a series of essays on the Spirit-filled life
by Del McKenzie
Even a casual look at Christianity, and a glance at the Bible on which it is based, will reveal that love is at the heart of all that is called Christian. It would be difficult, if not impossible, to over state its importance. The God revealed in Scripture and proclaimed by the followers of Christ identifies Himself as love. The Father loves so much that He gave (to die) His one and only Son. He demonstrated that love in that while people were still sinners Christ died for them. That love is lavished on people to the extent that they can be called the children of God. There is nothing that can separate the children of God from His love in Christ Jesus the Lord. Repeatedly the Scriptures declare that His love will last forever. Such is the nature of God and everything we believe and declare about Him must flow out of that great central quality.
Those who profess to be worshipers of the God of the Bible must be people of love or else they will be mis-guided or counterfeit. The Apostle John declared that "God is love (and) whoever lives in love lives in God and God in him." The call of Christ on our lives is a call to be people of love. The greatest commandment is to love the Lord our God with all of our heart. It is also a call to love other Christ-followers deeply from the heart. This call to love goes so far as to demand love for our enemies. The churches, called out and called together groups of people, are called to be units of believers that are so filled with love that people outside will say, "look how they love each other." Those outsiders will be able to tell genuine followers of Christ because of how they live in love.
This kind of love goes against human nature. There is a natural love which is found in some people and some families but our world is characterized by a lack of love. Hatred, unforgivness, bitterness, anger, revenge and a host of lesser manifestations of love's absence permeate groups of people around the world. In my life-time laws have been passed in an effort to keep people from hating. These laws are an obvious failure. Selfishness, an opposite of love, prevails in more ways than have ever been identified or catalogued. But love is far more than the absence of these characteristics. Recently I had a man state that he thought the real opposite of love was apathy. The kind of love that is declared in the Bible as coming from God is unmotivated, unconditional and unending. It flows out to people because of what it is. The clamor for attention, prestige and position that so thoroughly prevails in our cultures and, sad to say, in our churches is in direct contrast to the love that comes from God.
A big question is, "How do we get the kind of love described in the Bible?" How do we get a love that:
Such standards leave all of us far short. No matter how hard we try in our own effort we fail to live such a life of love. The lack of love can be seen in marriages, families churches and communities. Selfishness is rampant. Hatred is prevalent. Divorce, abuse and fighting are behind the masks that are generally worn. God's beauty is smudged and hidden. Competition and comparison are often more common than cooperation and affirmation. True love is absent almost everywhere we want to look. We can keep playing the game but it is a tragedy to be so far short of what God has provided.
The answer, of course, is for the love of God to be channeled through us. That is the promise of Romans 5:5, and one of the great ministries of the Holy Spirit. He takes the things of Christ and makes them real to and in us. Jesus came to bring the Father's love and the Holy Spirit now continues that mission. He is identified with love throughout the New Testament. The fruit of the Spirit is love. Joy is love rejoicing. Peace is love resting. Patience is love accepting. Kindness is love reaching out. Goodness is love as character. Faithfulness is love persevering. Gentleness is love responding. Self-control is love sacrificing. The person living in the control of the Spirit will be a person whose life is marked by love. In Romans 15:30 Paul calls for help in prayer by the love of the Spirit. It is specifically associated with Him. It is something that characterizes Him. It is the essence of who He is. In Colossians 1:8 Paul writes about hearing of the Colossian believers' "love in the Spirit." One of the results of them living in the Spirit was that they were loving people. Each member of the Trinity is pictured as love and it is the ministry of the Holy Spirit to bring that love to our hearts.
It is pictured as something poured out into our hearts. That speaks of volume. It is more than a trickle. More than just barely enough to keep us out of war with those around us. This is not only God's answer for how we can live out His plan and desire but it is one of the "abundant" provisions He has made. How do I get the love for someone who hurts me or seems terribly unlovable? It is by drawing on what the Holy Spirit wants to give me. When we are filled with the Spirit, and are walking with Him as our Companion in life, we can say to Him, "Holy Spirit, I draw on You as my love for this situation." He responds by pouring in a love for the person who is being selfish or hurting us. That has been the testimony of multitudes of Spirit-filled believers down through the centuries of church history.
A burning question then is, "Why are not all professing Christians flooding their circle of contacts with love?" One possible answer is that they are only professors and have never been truly born of the Spirit. Another answer is that they have been born of the Spirit but are not filled with the Spirit. Carnality still rules their lives. One of the great reasons to get filled with the Spirit and stay filled with the Spirit is so we will be equipped, enabled and energized to love. That is what God wants and that is what He has provided through the gift of the Holy Spirit. His heart must ache when He sees His people living in strife and turmoil for which the ministry of the Holy Spirit is the answer. Peter declared on the Day of Pentecost that this "promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off for all whom the Lord our God will call."
When we are filled with the Spirit we still need to cooperate with Him. It is referred to in Galatians as living by the Spirit. It is drawing on His ministry by faith. All that comes from God is by grace through faith. We don't get good enough to deserve it and we can never accomplish it in our own efforts and abilities. We can put the weight of our need on Him and see Him change us into the loving person He created us to be. Is it easy to give up our selfish ways? No. Is there always part of us that wants to nurse hurts and slights? Yes. But that selfishness can be replace with a love from God. We can admit our need, honestly take it to God and experience the love of the Holy Spirit.