There is a verse in Scripture that some may misunderstand to mean that we should pretend to love others. It says, “And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.” (Col 3:14). When we think of putting something on, we might think of play acting, pretending, or faking it. But this is not what the Word teaches.
The apostle Peter wrote, “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.” (1Pe 4:8, NIV). Another version says, “Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another...” (1Pe 4:8a, NASB). Notice the level of importance Peter gave to this. He said it was “above all” or top priority. And he called for us to love each other deeply. There is no way that such love can be faked.
When we love one another deeply, it comes from the heart, so it is not a shallow love that is only visible on the surface like a plastic mask we wear. The Lord can see all the way down to the heart and He knows if it is deep or not. If we love deeply, then it is coming from deep within us, and is not that which we only give the outward appearance of doing.
Paul said, “Love must be sincere.” (Rom 12:9a, NIV). Other versions say, “Let love be genuine” (Rom 12:9a, ESV), and “Let love be without hypocrisy” (Rom 12:9a, NASB). If we love deeply, it is sincere love, genuinely from the heart, unfeigned, and has no hypocrisy to it. It is not make-believe, made-up, simulated, artificial, or false. It is real, and people can tell the difference.
The Lord has not called us to only have this kind of love for those who love us. If we did that, we would be no different from the pagans, for even they love those who love them (Mt 5:46). The flesh can easily do that. He has called us to love our enemies and to bless those who curse us (Mt 5:44). The only way to love others like this is to die to self. When people love us, it is pleasant, and it is easy to love them in return. But when we love those who hate us and spitefully use us or mistreat us, then it is not something the flesh can do. It is only possible by the power of the Spirit, which is why it is a fruit of the Spirit.
It is only possible to love others genuinely when you first know the love of God for you in Christ, which surpasses knowledge. "We love because He first loved us." (1 Joh 4:19).
When we find ourselves in a situation where it is very difficult to love someone, we must remember that it is not optional, it is a command. Jesus said, "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.” (Joh 13:34)
John affirmed this in his epistles. He said, “This is His commandment, that we believe in the name of His Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, just as He commanded us.” (1Jn 3:23). He also said, “And this commandment we have from Him, that the one who loves God should love his brother also.” (1Jn 4:21)
John taught that hatred is incompatible with the Light and has no place in the life of the disciple. “The one who says he is in the Light and yet hates his brother is in the darkness until now. The one who loves his brother abides in the Light and there is no cause for stumbling in him. But the one who hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going because the darkness has blinded his eyes.” (1Jn 2:9-11)
However, what we find so commonly in the church today is cold love. We may receive a smile and handshake and that is all. Or we may receive worse than that. Many are they who love with words but not with deeds. But the rare kind of love is the genuine kind.
Jesus always demonstrated genuine love for others. But the Pharisees, for example, did not. They simply flattered Jesus for their own advantage to deceive and trap Him.
“Then the Pharisees went and plotted together how they might trap Him in what He said. And they *sent their disciples to Him, along with the Herodians, saying, ‘Teacher, we know that You are truthful and teach the way of God in truth, and defer to no one; for You are not partial to any. Tell us then, what do You think? Is it lawful to give a poll-tax to Caesar, or not?’ But Jesus perceived their malice, and said, ‘Why are you testing Me, you hypocrites?’” (Mat 22:15-18).
This kind of love is mere lip service that covers over what is truly in the heart. As the proverb says, "Like a coating of silver dross on earthenware are fervent lips with an evil heart." (Prov 26:23. NIV).
Judas also had this kind of love. “Now he who was betraying Him gave them a sign, saying, ‘Whomever I kiss, He is the one; seize Him.’ Immediately Judas went to Jesus and said, ‘Hail, Rabbi!’ and kissed Him. And Jesus said to him, ‘Friend, do what you have come for.’ Then they came and laid hands on Jesus and seized Him.” (Mat 26:48-50). Luke’s gospel records Jesus asking him, "Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?" (Luk 22:48). Like the Pharisees, Judas could kiss Jesus with evil intent. It may have looked good on the outside, but Jesus could see right through it.
The church of Ephesus experienced a lapse of love. The Lord said to the angel of that church, “But I have this against you, that you have left your first love. Therefore remember from where you have fallen, and repent and do the deeds you did at first; or else I am coming to you and will remove your lampstand out of its place--unless you repent.” (Rev 2:4-5). They had left their first love and consequently no longer did the things they did when they first came to know Jesus. Therefore, the Lord rebuked them, told them to remember the great height or high-quality love they once had, which they had fallen from, and He called them to repent or else have their lampstand removed.
Jesus warned us that in the last days, “Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold.” (Mat 24:12, NIV). As wickedness increases around us, we must be careful not to let our love grow cold and dull. We must keep asking the Lord, “Don't let my love grow cold! Light the fire again.” We need the fire of God’s love, His holy fire, to burn inside our hearts, so that we would be real and not be ashamed.
As we go through life, our every thought, every motive, every word is being recorded, and we will one day have to give an account for it (2 Cor 5:10; Rom 14:10-12; Rev 2:23; 22:12). God is monitoring us to see if we do everything with love. After all, He is love and the meaning of life is love. That’s why the two greatest commandments are about love.
When Jesus was asked what the greatest commandment is, He said, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these.” (Mk 12:30-31, NIV).
Love is the mark of a true disciple. The Lord said, "By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another." (Joh 13:35). That is the distinguishing characteristic by which we are supposed to be known worldwide. That's what I want, and I hope you do, too. Therefore, may the Lord help us to deny self, and live the crucified and Spirit-filled life of love.
Attribution notice: Most Scripture quotations taken from the NASB. Other Scriptures taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version® NIV®, where noted."His Love Endures Forever" calligraphy by my daughter, Charity Lacroix. You may find more of her artwork and calligraphy at A Brush with Life.
Author's note: You may also want to read my other posts called Filled Up to All the Fullness of God, Law of Love in the New Testament, The Wardrobe of the Saints, Is Obedience Optional?, Holy Fire Baptism, The Burning Ones, The Refiner's Fire, Avoid Becoming a Corrupted Christian, The Law of Christ, Fruit in Every Season, As the Still, Fair Court, Walking in the Perfect Will of God, and The Apostasy Parables. You may visit the Seeking the Lord Directory, and also find a collection of my most popular blogs at Writing for the Master.
Do You Want to Know Him?
If you want to know Jesus personally, you can. It all begins when you repent and believe in Jesus. Do you know what God's Word, the Bible says?
“Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.’” (Mar 1:14b-15). He preached that we must repent and believe.
Please see my explanation of this in my post called "Do You Want to Know Jesus?"
Len Lacroix is the founder of Doulos Missions International. He was based in Eastern Europe for four years, making disciples, as well as helping leaders to be more effective at making disciples who multiply, developing leaders who multiply, with the ultimate goal of planting churches that multiply. His ministry is now based in the United States with the same goal of helping fulfill the Great Commission. www.dmiworld.org.