Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Experiencing real love

We all know that the Christian life is an expression of love. But what is Christian love? We can assume that somehow Jesus will be involved, either as the source or the object of it; we can assume that the Holy Spirit will be involved because love is an aspect of the fruit of the Spirit; and since God is love, we can assume that the Father will be involved. So that means the experience of Christian love is a relationship with the persons of the Trinity.

Paul, in one of his universal descriptions of believers, writes that the love of God is poured into their hearts (Rom. 5:5). In that letter, as he asks for prayer concerning his Christian service, he also refers to the love of the Spirit at work in the lives of Christians (Rom. 15:30). One assumes that he was writing out of personal experience of the reception and the stimulation connected to such divine love for him.

No doubt, we have read statements by Paul that cause us to stop and ask, ‘What did he say!’ If you have never done that, you should ask yourself if you are reading him as he should be read – carefully, expectantly, wonderingly. One such statement is his claim to love the Philippians with the affection of Christ (Phil. 1:8). Somehow, Paul loved them with the compassionate love of Jesus (as indicated by the word translated as affection).

What did that affection look like? We find several aspects of it in the letter to the Philippians, and you may wish to read the letter and see where he mentions the following details. First, he prayed for them to grow in love. Second, he delighted to tell them about Jesus. Third, he wanted them to think about heaven. Fourth, he did not want them to have silly squabbles. Fifth, he wanted them to know real peace in their souls. Sixth, he wanted them to esteem two of his servants. Seventh, he wanted them to be joyful.

When we have those features, we can deduce that Jesus is giving us his love. Then he wants us to be channels through which his love can flow to others, while giving us profound experiences of his grace along the way. What stops this taking place? Replacing his love with something else.