By Dr. Harold Sala
A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another. John 13:34-35
Everybody knows we ought to love, but most people honestly make a stab at it and think, “This is easier said than done.” We’re faced with a dilemma. We know we should but we don’t know how.
That was the predicament which motivated George Bernard Shaw to write, “I was taught when I was young that if people would only love one another, all would be well with the world. This seemed simple and very nice, but I found when I tried to put it into practice not only that the other people were seldom lovable, but that I was not very lovable myself.”
So how do we break out of the bondage of lovelessness? You can. Here’s how–four powerful guidelines.
Guideline #1: Get to know God who is love. That’s where agape love starts. It’s John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son….” That was agape love in action. John says, “God is love” (1 John 4:7) so if you want to know what agape love is about, find out about God. When you have a relationship with Him, the Holy Spirit indwells your heart, and Paul tells us that the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by His Spirit who is given to us (Romans 5:5). Like filling an empty cup, God fills you with Himself, and His love begins to flow out of you, touching those around you, making you a more caring–yes, loving–person. (See Galatians 5:22). Frankly, you will never find agape love any other way. It’s what made the lives of the early Christians so different. “Hey, look how they love one another,” is what they said of these humble men and women who reached out to them in love.
Guideline #2: Confess your sin of lovelessness. Look up and say, “God, I need your forgiveness for my lack of love. I know it. I ask your help.” Looking at yourself in the mirror and saying, “You need what 1 Corinthians 13 talks about” is a powerful step towards finding it.
Guideline #3: Understand that agape love is your response to the commands of Jesus. This may be the most important thing I have stressed in this series. Agape love deals with how you act–not how you feel–your behavior, what you do, not warm fuzzy emotions which you have because the romantic juices and hormones are flowing.
God’s children are given a command: “Love one another as I have loved you” said Jesus in the Upper Room. And when you are given a command, you have but two choices: obedience or disobedience. There is no third choice.
The biblical concept of agape love is active–not passive. It is not something which happens to you, but a decision, a choice you make, something you do. It includes tasks such as making the coffee, taking out the garbage, keeping a clean house, seeing that your children do their studies, putting the one you married first. Agape love demonstrates forgiveness for harshness, and kindness for meanness.
Guideline #4: Start loving. Just a minute, you may say. “Are you suggesting that I love people whom I really don’t love. Isn’t that hypocrisy?” When you understand that agape love is how you behave, not how you feel, you begin treating someone with love, and as you do so, you find yourself “disliking him less” as C. S. Lewis put it.
When you decide to love, you step across the threshold into a world you control, one in which you choose to act instead of react, and you walk in the company of men and women who have made a difference in life. Ask God to fill you with His love, and then by faith start loving, and loving, and loving some more.
Resource reading: 1 Corinthians 13