Fervent Love From Pure Hearts
It seems almost inconceivable that people who had been "born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God" and who had purified their souls in obeying the truth (I Pet. 1:22, 23) should need to be told to love one another. Yet this is exactly what the Holy Spirit caused Peter to write. Likewise other writers most of whom addressed their epistles to children of God, were motivated to speak often of love, sometimes in pleading words such as Paul used in Eph. 5 :2: "Walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us . . ." but sometimes in stern commands such as "Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself" (Gal. 5:14). Again we find John writing, "I beseech thee . . . that we love one another" (2 Jn. 5) thus pleading gently for greater love, but in another letter (I Jn. 4:8) charging frankly that "He that loveth not knoweth not God." If there was a need for admonition in those days when many men were guided directly by the Holy Spirit, then surely we can see the necessity of giving heed today to the plea "see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently" (I Pet. 1:22).
Love itself is intangible and relative. We cannot fully describe it and probably will never even fully comprehend it. In the cold formality of modern living, love for people and for God is often shut out. So often it is replaced by love for things-for money, property, etc.-or by love for fame, fortune or position. The effect of a lack of love is seen in gigantic programs of commercialized benevolence instead of real compassionate action from the hearts of men and women. The shortage of love for people may be seen in a rummage sale to help the poor instead of a free meal given to an unfortunate one at our own table, or in giving an old, out-of-date coat to a shivering beggar instead of letting him warm by our fireside. Real love for the orphan will not just motivate us to send a few pennies per day to some institution for their care, but it may cause us to open our doors, use our sheets, soil our pretty walls and spend our time in their behalf.
Love is a demanding emotion. It is a driving power. Abraham's love for God drove him to offer his son for a sacrifice. Likewise, when love abounds in our hearts it will drive us to greater devotion to God and his church. But love is also a restraining force. David's love for God and for God's people restrained him from killing Saul who was God's anointed. Our love for the Lord will be a restraint against sinful actions. Furthermore, love is a dynamic urge. In Enoch it became the power that caused him to "walk with God" and to please Him. Love should urge the Christian on to "higher ground" and it should cause him to press forward in faithfulness. Love perseveres. Love doesn't give up. Ruth's love for Naomi caused her to remain by Naomi's side in time of great trial. Mother love has long been used as an illustration of the undying nature of love.
Love's demands may change the course of our lives. Misdirected love - love that is not based upon truth and right - may bring disaster to our homes, to our souls and even to the church. Love that is a result of truth and that is guided by principles of justice and righteousness may lift us up from sin, sorrow and selfishness to a life of consecrated godliness, joyful righteousness and selfless service. Our purposes, our plans and our pursuits may be changed when love for God and for men becomes a dominating factor in our lives. Real love for the church and for the gospel will produce in us a determination to support it with all our might, for we don't ask another to support that which we really love. If there is a shortage of support for the church, there is an evident shortage of love.
Abraham said, "Let there he no strife . . . for we be brethren." This sentiment is emphasized again and again in the New Testament. We are told to "Let brotherly love continue" ( Heb. 13:1) and "By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one for another" (Jn. 13:35). Again John wrote, "Let us love one another . . . he that loveth not knoweth not God, for God is love ... He that loveth God love his brother also" (I Jn. 4:7, 8, 21 ).
We are told that, in the early days of the church it was said of the disciples: "See how they love one another." So many times today this is not true. When brethren falsely accuse each other; when they judge each others motives; when harsh, vicious criticisms are hurled; when false, misleading designations are given and when the bitterness in the heart is seen in the caustic, vitriolic language that flows from the pen, then it is evident that brotherly love is gone. On the other hand love is shown by meekness, kindness, humility, compassion and justice. (By meekness I do not mean weakness; by kindness I do not mean compromise; by humility I do not mean cowardice; by compassion I do not mean blindness and by justice I do not mean surrender to evil.) Declarations of love for brethren become empty, hollow and meaningless when they are contained in almost the same paragraphs with accusations of deceit, hypocrisy and dishonesty.
