Love is Foundational
Love is the foundation for all that we do in the kingdom. Growing in love is foundational to our Kingdom assignment. Everything builds upon God’s love toward us, our ability to receive His love, and then to love others with His love. God demonstrated His love toward us first in giving His Son.
Our world has a love deficit. Rich or poor, humanity longs for genuine love and acceptance. Mother Teresa once said, “There is more hunger in the world for love and acceptance than for bread.” I would agree.
Only God’s love, shed in our hearts through faith in Jesus and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, can fill the love deficit everyone has. Only God’s love, His agape love, which is relentless and unconditional, can satisfy the deepest longing in the human heart.
He still leaves the 99 to pursue the 1—that’s you and me!
The challenge for most, including followers of Christ, is the reception of the Father’s love. We know that God is love, but our hearts question, “Yes, but does God really love me?”
And for many, another question persists, “Do others really love me? Am I accepted for who I am?” Further, many sincere followers of Christ fail to even love themselves as God loves them. Many are still striving to earn God’s love and the love of others rather than receiving the love of God through grace.
Let’s discuss today how “Love is Foundational.” Living a healthy and victorious life depends on your ability to receive God’s love, live from His love and acceptance, then love others with God’s love.
Love Should Undergird Our Motivations
The Apostle Paul, after describing the nine spiritual gifts in 1 Corinthians 12, describes in detail in the next chapter that the basis of all the spiritual gifts (as well as the motivational gifts (Rom. 12) and ministry gifts (Eph. 4)) is love; it is the energizing factor in our actions and motivations:
If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing. If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing.” 1 Cor. 13:1-3 NLT
Notice how Paul acknowledges that revelational insight from God empowers faith. In fact, I suggest without clearly knowing God’s revealed will on a matter it is difficult to have mountain-moving faith. But, as important as faith is to answered prayer and victorious living, it must be built upon love for God and others.
Similarly, we can have wealth, do great things to help those in need, but without a foundation of love, Paul says we have “gained nothing.”
Paul also stated our “faith works (is activated, energized) through love” (Gal. 5:6). Love is the active ingredient in our faith. God first loved us, gave of His Son for us, that we might know Him and the depths of His great love. God’s love has been shed abroad in our hearts and we are now able to love God and others with God’s love.
Further, to possess a faith that moves mountains, you must have a sincere love for God and others—free of unforgiveness and bitterness (see Mark 11:22-26).
The Message translation states, “No matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love.” (1 Cor. 13:3b) True!
Jesus described the necessity of love to the religious this way in Matthew’s gospel:
Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.” Matt.22:37-40 NLT
We are to first love God and then secondly love others as ourselves. Life is all about love. God is love, and the most important lesson He wants us to learn on earth is how to love.
After learning to love and worship God, learning to love others is the second purpose in your life. You must also love yourself, not in a self-directed way, but free of shame and self-condemnation.
Pride is deceptive to be sure. We must guard our hearts from falling into pride and self-aggrandizement. But as dangerous as pride can be, there is also the danger of allowing self-hate and rejection to dominate our thinking and emotions.
Twentieth-century Catholic theologian and author Henri Nouwen made a profound statement, “The greatest trap in our life, is not success, popularity or power, but self-rejection.”
Some studies show we have about 3000 thoughts per hour or 50 per minute, just under one per second—and for many people, most of their thinking is negative.
Some struggle with loving themselves—seeing themselves as God sees them. Their true identity is clouded by the circumstances and failures of life. Inner, negative self-talk based upon the failures of the past breeds self-rejection and self-hate.
Learning to receive God’s love unconditionally brings healing to the wounds of the past and removes the shame and guilt that inhibits true God-given identity.
Understand that there is a name above rejection, loneliness, and depression—Jesus! Paul gives an antidote to negative thinking:
From now on, brothers and sisters, if anything is excellent and if anything is admirable, focus your thoughts on these things: all that is true, all that is holy, all that is just, all that is pure, all that is lovely, and all that is worthy of praise.” Phil. 4:8 CEB
You are loved, accepted, and in right standing with God through Jesus Christ.
