The heading of this article is a portion of the 7th verse of I John, 4th chapter. Please get your bible and read the entire chapter before reading this treatise any further. Now, let us meditate together upon the wonderful doctrine of LOVE.
This epistle is written to the BELOVED. Those who are embraced in the dear love of God are the ones addressed. John is writing to them whom he loves. The ones who can hear these admonitions of John are in possession of a love that the world knows nothing about. The world cannot hear these glorious things be-cause they are of the world and not of God. John said, “...He that is not of God heareth not us.” (1 John 4:6) This is sufficient reason for limiting the subjects of address to the BELOVED. He said in the same verse, “He that knoweth God heareth us.“ This fact is sufficient to encourage John to exhort his brethren to love one another. He knows that his words will not be in vain because they will heed his admonitions. He is confident that they will be successful in this venture, “Because greater is He that is in you, than he that is in the world.“ He writes with the assurance that the beloved will be enabled to rightly try the spirits.
The text says, “Everyone that loveth is born of God.” He bases this statement upon the glorious truth that, “God is LOVE.” He does not leave us to surmise concerning those who love not. He emphatically says, “He that loveth not knoweth not God”. When we are confronted with such plain statements we have a well-marked rule to use In trying the spirits. We can do it well when we are provided with the love of God In our hearts which enables us to see the marks. No one who loveth is excluded because the text says EVERYONE. Then, love Is the testimony of the Spirit of God. Everyone who is In possession of the Spirit of God loves God and loves those who are begotten of Him.
The text says, “Everyone that LOVETH”. Let us, then, apply the well marked rule to ourselves. Do we love God and those who are begotten of Him with that perfect LOVE? We must properly examine the term, love, before we can give a true answer to this vital question. Some may consider love as a feeling of warm personal attachment or deep affection for another or others. Others may regard love as outward expressions of benevolence in words and acts which benefits others. Some consider love as the internal emotion, while others consider it as the outward acts. I am persuaded that perfect love, in its full and proper sense, is the union of the two schools of thought. I do not believe that either wishing good or doing good to another could properly denominate perfect love. Some perform outward acts of benevolence only because they see others doing them. They may do these acts in order to gain a higher reputation from their fellowmen. Others may think they are In possession of warm and deep affections for others; yet, this feeling and seeming devotion be so weak that It is not manifest in their actions. Some do good in order that they may receive good from another. Actions motivated by selfishness could not fit In the category of perfect lovely actions.
“The LOVE OF GOD is shed abroad In our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.” (Romans 5:5) Everyone who is born of God is in possession of this love of God. “...God is love: and he that DWELLETH IN LOVE dwelleth In God, and God in him.” (1 John 4:16) The love of God is a strong and an abiding love. This love is so strong that it makes us not ashamed to manifest it in our talk and actions. It inspires us to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and visit the sick. It will cause us to surrender personal ambitions in order to devote our time to the welfare of others. The Love of God is the only element that is strong enough to result in the complete abandonment of self in our deep devotion to others. This is in accord to Christ’s commandment: “This is my commandment, that ye love one another, as I have loved you. Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:12-13) If we love one another as Christ loved us, we will lay our lives down for our friends. This means the complete surrender of our personal ambitions and selfish interests to the extent of sacrificing reputation for the benefit of others.
Do I lay down my life for my friends? What type of questions come to my mind in determining whether or not I shall attempt a certain venture? The following group of questions belong to the category of selfishness: Will I gal n a higher reputation by doing this? How will this action affect my prestige? Will It tend to cause people to think that I am careless concerning the class of people with whom I associate? How will this venture help me financially? Will I lose or gain? Will it cause people to consider me unstable or unestablished? How will it affect my reputation of being firm? Such questions are the fruits of pride and have their origin in the carnal mind. This type of reasoning Is known by the whole universe. Every intelligent person is acquainted with such questions in determining his actions. There is a love that “passeth knowledge” which puts all such questions as the above in the background. This love will cause you to lay your life down for your friends. It will cause you to love them as He loved you.
