May 11, 2016

Abiding in Christ

Today’s devotional reading is based on the same passage as yesterday. The focus then was adding virtue to faith. Today, Chambers points to the line about adding love to brotherly affection.

His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins. (2 Peter 1:3–9)

Love is much discussed and often misunderstood. What the Bible means is not the same as what Hollywood means, or even how most of us would define it. Chambers uses Jesus’ words for his definition:

“If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:26)

From this, he says love is the sovereign preference of one person for another, with Jesus demanding that preference be for Himself. However, I’m hesitant about that definition because it leaves room for abandoning people when I should be loving them.

Chambers also says that God loves us, not because we are lovable, but because it is His nature to do so. I wholeheartedly agree. When Jesus said to “love others as I have loved you” this isn’t about dying on a cross, but about loving others because it is our nature to do so. In other words, loving someone is not about who they are but about who I am. Yet I must add that because Jesus lives in me, loving others is the result of His power and presence, not anything I am or can do without Him.

Of course I don’t always do it. That is not usually because of ignorance, but because of unwillingness. Love is costly and time-consuming. It is sacrificial because I must give up something else I would rather do. To love others, I must be yielded to Jesus Christ and filled with His Spirit.

This connects loving others to loving God. On a sermon about the two great commandments -- love God with all our heart, and love our neighbor as ourselves -- our pastor said that the second one is really a description of how to do the first one. If I want to show my love for God, prayer, praise, etc. are good, but loving others is an active and visible response to His love for me.

Knowing that God loves me unconditionally and with an everlasting love makes a huge difference in the way I live. Instead of seeking the love and approval of others, I am set free from that need (which winds up being selfish and sinful) and free to focus on caring for others. What trips me up is forgetting who I am and that God is the source of love.

Before the crucifixion, Jesus knew it was time to go. The Bible says He had loved His own, loved them to the end. Then during supper, He knew “that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God” so He took a towel, poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet. Jesus knew who He was and how much His Father loved Him. He was free to gladly be a loving servant. (John 13:1–5)

Adding love to brotherly affection can never be achieved by trying harder, nor is it maintained by discipline. I often need to confess my lack of love and my need for the Holy Spirit’s filling. He alone gives the grace needed to love others. Apart from Jesus, I cannot do it.

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