In his epistle to the believers in Philippi, the apostle Paul wrote, “And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God” (Phil. 1:9-11). This sets the standard of love that we should have as believers. This love is progressive and not stagnant; it is active and not passive; it has to grow and mature. We have to reach a point where we overflow with love and are able to project the kind of love that God has for us – sacrificial. It must be noted that this love is also intelligent in that it is laced with knowledge and depth of insight. Since it is an intelligent love, it is able to check the abuse of the heart because, as the prophet Jeremiah had said, “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” (Jer. 17:9) No wonder we always hear people give advice to those who are romantically and too emotionally involved with someone saying, “Use your head and not only your heart”. In fact, it is out of an intelligent love that discipline is carried out. The Book of Hebrews says, “For those whom the Lord loves he disciplines, and he scourges every son whom he receives." (Heb. 12:6)
The need to grow in love was emphasized by the apostle Paul when he said, “May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you” (1 Thes. 3:12). While it is expected that the love that we have for those who are close to us will grow as we interact with them, the Lord expect us also to love everybody else, including our enemies. In echoing the command of the Lord Jesus Christ for us to love our enemies, the apostle Paul said, “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head” (Rom. 12:20). This command to love our enemies is without logic if we use our carnal mind. It is because our normal tendency is to wish that our enemies die so that we are freed from their oppression forever. However, the reality is that we can only subdue our enemy’s physical body through death but his spirit lives on. The spirit of enmity he had against us is passed on to his children and relatives and they will continue the fight. But if we try to subdue our enemy with love, he will eventually be our friend and so will his children and relatives. It is because of this love for our enemies that we have coined the saying, “Your worst enemy can be your best friend”.
The apostle Paul further exhorted the Thessalonians saying, “We ought always to thank God for you, brothers and sisters, and rightly so, because your faith is growing more and more, and the love all of you have for one another is increasing” (2 Thes. 1:3). It is expected of every believer to match their growth in faith with a growth in love. It is not right for a person to claim to be a believer and yet is living in hatred, anger and bitterness. If indeed he is growing in his faith, he needs to demonstrate it by loving others. In explaining what love is and its importance as a sign of spiritual growth, the apostle Paul said, “If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing” (1 Cor. 13:1-3). Everything that we do should reflect the intelligent love that God has blessed us with. No amount of good works or exercise of faith will overshadow love because love is the greatest of all.
We all want to be known as a Christian. But what is the best way to let others know that we are believers? Will good work do the job? The Lord Jesus said, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34-35) Friends, the best way to show our Christianity is to have an abounding love for one another. No matter how we try to convince others that we are Christians, if they do not see the fruit of our Christianity through our love, they will not believe. Let us remember that by our love for one another, we shall be known. Hallelujah!