Do I lay down my life for my friends? Jesus “made Himself of no reputation.” (Phil. 2:7) If I love as Jesus loved, all questions concerning my reputation will be disqualified. This love makes me willing to sacrifice reputation for the welfare of my friends. Jesus associated with publicans and sinners, which was certainly against His reputation. When the Pharisees and Sadducees, who thought themselves to be above association with such people, accused Him, He did not cease His attention to them. Even in the house of a Pharisee he gave words of comfort to a woman, who was a sinner, in the midst of a flood of accusations. He made it plain that He came to save those who were least esteemed among men. God chose the foolish, the weak, the base, and the least as objects of His love. He “took upon Him the form of a servant”. I will take a servant’s place when I am motivated by that love - even to washing the feet of my friends. I will be found doing the things that servants do for the welfare of my friends. I shall never forget the lasting impression that I experienced when a highly refined lady stooped low enough to shine my shoes. Jesus “humbled Himself” to perform many services to the poor, the halt, the maimed, and the blind. He administered to those who were in prison. Am I too good to visit a prison? Am I willing to lay down my life fo rthe less-fortunate?
I have visited In homes for the poor. My heart has burned within me as I have listened at the experiences of those who have sacrificed their own personal ambitions in order to provide a real home for the poor, the diseased and the aged. I have lamented my own carelessness while observing the untiring acts of servitude of those who have used all their savings to provide food, clothing, and shelter for the helpless. They have not only laid down their financial security for the less-fortunate, but they have, also, laid aside their occupations and professions in order that they may serve with their hands. They lay down their lives for their friends. Jesus “became obedient unto death.”
Those who love will risk their own lives for their friends. There have been those who have died In the attempt to rescue others. Many have gone through flames of fire to keep others from burning to death. Some have run into the path of vehicles to snatch loved ones from their pathway. Some have plunged into dangerous currents of water in attempt to save from drowning. Some have died in battle in order that their loved ones might enjoy freedom. Those who are filled with such devotions will not stand idly by and allow loved ones to be the subject of ridicule. Love flies into action without awaiting decision based upon reason. Good reasoning and sound logic is disregarded when perfect love abounds. When this love is prevalent you will not wait to consider what people will think of your actions. You will not take time to discourse at length upon how much you love before acting. Talking about love and love in action are two different things. You may proclaim from the mouth your great love for others, yet, you prove by your actions that it comes only from the mouth and does not originate in the heart. I have more confidence in the ones who act it out, and is quiet, than I have in ones who uses up his time in talking about it.
You have heard it said, “Love is blind.” Actions prompted by love may be rightly considered to be unreasonable, illogical, and unintelligent. They may be considered foolish when measured by the rule of natural reasoning. Did you ever do anything for anyone when afterwards you wondered why you did it? Then, after meditating for a long time, you came to the conclusion that the act was foolish and unintelligent. You pondered the puzzling question, Why did I do it? I am persuaded that it was love, over which you had no control, which prompted you to perform this act for your friend. Can you control love to the extent that you can give it to whom you decide upon after much reasoning? Can you control it to the extent that you can withdraw it from anyone, or ones, that you naturally decide to be to your best Interest? Anyone having this idea of love knows nothing of the Love of God. This love controls you. You cannot give or withdraw upon volition of the natural will based upon logic and reason. If you have been born of God you love those who are begotten of Him. He is the one Who determines the objects of your love. You can truthfully say about many persons, I love them, but, I cannot explain why.
