THE COMMAND TO LOVE
When God incarnated into Christ on earth 2,000 years ago, He inculcated humanity with the seed of what faith in action looks like. He offended religious stricture by loving God more than rules and rituals (Mark 3:1-6). Through His sacrificial death on the cross, He exemplified His deep love for us, affirming how His desire for relationship with us is not undermined by our sinful nature (John 15:13, Romans 5:8).).
In Christ, we are given the free gift of salvation through grace when we confess with our mouths and believe in our hearts that He is Lord (Ephesian 2:8, Romans 10:9). To those who follow Jesus as their Lord, He commands us to love others the way He first loved us, to take up our cross and follow Him (John 13:34, Matthew 16:24). To be a follower of Jesus is to walk away from the way of life we had before we knew Jesus, repent (to change how we live, to be a noticeable response, to God’s intervention in our lives), and to walk in the direction of the “narrow gate” (Matthew 7:14).
TAKE HEART! (John 16:33)
Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, we find ourselves with the invitation to know where our hearts are with God. We have had the blessing of time to spend in prayer and Scripture, and to come to know Jesus more intimately.
What I hope for us in this article is that it not only reminds us how important our faith in Jesus is, but also encourages us to remember who Jesus is to us. Consider what it felt like to learn of Jesus’ love for us despite everything we’ve ever done in our lives that causes us shame. Consider what we would give to live a life where there was only love, acceptance, justice, health, and belonging—and now, recall how Jesus has already given that in His death and resurrection. Jesus is preparing a place for us with Him where He is (John 14:2-3)!
Only because of Jesus, we as believers can take heart in the face of any adversity, because God has overcome the world and all of evil, pain, suffering, and death, through Christ.
“TO LIVE IS CHRIST, TO DIE IS GAIN” (Philippians 1:21)
Even in prison, Paul made it clear that nothing was more important to him than Jesus. Death itself was no longer a threat because it would only bring him face-to-face with the resurrected Christ. By regarding God’s love and grace through Jesus as most important, he had found life to the full (John 10:10). Nothing in the world mattered as much as intimacy with Christ. His trust in and submission to Christ even enabled his perspective of his own suffering to be meaningful (2 Corinthians 12:8-10).
What’s most important in this world is discovering the Good News of Jesus because it is life-transforming. Paul’s personal relationship with Christ was so influential and life-altering, that it permutated his priorities and shifted the meaning of his life in ways he had never experienced before: a newfound joy, and the empowerment of fearlessness through faith. This same joy and empowerment is available to anyone who believes in Christ as Lord.
SPIRITUAL DARKNESS IS THE BATTLEFIELD
While on earth, our spirit is willing but our flesh is weak (Matthew 26:41). Let us not forget we can do nothing apart from Jesus. (John 15:4-5) In this world, we “wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” (Ephesians 6:12)
This spiritual “battle” is an acute reality in a fallen world where both human and spiritual realms coincide. These “principalities,” though unseen with the human eye, mean to deviate us from our journey with Christ, to wrest our faith with doubt, fear, panic, anxiety, deception, and defeat. But we have power over these forces when we submit to God, for “even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” (James 4:7, Psalm 23:4)
UNDESERVED, UNEQUIVOCAL, UNCONDITIONAL LOVE
No matter what tribulation takes place in this life, nothing can separate us from the love of God! (Romans 8:38-39) Jesus has overcome the world (John 16:33)! Regardless of what circumstance or adversity strikes our lives, no matter how critical or severe, nothing can separate us from how God loves us, and nothing can change what it means that Jesus died in our place and rose again. There will never be anything like the power of Christ in our lives. There will never be anything or anyone who could satisfy our deepest needs like our Lord (John 4:10)!
When we fall in love with God and rest in His peace, we don’t have to worry. God’s love, though undeserved, is the safest, most endearing, most impenetrable, unconditional, unequivocal love, and it is far beyond our knowledge (Ephesians 3:18-19).
THE CHURCH BODY: SET APART TO LOVE
To be the church body means to stand apart from the world to be a reflection of Jesus in our actions, choices, and words. Jesus commanded us to do not what is in our human nature, but what is in our Christ-centered nature:
“To you who hear I say, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.” (Luke 6:27-28) This is what it looks like to be the body of Christ. To be set apart from the world is to not love the world or the things of this world; to take our love from the false promises and substitute gods of this world (i.e. money, sex, drugs, fame), and instead, focus our hearts on Christ and loving people as He would. (1 John 2:15)
Jesus knows loving those who love us is easy, which is why it is not the distinctive marker of a follower of Christ (Matthew 5:46, Luke 6:32-36). He is calling us to forgive those we would rather resent; to pray for those who we would rather despise. “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:35)
CHRIST AS OUR COMFORTER
Another way of looking at loving like Christ is leaning on Him as our comforter. By tuning into the Holy Spirit, learning from the living Word of God and depending on Jesus’s leadership, we grow in understanding how to treat others as He would. We learn to turn to Him first knowing He is trustworthy and able to help us in any situation.
With Christ as our “go-to,” He becomes our instrument of strength, courage, resilience, and even patience in circumstances outside our control or means. Jesus is the answer to our challenges, our Compass through our darkest moments, our Mediator, and our God (1 Timothy 2:5). By relying on Him, we are lifted beyond our human comprehension and by the power of the Holy Spirit, given the ability to help and love others in ways which point back to God’s goodness, splendor, and glory.
JESUS IS COMING BACK
When we receive the Holy Spirit through faith in Christ, we are no longer ours, but God’s (Galatians 2:20). Our common vocation is to be ambassadors for Christ, bold and loving in sharing the Good News that Jesus is alive and has paid the price for our sins in full. He carries the keys to Hades and Death (Revelation 1:18), and He is coming back for those who believe in His name above every other name. There is hope for a brighter future no matter how the present appears or feels. Be encouraged, keep to the faith, and stay in Christ.
“Be still, and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10).