By: Pastor Douglas Graham
If our relationships aren’t right, the reason isn’t a lack of love for each other, it’s a lack of love for God. And conflicts reveal a bigger problem than anger and selfishness; it reveals a lack of love for God.
“If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar.” -1 John 4:20. The reality is, you can’t love God and be angry with your brother at the same time.
“This is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” -1 John 4:10. Christ satisfied God’s wrath. He died in our place. He took our punishment.
“Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” -1 John 4:11. Our love for each other is to follow the way of the cross. We can be like Christ and follow His example. If Christ’s love is alive in our heart then His love will spill out on others.
The way of the cross is sacrificial, unconditional love for someone’s benefit even when they don’t deserve it. “We love because he first loved us.” -1 John 4:19. Christ died for his enemies, and then He made us his children. To love like Jesus our love must be unconditional. We are to love no matter what!
My daughter Cody likes the story of Cain and Abel. I think it’s because she knows she has a little brother and it bothers her that Cain killed his brother Abel. She gets a serious look on her face when we talk about the story. You can tell her God given conscience works fine.
One day Cody and her brother Caden, and I were playing in the play room. Caden took one of Cody’s toys and Cody didn’t want to share so she said, “I don’t like my brother sometimes.” I almost said, “You should share, you should like your brother.” Instead, I decided to go a different route with her.
By saying to her, “You should do this, you should do that,” that is all law. Its rules. And law and rules never change a person’s heart. To change a person’s heart, that person needs God’s grace. God’s law reveals our sin, but it doesn’t remove our sin. And more rules don’t make us better they make us bitter. The Bible teaches its God’s kindness that leads us to repentance. –Rom. 2:4.
It’s true, Cody should share and she should like her brother, but the reality is, she doesn’t, nor can she until her heart is the kind of heart that pleases God. Cody doesn’t need more law and rules, she needs more grace.
So, instead of telling her to love her brother, she needs to know she is loved. She needs to see love in me. She needs God’s love. Then she is free to love…from her heart not from a law. I can make Cody share, but it won’t be from her heart until she sees how much God has shared with her, how much God loves her, and how much her dad loves her as her example.
So, I said, “Cody, why don’t you like your brother?” She had just learned this lesson in Sunday School so she said, “Because my heart is black.” I said, “What does it mean that your heart is black? She said, “I have sin in my heart.” I said, “That’s right and that’s why you don’t like your brother.”
I said, “What did God do to remove our sins?” She yelled, “He died on the cross!!”
I said, “Cody, when Cain killed his brother Abel, what did God do to Cain?” “He put a mark on his head to protect him.” I said, “That’s right and that mark was God’s grace toward Cain. He let Cain live and even have a family.” Cody said, “Yeah.”
Then I said, “That’s what you need, you need grace in order to like your brother.” She said, “Daddy, do you want to color with me?” That’s all her 4 year old mind could comprehend. So we colored together.
In our flesh there’s no way we can love our brother, but because of Jesus, and by His grace, we are now able and free to love others, even our enemies! We were made to love like God because we are made in His image. There is a serious disorder in our heart when we don’t love like God.
We love because He first loved us. -1 John 4:19. When you are so captivated by God’s love for you there’s no way you can keep from sharing God’s love to your family! God’s love for you as displayed on the cross is a never-ending, never forsaking, always unconditional, inexhaustible, daily, perfect kind of love!
Jesus taught, the one who is forgiven much, loves much. So, the most merciful person is the same person who knows he’s desperate for mercy.
If true love for God and others is the branches and the fruit of a tree, then the roots are roots of gratitude that are growing deeper into the Gospel of God’s amazing grace! It’s grace that we need in our heart.
True worship for Christ drives true gratitude and true gratitude drives true love for my spouse, kids, and other people. The more I love God, the more I’ll love my family and others. And to love God more I start by worshipping Him as the Creator of those I love.
To love God more I can also worship Him as being Sovereign in my life. A lack of love reveals a lack of respect for His Sovereignty. God is in control. He is good all the time. We can trust Him!
To love God more I can also worship Christ as the Savior of my life. So, a lack of love for others reveals a lack of grace in my heart. My response when people sin against me will reveal the condition of my heart. It will show if I love God, OR if I love me.
If I’m worshipping God and living in the light of the Gospel, then I will show His grace even in the light of people sinning against me. And to not love and to not worship God will result in anger instead of grace and service toward others. It will result in self-centeredness and competition.
But we are free to love! We can let go of the anger, and the selfish desires, and we can grow in our desire for more of God and pray that His will be done in us.
Lord, give us a heart that worships You in spirit and in truth. A heart that hates sin, loves You, and trusts in You for salvation, mercy, and grace.
Lord, by Your grace set us free from our self-centeredness that we may desire to be more like You, and love like You because You alone are worthy!