The Father has always wanted a family—not subjects. Your identification with Christ as a follower justifies you and positions you as a son or daughter in the Father’s family. You are not working for His love, acceptance, and righteousness. His grace is given through faith in Christ! Paul stated how liberating the grace of God is:
There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death.” Rom. 8:1-2 NKJV
Conviction is both a work of our inner conscience and Holy Spirit. Most intrinsically know what is right and wrong—the conscience reminds us. Further, for the follower of Christ, the Holy Spirit convicts when we are in error to bring us back into right relationship with God and His Word and ways.
Condemnation is both a work of our unrenewed mind and demonic powers. An unrenewed mind that does not know at a heart level they are loved, accepted, and forgiven by God will continually condemn oneself (again, self-hate, rejection, and shame-based thinking). The enemy is always trying to condemn us by interjecting negative, accusing thoughts about our relationship with God and with others.
But Paul declares confidently in Rom. 8:1-2 that those who are in Christ are free from the power of sin and death, and free of its guilt and condemnation. We are justified and made righteous through Jesus and His atoning death. His unconditional gift provides acceptance and adoption through grace. In Christ, you are loved, accepted, and forgiven!
God’s Family Should be Known for its Love for Others
Last week I was thinking much about the value of marriage, family, and other relationships. Specifically, how important love is—it covers the “flaws” or “imperfections.”
No marriage or family is perfect. Anyone have any “flaws” in your family? All of us do. By the way, just look at yourself in a mirror early in the morning! I’m glad my family loves me “unconditionally,” messy hair and all! Peter had something to say to those who are married:
Wives, likewise, submit to your own husbands. Do this so that even if some of them refuse to believe the word, they may be won without a word by their wives’ way of life… Husbands, likewise, submit by living with your wife in ways that honor her, knowing that she is the weaker partner. Honor her all the more, as she is also a coheir of the gracious care of life. Do this so that your prayers won’t be hindered.” 1 Pet. 3:1, 7 CEB
In marriage, or any close relationship, we must keep short accounts—quick to forgive, forget, repent, and love again.
Twentieth-century pastor and author Larry Christenson, in his book The Christian Family, stated:
Successful marriage is not a business of perfect people living perfectly by perfect principles. Rather, marriage is a state in which very imperfect people often hurt and humiliate one another yet find the grace to extend forgiveness to one another and allow the redemptive power of God (His Grace) to transform their marriage.”
Again, no marriage or relationship is perfect. Marriage is two imperfect people extending grace to one another and trusting God in their midst. Forgiveness is the avenue for God’s grace to heal, restore, and empower.
No perfect church either! Guess what, our church family has flaws too—every church does.
Sooner or later, in your family, at work, or at church, someone is bound to say or do something that is offensive. Or they may “not say” or do something that you were expecting that is offensive. But, God’s love covers the imperfections, it’s His grace and we need to extend that grace to others.
After speaking to husbands and wives, Peter now addresses all believers:
Finally, all of you be of one mind, sympathetic, lovers of your fellow believers, compassionate, and modest in your opinion of yourselves. Don’t pay back evil for evil or insult for insult. Instead, give blessing in return. You were called to do this so that you might inherit a blessing.” 1 Pet. 3:8-9 CEB
Keep in mind that he was speaking to Christians, not to render evil for evil or insult for insult—so it must have been happening in the Church in his time. Hmmm, never would happen in our day, would it?!
When I was a young Christian, a pastor once said to me, “Remain thin-skinned toward God, and thick-skinned toward people!”
When he spoke that, I thought, “Well we need to be thin-skinned toward people too.” Well, in time, I realized what he meant. You see, not letting your heart get so easily offended by every wrong attitude or behavior of others is vital to emotional and spiritual health.
Have you ever seen the car bumper sticker, “Christians aren’t perfect, just forgiven!” True statement. There is no perfect church; in fact, the Church is made of imperfect people. The same pastor that told me to be thin-skinned toward people also told me,
The minute you came into the church, it was no longer perfect.”