This love is strong enough to include your enemies in your embrace even though they despitefully use you. You pray for them while they are cursing you. It is certainly unreasonable to render good for evil. Love alone could be responsible. Jesus said, “Love your enemies.“ He could not have meant for you to love them whom you hate. This would be a contradiction and an impossibility. The meaning of this command is that you love those who hate you. Can there be room for hatred in the heart possessed with God’s love? If you only love those who love you, your love is no greater than the love the world has. Why? Because the world loves its own. Do you do good only to those who do good to you? Do you speak kindly of those who speak well of you? If your answer is, Yes, to these questions, your love is not the fruit of the Spirit of God. Do you speak evil of those who speak evil of you? Do you attempt to retaliate by severely criticizing the ones who criticize you? If this be your condition there is no evidence of godly love. God said through His inspired writings, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay. saith the Lord.“ The Lord does not put vengeance in the hearts of His people to administer to those who deserve it.
The commandment of Love is strong enough to hold up all the law and prophets. Jesus said, “Upon these two commandments hang all the law and prophets”. The first commandment was to love God. The second was like the first, “Love thy neighbor as thyself”. Then, “Love is the fulfilling of the law”. When you love, His commandments are not grievous. Jesus said, “If ye love me, ye will keep my commandments”. The person who complains of having to make such great sacrifice In order to keep the commandments of Jesus, proves by his complaints that he knows nothing of godly love. Love is the quintessence of all points of the law and prophecy. Love does not teach you to violate, nor lightly consider, any point of the law of God. It rather provides the desire to walk in His statutes. The Ten Commandments, which are negative commandments, are based on the principle of love. Anyone having the love of God In his heart could only desire to keep them all.
The Love of God Is so pure that it makes manifest the vanity of pridish natural reasoning. Pride is one Idol of the heart that requires godly love to make It manifest to the person who tries to hold on to pride. When it is made manifest, you pray God to “tear it” from my heart. Do you fall back into the rut of inactivity because people censor your actions? I have complained of being lily treated and have tried out for sympathy. I have been hurt and have given vent to my feelings by sitting down and pouting as Jonah did. It took pure love to teach me that all of this was hurt pride. I may cry out that I am forced into the, “rut of sitting on the ‘stool of do-nothing’, in order to please some of my friends.” This is a cry from pride because I was criticized for doing something when I thought they ought to praise me for it. Love has branded my pride as vain. I am thankful to God’s love for this lesson. Now, I can rejoice and be exceeding glad when men revile me, persecute me, and say all manner of evil against me falsely. These revilings, persecutions, and false accusations were experienced by the prophets, Jesus Christ, and His disciples. His followers are experiencing them today. If my actions are prompted by love, then, my persecutors are falsely accusing me. If these accusations be false, they can do me no harm; but, rather work for the success of my endeavors for good. If I do things in order to be persecuted lam asking for revilings. Such actions deserve persecutions, and accusations against me could not be considered as false accusations.
Love will not permit us to sit on the “stool of do-nothing” It spurs us on to action in the face of persecutions, revilings, and false accusations. It causes us to do good unto all men, especially the Household of Faith. It will cause us to walk humbly before one another. Love teaches us to strive for peace. It will cause us to work for the uniting of those of like precious faith. It dispels the idea of setting up bars of non-fellowship because of some trivial difference In opinion or expression. It causes us to look for the good instead of the evil In our neighbors. It enables us to count our blessings instead of thinking upon the things that tend to be against us. Those possessed of the love of God do not have time for whisperings, backbiting, slandering, tale-bearing, and fault-finding. Love prompts positive thinking, talking, and acting for the good and peaceful welfare of Zion and all of its inhabitants. May this love enable us to think upon the true, the honest, the just, the pure, the lovely, things of good report, and also virtue and praise. (Phil. 4:8) May we talk about His wonderful goodness to the children of men. May we converse upon the good characteristics of our associates. If we fail to find something good to say about a person, say nothing. “Love worketh no ill to his neighbor: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law”. (Romans 13:10) “Owe no man anything, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law”. (Romans 13:8) May the Lord enable us to try the spirits by the rule, “EVERYONE THAT LOVETH IS BORN OF GOD.”
Elder E. J. Lambert
Signs of the Times
Volume 160, No. 7