Let's talk about ...

... the true measure of the the Christian:

Jesus said to His disciples on the eve of his crucifixion, "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another." 1

We also see the love theme stressed in Matthew's gospel account. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus says, "But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you in order that you may be soons of your Father who is in heaven .... For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? ... Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect."2

Love is the much talked-about teaching of the church. So important is love in God's scheme of things that in John's writings to the seven churches of the apocalypse,3 he warns the church of Ephesus, "I have this against you, that you have left your first love. Remember therefore from where you have fallen, and repent and do the deeds you did at first; or else I am coming to you, and will remove your lampstand out of its place - unless you repent."

This theme continues in his message to Pergamum and Thyatira, whom he castigates for putting up with people who lead some astray. The main motivation for not putting up with those false teachings is that the believer's love for God and for the other believers would be destroyed by following them.

Matthew also records similar warnings: "If you do not forgive men, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions," appears after the Lord's prayer.4

And in the parable of the unmerciful servant, Jesus pictures the displeasure of the slaveowner who forgave his servant a mega-sized debt, only to have that servant show no mercy to a man who owed him a very small amount. The slaveowner then reversed his former decree of forgiveness. 5

Obviously, this is serious stuff. And I don't want to be guilty of using scare tactics. There is something very beautiful about the believer (and the church) that is truly filled with God's love. But love is also such a problem that there have been significant attempts to write theology that allows us to be less than perfect (that is, complete) in this area.

What is the remedy for lack of love? As we read earlier, Jesus told the church at Ephesus, "repent and do ..."

Repent (turning from the way we have been going to another way):
confess your lack of love,
ask the Lord to give you his love for those you find it very difficult to love.
accept in faith that God will give you that love, and
just do the deeds of love, such as taking time for those you find it difficult to deal with, even if the feeling of love is not there. 6
These are acts of the will. Do them in sequence. Don't continue to try to do good to others if you have not yielded your will in confession, because others will surely see through your hypocrisy. Address God directly: "God, I can't love ______. I'm sorry I have let you down by my pettiness, but I have a great big grudge against them. Please help me to forgive them."

If God wants you to go further, perhaps by confessing your lack of forgiveness to the other person, he will impress it strongly upon your heart, AND he will give you the strength to do it.

Genuine love: that's God's plan for man.

1 John 13:34, 35
2 Matthew 5: 44 - 48
3 Revelation chapters 2 and 3, especially 2: 4 - 5
4 Matthew 6:15
5 Matthew 18: 21 - 35
6 this idea originates with Bill Bright of Campus Crusade for Christ and with other writers. All verses quoted from the New American standard Bible, (c) The Lockman Foundation, 1960, 1973
Script (c) Rick Galbraith, Winnipeg, MB, Canada. 1996, 2001