I was doing my devotions the other day, and I saw a verse—sorry, I can’t remember where it was, and I didn’t write it down—that used the term “Christian love.”
Instantly, I was struck with a thought that startled me: “‘Christian love’ sounds kind of weak.” Woah! Where did that come from?
I don’t like to admit that I felt this way, but I bet that you, like me, have that same line of thinking bouncing around in your head somewhere. No? So, it’s just me? Dang. Well, please allow me a chance to at least explain myself.
I Love You…But Only Cause I Have To!
We all have people we don’t like; people that we would do anything to avoid. It’s not that we hate these people per se. It’s just that if God gave us a choice between years spent living them on a deserted island or a marathon swim through shark-infested waters…we’d be putting on our swim fins before He finished talking. These are the kinds of people that we feel forced to love by God. So, we don’t love them like we love our family or even our friends. We love them with “Christian love.”
This is why “Christian love” sounds so week—we think of it as compulsory love that God forces us to feel against the grain of our natural emotions. While God does command us to love others, we miss the point by seeing it as just a command. God never just commands us to do anything—His commands always come with the power to actually do what He’s asked us to do! When we ignore this power, we are stuck in a situation where God appears to be a frustrated parent telling us to love these people “because I said so.”
We miss the point by seeing it as just a command. God never just commands us to do anything—His commands always come with the power to actually do what He’s asked us to do!
Christian Love Knows No Bounds
In reality, it’s not just that we are commanded to love others. We are commanded to love in the same way that Jesus loved us (Ephesians 5:1-2), which is why God has to empower us to love others. What do I mean by that? Simply this: Jesus’ love for a bunch of rotten sinners like us led Him to an ignoble and incredibly painful death (Romans 5:6-8). We’re not capable of such love on our own.
We are commanded to love like Jesus loved us, which is what led him to the cross. We are not capable of such love on our own.
With God empowering us to love, however, we can do what Christ did: love the unlovable in a self-sacrificing and life-giving way. “Christian love” isn’t weak. It’s the very love of God flowing through us into a dark and loveless world. Check out how David described God’s love in Psalm 18.
6 In my distress I called to the Lord;
I cried to my God for help.
From his temple he heard my voice;
my cry came before him, into his ears.
7 The earth trembled and quaked,
and the foundations of the mountains shook;
they trembled because he was angry.
8 Smoke rose from his nostrils;
consuming fire came from his mouth,
burning coals blazed out of it.
9 He parted the heavens and came down;
dark clouds were under his feet.
10 He mounted the cherubim and flew;
he soared on the wings of the wind.
11 He made darkness his covering, his canopy around him—
the dark rain clouds of the sky.
12 Out of the brightness of his presence clouds advanced,
with hailstones and bolts of lightning.
13 The Lord thundered from heaven;
the voice of the Most High resounded.
14 He shot his arrows and scattered the enemy,
with great bolts of lightning he routed them.
15 The valleys of the sea were exposed
and the foundations of the earth laid bare
at your rebuke, Lord,
at the blast of breath from your nostrils.
16 He reached down from on high and took hold of me;
he drew me out of deep waters.
17 He rescued me from my powerful enemy,
from my foes, who were too strong for me.
18 They confronted me in the day of my disaster,
but the Lord was my support.
19 He brought me out into a spacious place;
he rescued me because he delighted in me.
His love moved to come tearing down from Heaven so that He might rescue one whom He delights in. That’s the power of Christian love. That’s the love we have to have for one another—a love that will not allow anything to stand between the one who loves and those who are loved.
We are not capable of this love. We are not flatly compelled to love. We are empowered to love the unlovable as we are filled with His love and presence each and every day. We bring a piece of Heaven to Earth every time we operate out of Christ’s amazing love. In a world full of hate, a life lived in true, divine love shines like the brightest star in the darkest sky.