If you think this is a post about sex or romance, then your understanding of love is twenty-first century Western and not first century biblical. Sorry, thought I’d break the bad news first!
Westerners of this century almost always associate love with romance or sex. Not affection or friendship or that tough enduring virtue that the Bible calls agape. That probably helps at least partly to explain the confusion over gender and sexuality that has assumed so much importance in public life. But that’s another story.
“Love, love, love” sang the Beatles. “Love, love, love, love” taught Jesus. Love God (Matthew 22.37). Love your neighbour (Matthew 22.39). Love one another (John 13.34-35). Love your enemies (Luke 6.35).
It’s pretty comprehensive. Neighbours and enemies cover a wide spectrum, and as C.S. Lewis once remarked often they are one and the same person!
It is simple. It’s not hard to understand. But it’s not easy either. We sometimes find it hard to love even those we love!
How do you keep you “love tank” full?
Firstly, remind yourself of what love looks like.
Jesus is the greatest and best example of someone who showed perfect love. In fact He is the only example of someone who showed perfect love.
John 13 provides us with special insight into the love of Christ. Verse one says “Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.”
What follows next is extraordinary. Jesus takes off his outer clothing, wraps a towel around His waist and begins to wash His disciples’ feet. This must have been such a shock to the disciples, for this is the kind of task reserved for a slave. Peter’s reaction reveals just how shocking this was to the disciples. The promised Messiah was washing their feet.
After He has finished, Jesus explains that He has set an example for them to follow (vv.14-16).
And then in verses 34 and 35, He gives His disciples a new command: love one another as I have loved you.
His love is our standard.
In 1 Corinthians 13 Paul sets out some aspects of love:
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonour others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 8 Love never fails” (1 Corinthians 13.4-8).
Secondly, remember and meditate on how much God loves you.
“This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” (1 John 4.10-11)
Thirdly, restore love to a place of priority in your life.
1 Corinthians 13.13 highlights the eternal worth of love. It really is that important!
Fourthly, recognise the importance of encouraging relationships.
Your love tank will permanently run on empty if all of your relationships are ones in which you are constantly giving love and encouragement.
The writer to the Hebrews stresses the importance of continually spending time in a spiritually hot and healthy environment:
“And let us consider how we may spur one another on towards love and good deeds, 25 not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another – and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” (Hebrews 10.24-25)
Finally, rely on the Holy Spirit.
We cannot love like Jesus loved in our own strength. Love is a fruit of the Spirit:
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love…” (Galatians 5.22).
It’s through the Spirit’s power that we are enabled to love others.
It’s hard to argue with the importance the New Testament places on love.Let’s leave the last word with Paul:
“And now there remain: faith [abiding trust in God and His promises], hope [confident expectation of eternal salvation], love [unselfish love for others growing out of God’s love for me], these three [the choicest graces]; but the greatest of these is love.” (1 Corinthians 13.13 AMP)