LOVE DEFINED AND APPLIED

….and the greatest of these is LOVE

Have you heard the saying – ‘Love is blind’? And how it makes a person numb to logic? You may have also heard how people in love feel a hormonal rush. To simply put it, these are emotions that are capable to hijack a person. Hence, people push and accomplish major feats for love. But the question today is – Where did something as strong as this ‘love’ originate?

“Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you!” Isaiah 49:15 (NIV)

Man’s love
Love is the strongest of all emotions and yet at times becomes the toughest of all. For instance, a man can find it easy to feed a poor person out of compassion, but find it hard to speak a few kind words to his loved one sometimes. Even the purest of all earthly love, which is mother’s love, can fail to satisfy. Because human love has reservations and limitations. Yes, it is true. The sinful nature in man becomes his hindrance to love. Do you remember the times when you knew it was your mistake and still struggled to say sorry and show love?

God’s love –
God is described as love in the Bible. He is the very definition of love. God is seen as the highest form of love. He is without any malice, selfishness, unfaithfulness, bias. His love is also called agape love.

Love is the strongest of all emotions and yet at times becomes the toughest of all.

Every statement made in the Bible is not merely a historic claim but it is a truth claim. It doesn’t need any further validation. Yet, God in his generosity gave enough evidence to support His claims with action.

Even the statement “God is love” in 1 John 4:16, needs no validation. God still demonstrated it by Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross.
1. He became our atoning sacrifice by dying on the cross, so that you and I can be free from sins. What have we done to deserve such a love?
2. He forgave the Roman soldiers who crucified him. This shows the extent of His love – forgiving even those who hurt him.
3. When He asked John to take care of his mother, Mary, even in the last minute shows how caring His love is. It also portrays His attention to our inmost needs.
4. His final statement before He died, “my God, my God why have you forsaken me?”, displays how much He values His relationship with the father which also reciprocates in every other relationship on earth.

Jesus was able to exhibit this love because of the Spirit of God. In Romans 5:5, Paul says – ‘God’s love has been poured into us through the Spirit’. As we walk in step with the Spirit, the first attribute of the fruit of the Holy Spirit generated in us is LOVE.

Now, there are two kinds of love, one which comes from the flesh and one which comes from the Spirit of God – which brings us to our second question – Why has this love from God been given to us?

Well, the Bible gives us a two-fold application, commonly understood as vertical and horizontal elements, resembling the cross.

As we walk in step with the Spirit, the first attribute of the fruit of the Holy Spirit generated in us is LOVE.

Loving God


“..may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ,”
Ephesians 3:18 NIV

The vertical element symbolises that this love is poured in us to quench our own need to be loved. It’s interesting to note – it was the cross, Jesus’ sacrifice, which made it possible for us to experience God’s love in a much deeper way. Today, God is not just some distant being trying to force His way in us. In fact, He is a father who seeks the best for us. We receive this understanding through the Spirit.

When you drink from God’s love and quench your thirst, there will always be more of his love to keep filling you.

And God desires that we would stop seeking this love in the things of this world, because the world doesn’t have the power to quench our thirst. On the other hand, God’s love is so vast and deep that no one will be able to finish drinking it fully. You’ll drink from His love and quench your thirst, and there will always be more of his love to keep filling you. Having tasted God’s love, we are able to love Him back on a much greater level by obeying His command.

Loving others

“But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.”
Matthew 5:44-45 (NIV)

The horizontal element is to love everyone, even those whom we consider enemies. The Bible commands us to go one step further and pray for our enemies. Humanly speaking, our flesh will not allow to do so. Yet, with God’s love poured into our hearts and by the Spirit that empowers our inner man, we can love others. How can we give, what we don’t have? That’s why it is important for us to first be filled with God’s love.

“Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen.”
1 John 4:20 NIV

With God’s love poured into our hearts and by the Spirit that empowers our inner man, we can love others.

There is an intricate connection between the horizontal and vertical element. One is derived from the other. For those who are in Christ, God puts the link. He puts the link between loving God and loving one another – like that between husband and wife, siblings, friends, and colleagues. The love of God poured into us does a full 360° work in us, without leaving any area untouched.

A person may have great faith, great hope, but if he or she is empty of love, that person cannot be used by Adonai.

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love
. 1 Corinthians 13:13

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GOD FIRST – Giving Him the highest place

If we say we are believers in Christ, there is a pertinent question to ask ourselves. The question is – ‘Am I a lover of God?’. You see, when the Pharisees asked Jesus what the greatest commandment is, He answered, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment.” Why do you think Jesus said that loving God with all that we are and all that we have is the greatest commandment? It is because that is God’s greatest desire. He wants us to love Him with all our heart, soul and mind. He’s not a God who will force Himself on us. He is a God who showed us the greatest love of all and with that love gently summons us to embrace Him. That is why, it is so important for us, as believers, to be lovers of God – because it is God’s greatest commandment and more so, His greatest desire.

