We love because He first loved us. Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. And He has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister. (1 John 4:19-21)
Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758) is famous for his sermon, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.” But he also preached one called “Heaven is a World of Love.” Edwards reminds us that God is love and the infinite, full, overflowing, and inexhaustible fountain of pure love. And the Holy Spirit’s gift and fruit of love will be everlasting in Heaven, even after all other things have failed and passed away. In Heaven the demonstration of love between the Lord (Father, Son, and Spirit) and Christ’s followers will be perfect. Preparing for Heaven, believers aim to grow in godly love, even though our attainment will be only incomplete in this life.
Drawing on 1 Corinthians 13 (the Bible’s “Love Chapter”) this continues our series on “Jesus-like Love.” I number these headings for ease of discussion. If you missed it, you can read Part 1 here.
3. Jesus-like Love Does Not Envy: Envy and jealousy come from comparing and competing. We may behave these ways when we feel unloved and insecure. We begrudge others when we are ungrateful to the Lord for all the ways He has blessed us already. Envy is the opposite of love and contentment. It makes us miserable and blinds us, making it hard for us to think clearly. King Jesus spoke the 10th Commandment at Mt. Sinai, warning us not to covet our neighbor’s house, spouse, servants, riches, or anything that belongs to our neighbor.1
Envy distances us from God and other people because we feel gypped. Resentment destroys marriages and other relationships because it spoils our enjoyment of the Lord’s goodness to others. He commands us, “Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.”2 Coveting is a hateful sin and to avoid it we must pray, hope, and work for each other’s success and well-being.
“Envy” was the title of a Ben Stiller movie in 2004. Ben’s character confessed to his friend, “I am so wrapped up in the envy I feel for everything you have. It’s like a green-eyed monster in my soul that poisons my head….Jealousy is chewing me up.” Envy is rebellion against the Lord, feeling bitter that God graciously gives someone else an advantage or privilege that we think we deserve. That is the sin of Cain that prompts him to kill his brother, Abel. It the sin of Satan, who is jealous of God’s glory, majesty, and sovereignty. The chief priests and elders were envious of Jesus’ success, so they wanted Him put to death.3
Christ-like love is thankful and contented, whether we are well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.4 Jesus commands us not to worry about what we eat, drink, or wear, but to seek His honor first and most. Then He will meet all our other needs as well. The Savior says, “Do not be afraid, little flock for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom.”5
Before our Father’s throne we pour our ardent prayers.
Our fears, our hopes, our aims, are one, our comforts and our cares.
4. Jesus-like Love Does Not Boast or Show Off: Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) began many of his compositions with the inscription, “Jesus, help me!,” and signed them “Soli Deo Gloria” (to God alone be glory). Bach was a devout and committed Christian, and if he could behave so modestly with all his genius, then we must do the same with whatever abilities the Lord gives us. In marriage, in God’s church, and in the workplace, we can accomplish great things for Christ providing we are not greedy about who gets the credit.
God often saves people who seem foolish, weak, lowly, and despised in the world’s eyes. And He often passes over people who seem smart, powerful, and from important families. It is only by God’s free grace that anyone is included in Jesus’ family. He has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. Therefore, let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.6 “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.”7
At the Last Supper Jesus spoke about laying down His life for us on the cross. And the twelve apostles totally missed it. They start disputing about who of them was greatest. Christ says that pagans lord it over one another, “but you are not to be like that. Instead, the greatest among you should be…the one who serves.”8
Arthur s. “Art” DeMoss (1926-1979) was a Christian businessman who made his fortune by mass marketing insurance policies via television ads. When he was young, Art was a rebel, wild, and involved in gambling, living far from God. But in 1950, the Holy Spirit brought Art to repent and trust Jesus as Lord and Savior. DeMoss never got over the wonder of God graciously saving him. When you asked Art, “How are you doing?,” he would often answer, “Better than I deserve.” All of us ought to say that! “Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst, the chief, the foremost.”9
Remember beloved, salvation is only by God’s unmerited favor, thorough faith alone in Jesus alone, so no one can brag. And all of life is also by God’s grace alone. In Him we live and move and have our being. And everything we have is a gift from Him. Our possessions, privileges, places, parents are freely given to us by God. Our achievements, abilities, brains, and beauty are all gifts from Christ. Our skills, status, fame, fortune, and everything we are and have comes down from the Father of heavenly lights.
So how can we ever brag or strut around like a peacock? Boasting makes us compete with other people, clash with them, look down on them, and hurt them. These are not the ways of Christ. Instead of unwholesome boasting, let us speak only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that we may benefit people around us.10
Take time to be holy, Speak oft with your Lord;
Abide in Him always, And feed on His word.
Make friends of God’s children; Help those who are weak;
Forgetting in nothing His blessing to seek.
Prayer: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, we praise you that your are compassionate, gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness. We thank you that you have been merciful to us. Fill us to overflowing with Jesus-like love so we can serve other people for you and bring honor to you. Help us to prepare for Heaven by loving you and loving people made in your image and likeness. We pray in Christ’s name. Amen.
To be continued. You can read Jesus-like Love (Part 3)
Notes (various translations): 1 Exodus 20:17. 2 Rom 12:15. 3 Matt 27:11-18. 4 Phil 4:10-13. 5 Luke 12:29-32. 6 1 Cor 1:26-31. 7 Prov 3:34; James 4:6; 1 Peter 5:5. 8 Luke 22:24-30. 9 1 Tim 1:15. 10 Eph 4:29.