Sometimes Christians talk about the love of God saying, “Well, I can love that person but I don’t have to like him.” This comes from the teaching that God’s love is sacrificial giving, as if there is no emotion in it. However, this is an error in at least two ways. One, loving others does include affection . . .
Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection . . . (Romans 12:9–10)
Not only that, the love of God isn’t about controlling my actions and emotions, but letting the Lord Jesus Christ control what I do and how I feel. In Christ, I’m not to say such things as “I can love but not like” someone, because I’m not living for myself . . .
For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised. (2 Corinthians 5:14–15)
Being in Christ means that Christ is living in me and I have surrendered to Him. This results in a huge change. My life isn’t about me any longer. I have the mind of Christ and a new direction, new goals . . .
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. (2 Corinthians 5:17–20)
All this happens, but only as I abide in Christ. If I take back the throne of my life, then I will think and act like anyone else, like the old me. Abiding or staying in Him means obedience and loving others as He loves them . . .
Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me . . . If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you . . . If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full . . . This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you . . . You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. These things I command you, so that you will love one another. (John 15:4–17)
During this study on idolatry, I’ve learned that the way to avoid putting people on a pedestal and making idols of them is by loving them in God’s way instead of selfishly. Idol worship is selfish. It is putting up a ‘god’ of my own invention that does what I want it to do, or so I think. It is allowing that ‘god’ to take the place of God in my thinking and dependence.
The love of God is opposite. It is without selfishness and does not change or reinvent God in any way. Instead of expecting Him to do what I want, I obey Him with all my heart and rely on Him for everything. This cannot happen without a commitment of faith and of obedience – in response to God who has changed my life through His Word and the power of Jesus Christ.
Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart, since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God . . . (1 Peter 1:22–23)
The sequence is clear . . . the Word of God speaks . . . through it I have been born again . . . I obey the truth He reveals . . . my soul is purified to sincerely love others from a pure heart. I cannot pick and choose who I will “love” but not “like.” If that is happening, then I’m deluded and am listening to the wrong god, an idol on the throne of my life.