“But concerning love of the brethren ye have no need that one write unto you: for ye yourselves are taught of God to love one another…” 1 Thess 4:9 (ASV)
We have been working our way through the book of 1 Thessalonians in church these days. I love that our church preaches from one book of the Bible at a time, and goes through verse by verse. Its like eating solid food after so many years of being fed simple baby food. Its not for everyone, but I know that so many that attend my church are so energized by it. There is just something about His Word.
The above verse is one that we started with. Our pastor made the point that, “Love should be an unstoppable nature with in the church – love for the unlovely, love for those who have hurt us, etc.” He also said that, “the church should be characterized by the love of Christ.”
If we look at the idea of ‘unstoppable’ it means ” not capable of being stopped or extremely forceful.” This has the idea of permeating everything, that nothing will go untouched by this force. Love is something that so many of us aren’t sure how to define. We’ve seen what society says, we know some of the ‘love’ passages in the bible, but what on earth does this love look like, and how are we to DO this love?
When my pastor spoke about love for the unlovely, I felt that I could do that. But when he spoke about love for the one’s who had hurt us, that came a little closer to home. I was engaged seven years ago, and in the past two years I have entered a congregation that previously unknown to me, my former fiance was also a part. It took me a couple of months to come to terms with it, and its not really been too much of an issue. But there is still so much bitterness and anger in my heart towards him. We haven’t spoken since I broke off the engagement. And yet the words that resonated in my head when my pastor said ‘love those who have hurt you’…he was the first person i thought of.
Our church is very clear, that it does not condone staying in abusive situations and that was NOT what he was gettingat. Rather, he encouraged those who had heart hurts that were not abuse related to examine their hearts and see if love was the emotion that permeated their hearts. And of course, I didn’t have to look very deep to find what was in my heart.
My pastor went on to say that alot of the time, the love that should fill our churches, our lives…is something that we are not capable of doing or giving, because our sinful humanity gets in the way. Only the perfect love of God can shine into these situations and reconcile us to each other. He quoted 1 John 4:7 which says, “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.”
John seems to indicate in this passage that love is something in action. In some versions is says ‘love is by God’ and this word ‘by’ indicates “out of/by way of”. This love can only come through God. He is the source, He will provide. We are not able to pour out this love on others, unless we are filling up in Him. The well of our own love for others is often very fickle and can quickly run dry or become murky with all the things we add as expectations for someone to be deserving of our love.
My pastor’s comment that the church should be characterized by the Love of Christ is something that I find hard to wrap my head around. Not because I don’t believe it whole heartedly, but rather because I often wonder why on earth God would use us ever wandering humans to be bestowers of any good gift he could offer. How often we mess it up, marr it’s face….make it look like nothing he ever planned for it to be. And yet he continues to call us to be conduits of his love.
While I myself have not been hurt directly by the church, I know that I have developed some ways of thinking about myself and others that do not reflect the love of Christ in my life. I have heard terrible stories of how people have been seriously harmed by some teaching that is said to be in love, but instead kills the soul or spirit of the person. This is where I struggle, because I know that God is bigger than every time we mess up. But what if this person goes from the gathering of Christians, or their interaction with one person and THIS is the image they have of God’s love. They will want nothing to do with Him.
And yet, God is a wooer of hearts, inspite of us. And inspite of our words, and the church often not being a good reflection of his love, he continues to meet souls, and share his deep, unadulterated love with them.
Jamie Wright encounters a woman in the midst of turmoil, who has come to the church seeking Sanctuary. THe woman is searching for the love of God she knows can be found in sanctuary with Him, but she’s not sure how to get there. Jamie shares: “We met each other where we were at in the most primal way because there was nothing false between us…” and perhaps that is the only way that this love is what we will be known for.
When we come before the Lord, we acknowledge how needful we are of His love, that we need his love, that we need His love to flow through us into the lives of others.m This love often requires great vulnerability, something that so many shy away from. The broken lives that are pieced back together again by his love and through whom the love shines brightly because it breathes experience. The mouths, eyes and hearts that seek truth, will see it in His love shown genuinely, with no pretense and precondition.