Love in View of Eternity: Am I Active or Passive?
It seems that the Bible is the greatest love story ever told from beginning to end. In making this story great, God shares and reveals Himself through the actions of others. He uses mankind to unfold His purpose for our lives. Ultimately, He wants us to seek an eternity with Him in Heaven. In doing so it is necessary for us to understand God’s love for us and how He expects us to love one another.
Remember God’s plan for us is based on His love for us… the same love that caused Him to send Jesus to live perfectly as a man, suffer, die, and be resurrected. God did not wish for anyone to perish but to have life everlasting. In order to make that happen, he acted on that love in the form of a sacrificial lamb, Jesus. It is this very Father who calls us to action today if we are to inherit the kingdom as His sons and daughters.
From the beginning God loved mankind. We are, after all, created in His image. So it is that we can look at His revealed will in Scripture and learn from the many examples of love as demonstrated by the men and women in the Bible. Adam needed a suitable helper and the result was Eve. We see the longsuffering of our loving God when He gives the people time to come to repentance as Noah is constructing the ark. It makes sense, then, that we too are to be longsuffering toward our fellow man. In developing patience for others, we are also showing our love for them. This is a recurring theme throughout the Old Testament as we see the Lord waiting and waiting on the children of Israel to turn from evil and seek righteousness. He provides a means of escape from the tyranny of Pharaoh, sustains them in the wilderness, protects them from their enemies, etc.; still, they are a rebellious people. He patiently waits for them to abandon their wicked ways and choose to obey their loving Father. Obviously, God’s love for His creation is culminated in the sacrifice of His son. He loved man to the point of once and for all providing a perfect sacrifice that man might be redeemed and claim Heaven as his home for eternity. Our finite minds are hardly able to grasp the magnitude of this gift.
The evidence shows that God expects an active love from those who claim Him. So many times, we are guilty of lip service when it comes to how we treat others. Scripture does not support empty attempts to please God. On the contrary it demands that through obedience man plays an active role in salvation. This is not to be mistaken for any works on our part that would make us deserving of a home in Heaven. It is only by God’s grace and mercy and our complete submission through obedience that we can have a hope of an eternity with our Father. Thus, when Paul writes to the Corinthians in I Cor. 8:1-3 “knowledge puffs up but charity (love) edifies”. This is not a passive activity that is simply to be understood. Paul is calling for the Jews to stop their condemnation of the Gentiles concerning the issue of eating meat. Instead he is instructing them that loving a brother is what will build that brother up as opposed to tearing him down. To be clear, Paul is not granting a carte blanc ticket to accept anything and everything; rather, he is teaching them (us) how to approach issues on which there may be disagreement. Loving a brother does not include a boastful pride, but it does involve a humble heart that wants only to encourage that brother to a better understanding so that as many people as possible can make the journey to Heaven. “For he that loveth one another hath fulfilled the law” Romans 13:8. Like so many themes in the Bible love really is a heart matter. Outward shows of an inward heart can either reveal sincerity of intent or, sadly, actions for the sake of being seen by man. God is clear on this point. He expects us to love others because He first loved us as sinners who were filthy with sin. If He could love creatures who are completely undeserving of salvation, then surely we can love others. I John 4:21 says that “he who loves God loves his brother also”. So, we may not claim love for the Father unless we can sincerely claim love for others.
“Christ laid down His life for us, so we ought also love our brothers ready to lay down our own lives in the same way” I John 3:16. In chapter 4 of this same book God reveals the necessity of love. John tells us that God is love and those who love are born of God and know Him. As demonstrated in the sacrifice of Christ, God shows that He loved us first and not the other way around. Verse 12 tells us that if we love one another God will dwell in us and His love will be perfected in us. Again, He loved us (sinful creatures) first. At the end of this chapter we find that if we love God we will love our brother. This is not merely a suggestion, it is, in fact, a commandment.
The question then becomes “How do I love my brother?” Clearly it is not enough to just make a mental note of affection for another person or to publicly declare love for another. Action must be taken. I must take deliberate steps to follow this command. Consider for a moment the well-known passage in I Corinthians 13 where we understand that actions in the absence of love are essentially without value (vs. 3). Recognizing that love is the outward show of an inward heart it becomes necessary to take note that even grandiose gestures like selling one’s possessions and giving all of the money to the poor will profit us nothing if we do so without love. So, in view of eternity, what exactly does love look like in our daily lives? Consider the following possibilities:
It is longsuffering and kind and not boastful…Ephesians 4:32.
It is not selfish or easily angered, nor does it think evil thoughts…Colossians 3:12
It does not rejoice in wickedness but rather in truth
It bears, believes, hopes, and endures all things.
By practicing these attributes in our daily lives on this earth which will pass away, we are able to access the eternal love of God which does not vanish but lasts forever. Chapter 13 of I Corinthians concludes by saying that among faith, hope, and love the greatest is love. The inference here is that hope and faith are based on that very love. “If any man loves God, the same is known of Him” I Cor. 8:3. So, how can love be known of us? In secret? Certainly not. The greatest show of love was done in the most public manner. Jesus went to the cross berated, beaten and humiliated by throngs of people for whom he would later say “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Can our finite minds even begin to grasp the magnitude of the depth of that love? It is doubtful, but it is important to understand that the love we have for others will be known by our actions, reactions, and interactions. This sincere love must dwell within our hearts and minds, “for he that loves another hath fulfilled the law” Romans 13:8. Finally, let us be found always actively loving our brothers and sisters according to the command of God in view of an eternity with the author of love.