I love a statement that I’ve been reading for a few years now, here and there – “When people tell me say that I take this Jesus thing too seriously, I say, Well Jesus took me pretty seriously when He died for me on the cross”. It’s true, God, our Father, and our Lord Jesus took us very seriously when Jesus DIED for us. How hard would it be for us to LIVE for him?

So what does it mean to love God with ALL our heart, soul, mind and strength? Loving Him with our everything would mean putting God first in our heart, soul and mind. It means placing Him above yourself, people and everything in this world. The word ‘FIRST’ literally means , ‘foremost in position, rank, or importance’. Is God foremost in all aspects of our lives?

It is so important for us, as believers, to be lovers of God – because it is God’s greatest commandment and more so, His greatest desire.

In fact, in 2 Timothy 3:1‭-‬5, Paul tells Timothy how people who know God might become in the end times. He says, ‘But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people.’

He points out at all that they shouldn’t have become and the one thing they should have become. They should have been LOVERS OF GOD. I do believe that since it has been more than 2000 years after Jesus proclaimed the Kingdom of God, and the end may be nearer than we anticipate.

There is no middle ground – we are either putting God first or putting Him last.

Are we going to be lovers of God by putting GOD FIRST, or are we going to be these lost people in the end times that Paul is talking about? There is no middle ground – we are either putting God first or putting Him last. It is time to check our hearts and lives and see where we’ve placed Him and if we are truly LOVERS OF GOD.

As lovers of God, GOD SHOULD BE OUT FIRST –

1. FIRST ONE WE LOOK UP TO –

The Psalmist knew well where He could find all his answers and purpose. That’s why He says, ‘I lift up my eyes to the mountains— where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord , the Maker of heaven and earth.’ (Psalms 121:1‭-‬2).

Who are you looking up to? Your own self? Family? Friend? If you think the creation can be looked up to, how much more the creator?

We shouldn’t become lovers of ourselves and others, rather grow to become lovers of God. And the best part is we always have the creator to go to, who loves us and is ever present to help us, lead us and guide us, as He says in Deuteronomy 31:8 – “The Lord is the one who goes ahead of you; He will be with you. He will not fail you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.”

2. FIRST ONE WE RELY ON –

Too often we find ourselves relying on or trusting tangible things (things that give us a hundred percent guarantee of results), yet God calls us to trust in Him, His wisdom, His timing and above all, His omnipotence.

Things of this world like money, people, career, earthly possessions can be here today and be washed away tomorrow, but God is the only one who will remain.

Noah relied on God, that is why when the entire world was washed away, He was saved.

Too often we find ourselves relying on or trusting tangible things, yet God calls us to trust in Him, His wisdom, His timing and above all, His omnipotence.

Let God be the one you rely on first and foremost, because only He remains and only He can save.

3. FIRST ONE WE OBEY –

Have you come across a situation where your near and dear ones tell you to do something, but God directs you differently? In these situations, we tend to quickly obey these close people and disobey God. Most of the time, our own desires stand in our way of obeying God wholeheartedly. Our pride, wicked ways, evil desires and selfish gain. That, however, only goes on to show whom we place first in our lives and in obedience.

Who created us? Who laid down His life for us? Who is everlasting? If the answer is ‘Jesus’, then doesn’t He deserve our foremost obedience in everything in life? No wonder Jesus said to his disciples in Matthew 16:24, “…Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.”

4. FIRST ONE WE DESIRE –

Paul pointed out to Timothy that in the end times people will be lovers of pleasure. This is one thing that we see our generation moving into. In fact, living for pleasures has slowly made its way into the church too. It’s not wrong to have a good meal or enjoy, yet when the thing we’re wanting is replacing our desire for God, we know we’re placing the pleasure above God.

King David has realised that nothing on earth can satisfy the human heart, except God himself. So he says to God in Psalms 73:25, “Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you.”

When the thing we’re wanting is replacing our desire for God, we know we’re placing the pleasure above God.

5. FIRST ONE WE THANK AND ARE GRATEFUL FOR –

Of ten lepers who were healed by Jesus, only one came back to thank Him. You know why? Simply because He knew that Jesus was the one who healed him.

In all circumstances in life, as believers, we know that God is sovereign over us and helps us no matter what. Yet when something turns out for good, do we actually go back and thank God? Do we realise that He is the one who turned our situation around? Or do we go on praising other people and ourselves for what happened?

Let God be the first one we thank and be grateful for because if not for Him, we can do nothing.

In another instance, we find ourselves grumbling over something that God gave us rather than being grateful that He gave us that thing/person in the first place.

Let God be the first one we thank and be grateful for because if not for Him, we can do nothing. (John 15:5)

In a time such as this, let us be found and known as LOVERS OF GOD, as we put Him first in everything – heart, mind, soul and strength.