(This week we begin our reading together of the Jonathan Edwards classic, Charity and Its Fruits. This is the second of two introductory posts. The first was focused on what led Edwards to undertake his study. Today my focus is on what has led me to undertake this study.)
I began this year with a recognition of my need to grow in love and a New Year's resolution to study Scripture to that end. I made a lot of other resolutions which have fallen by the wayside, but my study thus far has shown me that this is one resolution that must be kept. Love, for the Christian, is not optional.
Since my conversion, I'm no longer comfortable with the idea of loving merely by appearances, or , for that matter, with loving in words only (which I'm good at), but without accompanying action. I've become uneasy with the common explanations of Christian love – agape – “the love that's something you do, not something you feel.” Certainly God's love for us is not unfeeling. Christ's time on the cross is not known as his “cold calculating decision”. No, it's known as His Passion. “...but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8 I don't care what anyone says, no one will die for someone they do not genuinely love. And, conversely, any love that is not willing to sacrifice, as Christ did for us, is not Christian love.
“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.” John 13:34
"You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,” Mt.5:42-44
"But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.” Luke 6:27-28
“Beloved, I am writing you no new commandment, but an old commandment that you had from the beginning. The old commandment is the word that you have heard. At the same time, it is a new commandment that I am writing to you, which is true in him and in you, because the darkness is passing away and the true light is already shining. Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness. Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and in him there is no cause for stumbling. But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.” 1 John 2:7-11
“Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome.” 1 John 5:1-3
Secondly, Love is the only trustworthy evidence that we are the children of God. Only by love can we have any assurance of our salvation.
It accomplishes this on at least two levels:
- Perfect love enables us to speak the truth in love. Love cares enough to speak the truth. When we truly love someone, we will set aside the fear of confrontation to speak the truth to them.
- When we operate in love, our conscience will be clear before God, because we know we have behaved as He did in this world. This gives us confidence for the day of judgment.