LOVE IS LABOUR, NOT PLEASURE

Again and again, I habitually sit back to ponder on certain things, I try to look from varying perspectives to gain better insight and know better. I was reflecting on that word “love” again and a Bible verse stroke a chord in my heart. It made the distinction! I’d like the words of Jesus to re-echo in our hearts; He said

“So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.” – John 13:34-35

When we love, people will know that we are His disciples. You must understand that being a disciple means being a learner and this connotes that when we love, people will know that we are learning of Christ. This means that love is the only way to truly be Christ-like in a practical sense. Love is the only way to show Jesus.

When we discuss love, we aren’t talking about what a boy feels for a girl, we aren’t talking about the gifts a boy buys for a girl because of how he feels. We also aren’t talking about the feeling a girl has for a boy as a compensation for all the gifts she has been receiving. Love exceeds all of those. The Bible says that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. This is what love means! Love covers a multitude of offence, love doesn’t fade away because we couldn’t get what we want! Love is that ability to be wronged, offended and even despised but still choose to admire, respect and stand for the offender. It is in this interest that the Bible says “love is the greatest…” (1 Corinthians 13:13)

Many times, we want to feel that it is impracticable to love and while I admit that it is not natural to the flesh to live like Christ, we can truly love like Him because the nature of Christ has been made available in our Spirit and we can superimpose Christ’s nature of love on our mind by learning of Him every day and functioning in the reality of what we learn of Him. Jesus wasn’t suggesting that we love, He wasn’t advising us to love, and He wasn’t trying to inspire us or motivate us to love! He rather charged us and gave us a command to love one and another. He didn’t just leave us with a command, He also empowered us to be able to live up to it if we so desire it. However, it isn’t negotiable; it is a way of life that we must follow.

In light of this truth, we see something astounding. Love isn’t a choice, it is not an advice or an appeal; it is a commandment from our Lord, Jesus Christ. This is how He expects us to live, His love was made complete in us (1 John 4:12) so that we can give out to others in full measure. The problem is that a lot of us are too carnal that we are afraid to exercise our Spiritual qualities. The only way to express a better understanding of God is not to preach but to love! Love should be the reason why we teach, preach and reach out to people. We can’t prove we know God if we do not walk in genuine love. The Bible says in 1 John 4:8

“Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.”

The knowledge of God in us propels us to bear good fruits. What serves as fruit in us is our character and our attitudes towards others. The fruit of the Spirit isn’t something we wait for the Holy Spirit to gift to us. As believers, we have a regenerated spirit, our spirit is perfect (1 Peter 1:23) and our spirit is bearing good fruits. The Bible says in Galatians 5:22-23

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things, there is no law.”

Love is one of the fruits of the Spirit, all other fruits are also made possible by love. The fruit of the Spirit isn’t the fruit of the Holy Spirit in the context of that reference, it is the fruit of our born again Spirit. The bible says that we should walk in the Spirit, it didn’t say we should pray for the ability because as believers we already possess the ability to walk in the Spirit.

If we wouldn’t be able to walk in the Spirit, we wouldn’t have been instructed to do so. To walk in the Spirit means to live out in our flesh the fruits of our Spirit. Jesus said that we are known by our fruits (Matthew 7:16) and He said people will know that we are His disciples if we love. Note this please, He didn’t say people will know we are His disciples if we preach for it is by evidence that people are convinced about our identity. Let’s see that verse briefly,

“So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.” – John 13:34-35

The reason Jesus commanded us to love each other just the same way He has loved us is that this is the only way to prove our identity to the world. Technically, when we don’t love just like Jesus, we are living out a mistaken identity. Jesus didn’t just ask us to love, He asked us to love just as we have been loved by Him. We don’t just love, we love like Jesus. It is not a suggestion but a commandment.

Commandment despises reasons; it entertains no respect for any kind of excuse. When you are in the army, you are obliged to obey the last order! The last order might be to open fire, it might be to slap your brother as a sign of discipline and because you are accountable to the senior officer, you must obey the last order. In the same fashion, Jesus, who is our Lord, saviour and owner have given us an instruction, a command and the greatest of it all at that. He said, “love one and another!” We don’t have a choice but to love, we don’t need any reason to love and we don’t have to feel like it, to love.

