2Co 2:4 say, “For out of much affliction and anguish of heart I wrote unto you with many tears; not that ye should be grieved, but that ye might know the love which I have more abundantly unto you. 2Co 12:15 says, “And I will very gladly spend and be spent for you; though the more abundantly I love you, the less I be loved.” This week I would like to discuss the labor of love. As I was meditating on these verses, I had to stop and ask myself, “Is this my true heart attitude? Can I truly say, that I will gladly be spent for others, although the more I love others, the less I am loved?” This is a deep question, and I believe all disciples of Christ need to be able to answer it – and live out it’s truth. Let’s get into God’s Word.
Let me start by saying that love is indeed a labor. Not a grueling task that must be performed, but rather true love is an action. It is much like faith (Jam 2:18). Show me your love without corresponding actions, and I’ll show you my love by my actions. Love acts. Love does. Love is expressed in action. The cross of Calvary is the greatest example of this truth. Jesus deeply loved, therefore He went to the cross. Paul deeply loved, therefore he endured much affliction for the church.
Love is the greatest commandment (Mk 12:30-31, 1Cor 13:13). To love God with your whole being, and to love your neighbor is the whole sum of the law (Rom 13:8-10, Gal 5:14). There is absolutely nothing more important in the Christian life as far as Jesus is concerned. If you notice, the great commandment is proactive. It is not reactive. People often make the mistake of thinking that they will love those who love them. This is not Christian (Lk 6:32). If you are waiting to react with love, you are no different than an unbeliever. Christian love acts independent of others. It does not look for a reciprocation. If your love is reciprocated, then praise God; but if it isn’t, you love anyway.
To tithe and go to church are good and biblical; but the weightier matters are justice, mercy, faith, and love (Lk 11:42, Mt 23:23). If you don’t have love, you are nothing (1Cor 13:1-3). We are told to love one another as Christ loves us (Jn 13:34-35, 1Jn 4:11). How does Christ love us? Unconditionally. Proactively. We love Him because He first loved us (1Jn 4:19). While we were sinners, Christ died for us (Rom 5:8). He laid down His life for us (Jn 15:12-13, 1Jn 3:16). He put us first. How can we follow in His footsteps? How is this possible?
We must follow the great commandment in proper order. We first must love God with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength. We must receive our fulfillment from Him. We must not look to others to fill what only God can. If we do, then we will always be disappointed. Why are so many Christians depressed, angry, bitter, unforgiving, etc.? Because they try to receive fulfillment and satisfaction from others, instead of from God. People will always let you down to some degree. If you look for people to make you happy, you will always be disappointed. However, is God is your total source of fulfillment and happiness, he never disappoints.
When you are full and satisfied with God’s Love, you can freely give that love to others – without receiving anything in return. As with the Apostle Paul, you can spend and be spent, although the more you love the less you are loved. You can freely love your neighbor, if you love God and know you are unconditionally loved by Him. It is truly freeing. Jesus asked Peter three times, “Do you love Me?”, then He said “Feed my sheep” (Jn 21:15-17). You see? Love acts. Love does. That was not conditional. Feed them as long as they treat you right. Love them as long as it pleases you. Love them as long as …, etc. No. Love them. Feed them.
In God’s kingdom, the way up is down. The last will be first. He that is least shall be greatest. The humble will be exalted. Those faithful with little will be given much. Love others, expecting nothing in return. Let your identity be in Christ, not in what others think of you. Love freely. If you are rejected, know that Jesus was also rejected. God’s love was rejected. Is a servant greater than his Master? Do you think you will not be rejected? Let that be their problem, not yours. Refuse resentment. Refuse to be bitter. Refuse to be unforgiving. Empty yourself of self. As Paul said, “I die daily”. Die to self. Die to your will, and surrender to God’s will. Don’t hold grudges. Love unconditionally. This is the great commandment.