Because He First Loved Us
Loving others does not come to us naturally! From birth on we hone the great skills of loving ourselves. No one has to teach us to say "MINE!" nor teach us to throw a temper tantrum when we do not get our own way. and the reason that these things are not taught or even caught is that they arise from our sinful nature.
The Bible tell us at a number of points, and in a number of ways, that we have a sin nature from birth. King David, a man after God's own heart, said, "Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me." (Psalm 51:5) The Apostle Paul said, "Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, so sin spread to all men because all sinned." (Romans 5:12) Paul is speaking here not merely of our actual sins, but of the sin that we bear as a result of our representative, Adam, sinning in the Garden. We are sinners because we are conceived and born in sin and we are sinners because we actually sin. And this sin causes us to look to our own interests, our own well-being, our own circumstances before those of others.
An immense change begins to take place when the Holy Spirit of God works in our hearts and changes our hearts, gives us faith, and enables us to believe in Jesus Christ the Son of God. We begin to see things in a whole different light. For one, we begin to explore the immense love of God in Christ. Again, Paul says in Romans 5:8, "...God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." Amazing love, how can it be? While we were God's enemies, He demonstrated His love in giving His one and only Son to be humiliated by His incarnation and further humiliated by His suffering and death. Yes, the love of God goes to the cross. Charles Wesley wrote about this amazing love:
"And can it be that I should gain an interest in the Savior's blood? Died He for me who caused His pain? For me who Him to death pursued? Amazing love! How can it be that Thou my God shouldst die for me?"
It is this love which enables us to love others. Without Jesus we are unable to do anything (John 15). But with Him we are able to love. "We love because He first loved us." (I John 4:19). Not only are we changed by this love, but this love of Christ is an example for us to follow.
This year's theme verse is: "The end of all things is at hand, therefore be self-controlled and sober minded for the sake of your prayers." (I Peter 4:7) The memory verses for January come from I Peter 4:6-11. In those verses you find the exhortation to "keep loving one another earnestly, for love covers a multitude of sin." Such love for one another in the church is possible only when we know the love of Jesus Christ. Indeed, it is by this love for each other that Jesus says that the world will know that we are his disciples (John 13:35).
It all begins with the love of Christ. When you have His love within, then you are given the ability to love Him and to love others in His name. By this love you show the world the One to Whom you belong, because the world does not understand such love. How important it is that we grow to understand more fully every day the love of Jesus! Our love needs to grow and mature. As it does, we are able to more fully love one another. I am persuaded that this is something that needs constant work. As we think about what it means to keep on loving each other earnestly, how important it is to meditate on the immense love of Christ for us as it is revealed in His Word. And no doubt it will help to remind ourselves of the definition of love that Paul has given so eloquently to the church in I Corinthians 13:4-8a:
"Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends."