>Some recent Bible studies, musings, conversations, and prayer have stirred up some thoughts and ideas about why love is so important in the Christian life. I’ll try and summarize (and chronicle) as best I can.
It all started with a small phrase in Galatians 5:6. At the end of his exhortation that the Galatians should refrain from submitting under and trusting in the law, Paul tucks in this short phrase, “only faith working through love.”Faith working through love. Have you ever stopped to think for a moment that love and faith are related? That somehow faith motivates love?
The concept could be quite radical and remind us of the functional centrality of the Gospel to motivate and empower our love for others. There’s two ways that faith and love are related.
1. Love is the expression of the rich life with God that faith secures. The whole of the Law and its commandments is summarized in loving God and loving others. This is the clearest expression of a life that is righteous (pleasing to God). How can such a relationship with God possibly take place? Faith in Jesus. Paul is clear over and over again that faith in Christ is the only way we can be made righteous. Follow my logic here: if love is the clearest sign of a relationship that is right with God and faith is the means by which that relationship is made right, it follows then that the clearest expression of faith in God is love.
2. What would enable someone to love another person freely and lavishly? Faith. Faith that no matter how the object of one’s love should respond/reciprocate, we are loved infinitely and immeasurably more than anyone on this earth could reciprocate. Faith in the love of God for us (as demonstrated in Jesus) enables us to love others freely because we don’t need their approval of our love nor do we need them to reciprocate to us. We’re not loving them in order that they might love us back (and thus fulfill our own need). We’re loving them because we have been extravagantly loved on. We have the security and identity that comes from being truly loved. Faith in Christ stirs and motivates this kind of loving others.
A recent conversation brought all this to a stunning realization. As I’ve been praying for the last 18 days, I’ve realized that more than God answering and working through my list on how the world needs to be different, he’s been changing ME! Now I’ve always heard that phrase, “Prayer doesn’t just change our situations; it changes us,” but I always thought that was for people who didn’t pray much (or at least in a way that believed their situations could change). However, I’m realizing how true this is. My heart is changing even as my vision is still coming into view. God wants all of me on the mat so that he can show me his heart and with enough time together, infect me with his interests and his desires. As a friend and I were sharing, we both realized that one of the biggest effects in both of our lives was an increased heart for people and their needs. I’ve been experiencing more of an urgency to communicate the Gospel to people in a relevant, compelling way. I’ve been having more of a burden to see God work and breakthrough in people’s lives. In short, my love for people has increased.
Here’s the startling thing: out of all the things God could be imparting to me as a result of spending focused time in prayer it’s a deeper love for people. Just how much DOES God love people? If having his heart means having a deeper love for people, I just can’t fathom how much God indeed loves mankind. It’s startling and nothing less than liberating. Let me bring it full circle – my faith in the love of God for me and for people expresses itself in love for people and God because that’s who God is. Faith in God results in love for God and the people whom he loves!
So when I am not loving people, what does that say about my faith? It’s a hard diagnostic, but one that we must consider.