“Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.”— 1 Corinthians 13:1
The Bible has much to say about love. Over and over the word love is used from Genesis to Revelation as if God were trying to say something special and incredible to mankind, as indeed He is.
John 3:16 declares that God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
John said, We love Him because He first loved us.
In 1 Corinthians 13 Paul declares that Christians should love one another for the first evidence of a saving work of grace in the heart is love. If a Christian has no love, all else will profit nothing.
Love lies at the very foundation of Christian character. We are rooted and grounded in love. (Eph. 3:17)
Love is the path in which all true children of God are found for they walk in love. (Eph. 5:2)
Love bonds believers together. We are knit together in love. (Col. 2:2)
Love offers protection during the dark days of spiritual warfare, for believers are to put on the breastplate of love. (1 Thess. 5:8)
Love is the fullness and the completeness of the Christian character for the believer is made perfect in love. (1 John 4:18)
And there is more.
Love is declared to be the fulfilling of the Law. (Rom. 13:10)
The Christian who expresses love is most like the Father when love is shown for the Bible says, God is love. (1 John 4:8,16)
Because God is love, He wants believers to know and enjoy that Divine attribute.
In a thousand ways and with ten thousand voices God has been shouting to mankind, I love you!
But, for some strange reason man has not heard the gospel message distinctly. Even when God took upon Himself the form of a man and personally demonstrated authentic love, people misunderstood and they tried to kill Love.
At first hatred seemed to be successful, but even death cannot destroy Love (Song of Sol. 8:7) and so it was that Love walked out of the grave.
What did Love have to say?
Love said, Father, forgive them, they know not what they do. (Luke 23:34)
Love said, Come unto me and I will give you rest. (Matt. 11:28)
Love said, Behold I stand at the door and knock. If any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me. (Rev. 3:20)
In order to demonstrate the importance of love, God once took the most sinful of all men and transformed him completely. The Church knows him well as the apostle Paul.
When we first meet him, he is presented as Saul of Tarsus in the pages of Holy Scripture.
He is a young man with fire in his veins and hatred in his heart. The emotion that burned within Saul was not immoral lust nor unbridled ambition but religious zeal. He would later write, I had a zeal for God, but it was not according to knowledge. (Phil. 3:6 cp. Rom. 10:2) Though he was in a spiritual state of darkness, Saul thought he had the light of knowledge and the truth of the gospel. As a member of God’s chosen people according to the flesh, Saul was brought up to believe that all Gentiles were dogs and all Jews were the apple of the Lord’s eyes and His constant delight. (Prov. 8:30)
As a mother will fight to protect her children, as a man will go to war to protect his home, so a religious zealot will defend the doctrine he holds dear even with weapons that wound. Saul combined the best of intentions with the worst form of unholy passion and logic. The end result was that Saul began to persecute the Church of Jesus Christ. It did not matter if the disciples of the Lord were a woman or child.
He would search every village and town in Palestine to hunt Christians down in order to arrest them. He would consent to their death when possible as in the case of Stephen. (Acts 7:58-60) Saul burned with passion in the name of Jehovah. He truly believed that the Lord God of Israel would use him to destroy the Followers of the Way who believed that the Law could be set aside with all of its rituals and ceremonies.
Finally, on the road to Damascus, God graciously put a halt to the religious madness. Manifesting Himself in Divine glory, the Lord of Heaven and Earth revealed Himself to Saul. With a voice of kindness, Love spoke. The Divine summons penetrated the silence. Saul! Saul! Why persecutest thou Me? (Acts 9) Love asked a question that had to be answered. And the heart of Saul was changed and became responsive because of Sovereign grace.
History records just how responsive the heart of Saul was to the gospel, for he spent the rest of his life trying to right the wrong he had done to the Church. The Messenger of Meanness became the communicator and the embodiment of love. The great transformation came because Sovereign grace changed the heart—and that is significant. Students of human behavior know that there are people who are sweet and kind by nature while others are aggressive and strong willed from the moment of birth.
However, when it comes to conversion, and when it comes to expressing Christian love, the natural disposition is not the issue. The issue is how much of the love of God fills the soul and expresses itself.
Strong willed people and those who are stern by nature or those who have been made harsh by experience can still be the most gentle, the most caring, and the most kind of humans when there is Divine love at work in the heart put there by redemption, worked out by sanctification, and enhanced by the indwelling ministry of the Holy Spirit.
The challenge and the calling for the Christian is to live within the sphere of love in order to be an effective representative of God. The objective is to win souls to the Savior despite initial hatred and hostility, as Monica experienced with her wayward son, Augustine.
While her son was breaking her heart by his wicked lifestyle, Monica loved him still for Christ’s sake. She never stopped praying and hoping and pleading that God would bring him to faith.
Monica needed great faith for her marriage was a spiritual and personal ordeal. Her husband Patricius was Roman. He was of the middle class, employed in the Roman administration of the village. He was a pagan in faith and he was a pagan in morals. Monica chose to endure his infidelities and his outbursts of temper. Her faithfulness produced eternal rewards for just before his death in AD 370, Patricius was baptized. While this manifestation may be very unusual, it is certainly a wonderful illustration of the extent Christian love can go when a serious attempt is made to live out the ethics of the Christian life.
Many years ago, a pastor of a small Pentecostal congregation in the hills of Pennsylvania happened to see a newspaper article about some young people who were being tried in New York for the senseless murder of a cripple boy in a wheel chair. The pastor felt compassion, not only for the victim, but also for the boys who had committed the murder. He wanted to help but he did not know what to do. However, acting upon an inner impulse he decided to drive to New York City and attend the trial. David Wilkerson was not able to help the young people on trial but he found thousands of other desperate kids on the streets of New York. Love compelled him to stay and see if he could help out the tough guys such as Nicki Cruz leader of the Mau Mau.
The Cross-and the switchblade met and the Cross-won.
A lesson is observed: whether in the first, fourth, or the twentieth first century when the love of God is unleashed in the hearts of people it becomes such a conquering force that crucifixion cannot kill it, beatings cannot break it, nor can immorality or murder quench it. God wants Christians to love and so the Holy Spirit moved Paul one day to pick up his pen and write: Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels And have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, Or a tinkling cymbal. Herein is the Word of the Lord.