Love in this context is simply “love!” We don’t need to start defining any Greek theory! I said earlier that the kind of love Christ necessitates from us is that which respects, admire and care for others even when they are our enemies. It may seem ridiculous and cowardice but this is the kind of love God demands from us. It doesn’t mean that we see gangsters and lay our heads for them. It rather means that even when we have to seek for legal protections from wicked people, we are still concerned about them and groaning for them in prayers. We must never let our flesh proceed to rule our mind perpetually. We can learn to forgive people and let go of the hurt. Love can’t function without a forgiving heart.

Unfortunately, we talk about love so much but end up doing little. Our love for others is manifested first of all in our desire and passion to see them saved but it also continues being expressed in caring for others, in protecting the vulnerable, in assisting the needy and in seeing people just like Jesus would see them. The same way a woman in labour has no other choice than to push, we are compelled to love! Some women keep pushing out the baby and even die in the process but notwithstanding of what happens to them, they had to push, they’ve got no reason not to! Even if pushing would be impossible, they must still undergo surgical operation; this is because they have no option than to deliver that baby! It doesn’t matter the pain, you’ve still got to love.

The weakness of love is stronger than all the powers of hate in this world put together. The power of love is intoxicating to the point that when you show any man, genuine love, God Himself is triggered! I like to think that how to move God is to love, how to call for God’s attention is to love. I may not sound theologically accurate to some people here but it is true; our love for others triggers God’s attention. When you love others and show it, God is likely to say “wow! Someone just loved on me now.” Jesus made this very clear in Matthew 25:40, we saw that how to love God is to love the men God made in His image.

God has made Himself the primary beneficiary of our love to others. Love is a labour, it is not a pleasure. God wants us to labour this way, He regards us as faithful servants when we love others. Jesus didn’t say we should love people who love us, He didn’t say we should appreciate good deeds with love, He didn’t say we should love people we are attracted to. He rather commanded us to love even the least person. The smallest and insignificant person doesn’t suggest the least person in Church, God’s kingdom extends to the earth because the sphere of God’s authority is without defect. Who is the most unimportant person in your life? Who is that enemy that you have sworn to have nothing to do with? Who is that person that has so wronged you that you never want to set your eyes on them again? That is where love should begin!

As much as your child did nothing to obtain your love, this is how others should be loved. There shouldn’t be any such thing as hate at first sight. Whether they look mean, angry and unattractive, always find a means to show love. If your child destroys your certificate and valuable appliances, you may get so angry but in the end, he or she is still your child and you don’t keep being angry with them. This is also how we should treat others. The same way you believe that your child will grow out of being childish, you should also give other people that benefit of the doubt, they can grow out of their hate when they learn how to love from you! When there is a need to discipline people, love should still be the motivation! Channel your desire towards how you can make the other person better!

It is very easy to say that we can handle every offence; it is very easy to say that we can’t get bitter until we are hurt and betrayed by someone we’ve so much trusted. It is easy to say that we can love unconditionally until the person we thought we love turns against us. If love should rule above offence, then we are to labour for it. Judas betrayed Jesus but Jesus didn’t come back talking about it, the same happened with Peter. It was painful but love despises reasons. We will not always get it perfectly right but we can always try, we can always come out of hate when we remember that this isn’t where we are supposed to be. I will summarize with this story.

A man noticed a snake ensnared in something while the fire in a nearby burning bush was expanding towards the place the snake was trapped. Out of compassion the man picked the snake off its trap and started hiking down towards another part of the bush to put it to safety. The snake bit the man who out of pain threw it down immediately but quickly picked it up again and threw it to the other side of the bush. A young girl who was observing him asked: “why did you help that snake even after it bit you?” The man grinned and said “the snake will always be a snake and I will always be me. The snake won’t allow your kindness to change its nature; it is simply exhibiting its nature. In the same manner, I won’t allow the aggressiveness of the snake to change my nature that is why I still had to help even when it treated me badly.”

To love is not to see danger and fix your head in it. To love is to care for another person even when he or she is isolated for your safety. Never forget, love seeks for reconciliation, love is compassionate about getting others saved and love is revealed in care. People may hurt you while loving them but what do you do? Love again! Why? Because we are obeying the last order!

This is our last order, to love!

~ George O.N

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