love is exercised completely among brethren, they will discover that it covers a multitude of sins, as Peter wrote in 1 Peter 4:8. This is accomplished in several ways. For instance, forgiveness is one of the things Christians do because of what the Lord did on Calvary. “Therefore as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do” (Colossians 3:12-13).
When one really loves, it will result in a readiness to forgive like Jesus displayed when He said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do” (Luke 23:34). Of course, they still had to repent, but Jesus had already exhibited a willingness to forgive before they acknowledged their sins and turned away from them by putting Him on in baptism (Acts 2:22-23, 36-38). After all, love “does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth” (1 Corinthians 13:6). It will cause brothers to go in search of the straying brother in hope of getting him to come home to God in repentance (James 5:19-20). Those who are spiritual will humbly seek to restore them and will gladly help to bear their burdens (Galatians 6:1-2). This is especially true of the shepherds who watch over the flock, which is the reason Christians ought to obey them. “Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account. Let them do so with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you” (Hebrews 13:17).
There can be no doubt, love is an important element of the successful Christian’s life. He sees it as the distinguishing characteristic that the Lord wanted His followers to display before a watching world. A true disciple will see the need to participate in it fully so both he and his brethren can complete the journey to the heavenly home!