I started to get “offended,” but then realized he was right! The moment that I, or any of us, become part of the Church, it is no longer perfect—it is made up of members who are becoming more and more like Jesus as they follow Him and yield to the inner work of the Holy Spirit. Yet, amazingly, God sees His Church as “glorious” and becoming more radiant daily! (See Ephesians)
Throughout the NT we are exhorted to love one another and extend grace to each other.
Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.” 1 John 4:7 NKJV
Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you. Therefore, be imitators of God as dear children. And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us…” Eph. 4:32, 5:1-2 NKJV
What does love look like? What is genuine love?
In the Greek, we have four words for love: Agape, Phileo, Stergo, and Eros. Eros is romantic love, Stergo is primarily love between parents and children, Phileo is brotherly love, and Agape is God’s love. Consider what Paul wrote to the Corinthians with God’s Agape love in mind:
Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance. Love never fails.” 1 Cor. 13:4-8 NLT
Let’s examine these verses closer to understand how we should love others with God’s love. By the way, the only way you can love others this way is to receive God’s love completely and allow His love to flow through you to others. Your human capacity to love others will fail eventually!
Love has patience with imperfect people and is kind toward them. To love others in this way does not depend on how they treat us. Be careful not to judge others—we all are growing in grace and love and are at various levels of maturity.
You are not responsible for someone else’s attitude and actions. However, you are responsible for your attitude and actions!
Love is not jealous. Love is non-possessive and non-competitive, it wants others to succeed in life. True spiritual maturity and parenting want to see others grow and succeed. Learn to be an encourager, applaud others and their success!
Love is not boastful or proud but walks in humility to others. Pride is deceptive, and it blinds us to the treasure that is in others. Humility helps us see others as God sees them.
Love does not demand its own way. Love doesn’t seek its own rights but is unselfish. Willing to yield to others. Don’t demand your way, consider others first!
Love is not irritable. Love isn’t touchy, but graceful under pressure. Often, we become irritable with others because we are expecting perfection. Sometimes we have a “false” expectation toward people. When others don’t meet our expectations, we often become irritated with them. That’s conditional love, not unconditional love as God gives.
Keep in mind that unspoken expectations “eat away” at relationships—they are devoid of God’s unconditional love for others.
Love keeps no record of being wronged. Love releases the offender, and operates in grace, not the justice level of the law. If we want justice, we are not walking in love and grace.
The woman caught in adultery in John 8 is an example of this type of love. The Lord was giving the Pharisees an opportunity to join the woman in humble repentance. Live in grace and drop the rocks!
Love doesn’t rejoice about injustice. It doesn’t find satisfaction when others fail or fall short and spread an evil report. Rather, love rejoices in truth, and advertises the good about others. When you hear of someone’s struggle, it’s an opportunity to pray, not gossip about them!
Love never gives up on others, it believes the best about others, it endures through difficult times with others and love affirms their future. The Kingdom culture that God is building is based upon love and honor. We are to love and honor God, and each other.
We are to honor all people. How? By looking for the good in them. Looking for the treasure within them. See the best in others and their future!
Sometimes we are unable to love in this way because our hearts are not healed. Wounds in our lives can distort the love others are trying to give us.
It is your ability to receive God’s love that is the key to loving others!
Learn to rest in God’s love and His acceptance of you. Begin to love yourself fully, as God loves you, free from the pain of the past. From this place, remain in God’s love and presence and then give that away to others—love is a necessity in life and your greatest joy!
“Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the church.” Pour into your wife, into your family. Create a place of love, acceptance, and forgiveness in the home. Wives, love your husbands. Be gentle, kind, and loving toward each other.
Church, love, honor, and value one another. We are different. Respect each other’s different views and perspectives on non-essential Christian principles.
Prayer: “Father, bless your people today. May they know the fullness of your love, acceptance, and forgiveness. Break off any self-hate, striving to be accepted, and feelings of inadequacy. Heal hearts that are hurting, by the power of your love. Heal relationships and marriages that are struggling. May love, grace, and kindness fill our hearts toward each other. Father, grant us the grace to forgive and grow in love, acceptance, and forgiveness toward others.”
For a deeper look at this topic, watch the Passion Church message “Love is Foundational”