1 Corinthians 16:14
Let all that you do be done in love (ESV).
God is love (1 John 4:8, 16). He desires that we are like him. He wants our inner beings to be love, and our conduct to demonstrate his kind of sacrificial love (Ephesians 5:1-2). He desires the full compass of who we are and what we do to be love. But….
Yeah, we all really struggle here. As followers of Christ, we want to imitate God’s love, and I think we make serious attempts for comprehensive loving behavior. But it’s a fight to love in everything. I know it sounds strange to put the words “love” and “fight” together. (If you thought of marriage during that last sentence, be thankful that your spouse can’t completely read your mind!) Seriously, we don’t want to admit that it can be difficult to do everything in love, to do the wise actions that demonstrate God’s kind of sacrificial love to our family and friends. On the other hand, we will admit that it’s very difficult to love sacrificially our neighbors, coworkers, and enemies. You see, we suppose that we basically are loving people, and if circumstances don’t mess with us, we will do everything in love.
We ought to do everything in love, but in our text, the Holy Spirit through the apostle decided to instruct us about this. Why do we allow a cross word, an angry look, a small disappointment, or a subtle exclusion of us set us off into actions that are anything but loving?
The answer is not in the circumstances that upset us. It is inside us. Godly behavior is not like the checklist that we all are supposed to do before driving cars. Do you remember that checklist from driver’s education? Before we began to drive, the instructor made us check so many things about the car, the passengers, and the surroundings. We haven’t yet taken our granddaughter anywhere in our car, but there will be new items on that mental checklist! But godly love is not conformity to a checklist. It rises from something inside you.
The something is the love of God. God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us (Romans 5:5b). Radical change has happened to those who follow Christ. The Spirit has come on us to fill our inner persons with God’s love. This love reached us at the time we were “weak”, “ungodly”, “sinners”, and “enemies” (Romans 5:6, 8, 10). It was love that reconciled us to God. It gives us a new position in Christ before God. It starts to transform our condition in the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.
The inner person or heart is the place from which we start to do everything in love. We have a sweet assurance that God loves us. New thoughts develop in the heart. “Since God loved me when I was his enemy, I can reach out with his kind of love to my enemies. Since God loved me when I was a sinner, I can forgive those who have stepped out of line in their treatment of me. Since God loved me when I was ungodly, I can bear with those who are unlike me. Since God loved me when I was weak, I can help those who are too weak to interact with me as they should.” Thoughts like these begin to develop new attitudes. We see people, not as those to be criticized or condemned or cast off, but as those who ought to receive the benefits of sacrificial love – God’s love through us.
This change comes from within as we lay hold of the truth that we did not deserve God’s love. It came from his grace and mercy. It came through great cost, the sacrificial death of Christ on the cross. God’s love is cross-shaped, and it remakes our thoughts and attitudes in this same cross-shaped pattern. We then begin to do everything in love, not because love is an item on our checklist, but because it is the pulse of our hearts. God’s overflowing love causes us to overflow with love for others. Doing everything in love comes from a heart filled with God’s love.
Grace and peace, David