Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News
March 2, 2014
Authentic love has to be demonstrated
Now middle-aged, our sons laugh about how how they learned an important Bible lesson. They remember the way their mother broke up their fighting with each other. Holding one boy in each hand, she would declare with the fervor of a backwoods preacher, “Love one another! If you don’t, your Daddy is going to give you a whipping when he gets home.” That gave the boys a good reason for loving each other.
Love does not come easy in the rough and tumble of life. When we are hurt by other people we usually return the favor without thinking. It is human nature to retaliate against people who lash out at you.
Like happiness, love is also a choice – and sometimes a tough one. It is relatively easy to love the people who love us. But before we can love some people, we must decide not to hate them. That is sometimes a tall order. But when we see it done, it is beautiful to behold.
Take for example the parents of a teenage son who was killed in a car wreck. He was a passenger and the boy driving the car was drunk. When the driver was charged with vehicular manslaughter the grieving parents of the dead boy asked the judge not to send the other boy to prison. They had lost their son but did not want the other parents to lose their son to prison. Such love is rare but it is the kind of love that disciples of Jesus are expected to practice.
Hate is not an option for Christians. We may hate sin and its cruel consequences but we cannot hate the sinner. Moreover, to refuse to hate is not enough. Love is necessary. And words, no matter how beautiful, cannot make love real. Deeds of kindness are necessary. Love is not love until it is demonstrated.
In the first of his three letters in the New Testament John writes bluntly about love and hate. His teaching is strong medicine. If we hate a brother or sister we are murderers, and our hatred demonstrates that we do not belong to Jesus. The nature of real love was revealed by Jesus’ willingness to lay down his life for us. And that is the example we are to follow; we must find ways to “lay down our lives for one another.”
John says God’s love is not in you if you have the means to help a brother or sister in need and you refuse to help. That stings, does it not? Some of us have been guilty of doing just that many times. We had the means to help someone in need but we walked away without offering so much as a slice of bread.
Pondering the need of unfortunate people is not love. Love is taking bottled water and chainsaws to people who need help. Love is taking the time to buy groceries for a widow who can no longer drive her car. Love is building a ramp for an older person who is confined to a wheelchair.
Where, one might ask, does Jesus fit into this picture? The truth is, we cannot practice authentic love without his help. Remember how Jesus said, “Without me you can do nothing at all.” Since that is true we cannot, by trying hard, restrain from hatred and practice genuine love.
The good news is that the help we need is available for the asking. The Bible calls this help grace. And since grace is the undeserved favor of God we can humbly ask for it and expect to receive it. Then, and then only, will we be able to practice love in ways that please God.
Take a few minutes to look around. You may be able to think of someone who needs your love. When John says “Let us love one another,” he is speaking to you – and to me. + + +