Note two things: First, the word ‘love’ is a verb. A verb is a doing word. It is something we DO for one another. It is just not sufficient to settle for it being only an attitude. Love must express itself in action. We may be pleasant in manner, have a smiling face, a friendly and soft word, but if it is not expressed in an ACT of kindness it is not love. Love may embrace all those other things, but on their own, they are not love. Why? Because love is a doing word. It is not a feeling. It is not a smile. It is not a soft word or a pleasant manner. Love may be accompanied by all those, but they are not themselves love. Consider this. In the context of explaining true faith James made this observation,
‘If a brother or a sister is without clothing and in need of the day's food, And one of you says to them, Go in peace, be warm and full of food; but you do not give them the things of which their bodies have need, what profit is there in this?’ James 2:15-16 Bible in Basic English (Emphasis mine)
Note the similarity of phrase used by Paul in his 1 Corinthians 13 comment and this one by James. There is no profit if love is absent. In the succeeding verse to the passage above James says, ‘Even so…’ and then returns to his subject of what constitutes a genuine profession of faith, that is, a faith evidenced by love –love that acts. The link between faith and love is not accidental. They are inseparably linked. Paul shows this in writing to the Galatians where he is discussing something very similar. He is exhorting the Galatians to live by faith and not works, only this time he is warning against trusting in a legalistic observance and application of the law for justification. In that context he says,
‘For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision avails anything, nor uncircumcision; but faith which works by love.’ Galatians 5:6 Emphasis mine.
We could paraphrase these two passages in this sentence, ‘genuine faith is expressed/demonstrated/proved and evidenced (works) by love in action’.
Second, we are to ‘love AS he loved us’: In James 2:16 we have already noticed the blunt question, “What doth it profit?” What does it profit if we just say the words, or have a nice attitude? Alone they are worthless. In Galatians 5:6 above we are given the secret ingredient of genuine sincere faith –it ‘works by love’. Love and faith are inextricably linked in God’s economy. If you love God, you trust and believe Him. If you trust and believe Him your life will show it as naturally as breathing. How? By the acts of loving kindness you constantly perform. We will love one another AS He loved us. How did He love us? By laying down His life for us. Right here is where that other wonderful John 3:16 is found, this time it’s John’s first epistle.
‘Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.’ 1 John 3:16 Emphasis mine.
This is how we are to love one another. Let me ask, who have we ‘laid down our life for’ in the last 24 hours? Do you think that’s extreme? I’m not sure the Lord Jesus thought it was. I think He said it because He wanted us to do it habitually, as a way of life. That’s why I started this article with Paul’s exhortation, ‘By love serve one another’. This is not a random thing. This is a habit of life. We live our lives in service. First to one another, the family of faith, then to those who don’t know the Lord. For those who don’t know the Lord we do it as a platform to share the Gospel and to create opportunities for evangelism. Actually, both are evangelistic. The acts of love performed to and for the saints, and those performed to and for the unsaved. Jesus showed us that pretty clearly here…
‘By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, if you have love one to another.’ John 13:35 Emphasis mine.
Jesus spelt this matter of love action out for us in His story about the Good Samaritan. We don’t know if the Good Samaritan smiled, or spoke softly and pleasantly. He may have. In fact, I’m sure he did. But he could have done all those things and not been the lead player in this wonderful parable of love action. The whole point of the story is that he ‘bound’ up the man’s wounds. He ‘poured’ in oil and wine. He ‘put’ him on his donkey and ‘took’ him to the inn and ‘paid’ money to the innkeeper and ‘promised’ to pay more if necessary. That was love. That was love ‘as I have loved you’. That’s why he exemplified the command to ‘love one another as I have loved you’.
As we meet together, be on the lookout for ways to put this into practice. Love one another as He loved us. That’s why we meet together, because we love the Lord and we love one another. That’s what it means to have ‘communion’ together. We share our common union in Christ. We need to be meeting often and sharing our love for one another. That was what was so striking about the believers in the book of Acts.
‘And they continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine [teachings] and fellowship [assembling & gathering together], and in breaking of bread [sharing meals together], and in prayers.’ Acts 2:42
We can now complete the paraphrase above, ‘genuine faith is expressed/demonstrated/proved (works) by routinely performing sacrificial, costly, acts of care and concern for first of all each other and then all men as opportunity serves’.
Let us continue to explore all that this means in our fellowship together. We are on a journey to discover what true koinonia [fellowship] is all about.