This is the answer to every lame excuse on our part that says, “Oh, I just can’t love that person. You don’t know what she’s like. If you had to live with her as I have to, you wouldn’t be able to love her, either.” “Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has seen God at any time. If we love one another, God abides in us, and His love has been perfected in us. By this we know that we abide in Him, and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son as Savior of the world. Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. And we have known and believed the love that God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him.” (1 John 4:11-16)
You know we all have people like that in our lives that are difficult to love, and we are probably those people to others. Seriously, we have to understand that. No matter how “normal” we think we are, we’re abnormal to someone else, making us difficult to love. But God’s Word tells us that if we’ve experienced this kind of love, we “also ought to love one another”.
If we have been to the cross and felt the overwhelming cleansing of God’s love for us, despite the antagonism and hatefulness we have shown Him and despite our loving our own way and wanting to do what we like; if we have felt the cleansing grace of God wiping that all out without any recriminations or calling up of the past, forgetting and forgiving it all, then, as John says, not only can we love someone else but we “ought to”–we owe it to the Lord to love one another.
We owe it because we have within us the fountain of love in the life of Christ. Paul said he is “a debtor both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to wise and to unwise” (Rom 1:14). Later in the same epistle, he encourages us to realize the importance of loving one another. “Owe no one anything except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law.” (Rom 13:8)
Love isn’t “putting up with someone” or pretending to love them. We are told “Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good.” (Rom 12:9) Unless we have the life of Christ, we cannot love. But if we have the life of Christ—that is the whole point—we can love like this, and we ought to do it. Christ in us, can love through us. All He is waiting for is the acquiescence of our will; then He will do the loving. It’s what Christ prayed to the Father for us: “I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me.” (John 17:23)
In Old Testament days, though there appeared manifestations of God in human form, these were but God in human disguise. These manifestations were not God made visible. How will God’s love be made visible before Jesus returns? “No one has seen God at any time. If we love one another, God abides in us, and His love has been perfected in us.” (1 Jn 4:12)
That is where people see God’s love, and it is the only place it can be seen. The fact of an indwelling God becomes visible only when we manifest love one to another. As long as we are nice only to our friends or to those who are nice to us, no one has any idea that God is around. But when we start being nice to those who are nasty to us, when we start returning good for evil, when we start being patient, tender, thoughtful, and considerate of those who are stubborn, obstinate, and selfish, then people get the sense that God is close at hand, that He is in the situation. Then God’s dwelling in us becomes visible to them. “And we have known and believed the love that God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him.” (1 Jn 4:16)
Father, may these words burn themselves into my heart, that I may recognize myself as called preeminently, above all else, to this great task of being an abundant demonstration of this kind of love. Lord, I may be the only demonstration of Your love someone sees today. Lord, let my words and actions be but a vessel for You to love magnanimously through me. Lord, You are the potter, I am the clay. Use me to manifest Your love to those who are in the darkness. In the precious name of Jesus, amen.
Source: The Debt of Love by Ray Steadman