A strange fact that may be observed often is to see brethren who do not love each other as much as they love people of the world. To illustrate: Brother "A" lives beside "Mr. Sectarian. They disagree on many religious things, but they enjoy each others company, they visit, go fishing together and in every way appear as friends. But when brother "A" and brother "B" differ on some current issues such as the orphan home question or the Herald of Truth problem, they often appear to be enemies. They act like they dislike each other, and if they are average they allow these differences to cause them to hunt for more and more faults in each other. Bitterness is evident in their every relationship and they show almost no mercy or kindness for each other. Satan is pleased and souls will be lost because Christians do not love each other more. Paul wrote, "in malice be ye children, but in understanding be ye men" (I Cor. 14:20). Again he wrote, ". . . put off all these: anger, wrath, malice . . ." (Col. 3 :8). Surely it is unreasonable that a Christian can maintain a close friendship for sectarian people with whom he disagrees so significantly and still become an enemy of a brother in Christ because of differences.
Jesus gave us the perfect pattern even in this regard. He did not make his friends among the high and mighty in this world, but he went about doing good among the poor, the weak, the sick and the humble. Concern for the poor saints caused Peter, James and John to urge Paul to "remember the poor" (Gal. 2:10) as he went on his ministry among the Gentiles. James made helpfulness to the unfortunate a component part of pure religion (Jas. 1:27). The brethren at Antioch demonstrated the interest in the poor that should characterize every Christian (Ac. 11:29, 30). Solomon said, "Whoso mocketh the poor reproacheth his Maker" (Prov. 17:5 ). Again he said, "He that giveth unto the poor shall not lack, but he that hideth his eyes shall have many a curse" (Prov. 28:27).
There is certainly always a need for the old fashioned love for the. poor that reaches deeper than our pocketbooks (but that also involves it) and sends men and women out into the avenues and by-ways serving humanity. This kind of love will motivate us to share our blessings and sometimes even to sacrifice many of our own privileges to help the less fortunate.
In our own great U.S.A. the government will hardly allow one to starve or freeze, and because of the goodness of governmental agencies Christians may be inclined to grow cold in regard to the poor. Also, because many younger ones have grown up in times of great plenty, and because they have known no want, their hearts may not be tender to the needs of the unfortunate. The fact is, it may require some real dedication of self to develop a love for the poor that will cause the Christian to look with compassion upon them and out of a heart of sincere love be guided in the use of our hands and lips and means for relief of human suffering.
The Christian should be the enemy of no one-he should he the friend of all. He should imitate Jesus who "Went about doing good." But, though he succeeds in putting enmity from his heart, he cannot prevent others from being his enemy. Some will ever be the enemy of righteousness and holiness, and some will even be the enemy of those who possess such characteristics. What shall be the attitude of the child of God toward those who are his enemies? Jesus said, "Love your enemies, bless them that curse you (Mt. 5:44) and again, "Love your enemies, do good to them which hate you, bless them which curse you and pray for them which despitefully use you" (Lk. 6:27, 28). Paul wrote, ". . . as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men . . . avenge not yourselves . . . if thy enemy hunger, feed him, if he thirst, give him drink . . . be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good" (Rom. 12:18-21).
The love of Jesus for his enemies is the perfect example for us. We ought to try to walk as he walked even with regard to those who hate us and who devise evil against us. No vengeance, no retaliation stained his life. No malice was in his heart, and hate for people never entered his mind. Hatred is listed as one of the works of the flesh (Gal. 6:20) and "they which do such things shall not enter the kingdom of God" (Gal. 6:21). What a shame it will be if good and great men (and women) lose their souls because they hold enmity in their hearts for each other or for others! And, as we said in an earlier paragraph, how ridiculous it is that men should become enemies because they disagree!
We must love all races. The neighbor whom we are commanded to love may live far away and may have a different colored skin. (Lk. 10:29) We must love our families - parents, children, companions. (Eph. 5 and 6.) We must love the church-because it cost so much (Eph. 5 :25); because its mission is so great (I Tim. 3:15) and because it is made up of God's people. We must love the truth because it will make us free from sin and from bondage to Satan (Jn. 8:32). Failure to love truth will bring damnation (2 Thess. 2:10).
Our love must be more than a mere emotion. Love that is declared but not demonstrated is worthless. Love must not only manifest itself in an emotion that stirs our hearts, but it must lead us into lives of usefulness, fruitfulness and justice.
"If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels and have not love, I am become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal . . . If I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and I give my body to be burned but have not love, it profiteth me nothing. Love suffereth long and is kind; love envieth not; love vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not its own, is not provoked ... Love never faileth ... But now abideth faith, hope, love, these three; and the greatest of these is love." (I Cor. 13.) (R.V.)
Truth Magazine III:7, pp. 21-23