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Love Is the Mark of True Discipleship

Thursday, June 20, 2024 @ 01:08 PM Love Is the Mark of True Discipleship Jordan Chamblee Stand Writer MORE

"A new commandment I give to you,” Jesus taught His disciples, “that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this, everyone will know that you are my disciples if you love one another." (John 13:34-35) Loving as Christ loved should be the defining mark of those who claim to be His disciples. But what does this radically countercultural love look like in practice? The apostle Paul's famous discourse on love in 1 Corinthians 13 provides a powerful portrait.

Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things (1 Corinthians 13:4-7).

"Love is patient." Where human nature insists on cutting ties at the first offense, Christian love personified is supernaturally patient. It suffers through the weaknesses, ignorance, and hurtful actions of others without lashing out. Patient love endures injuries and offenses with grace rather than reacting in anger or vengeance. Christ exemplified this kind of patient love, gently enduring the doubts and failures of His imperfect disciples. As His followers, we must embody this countercultural patience with others.

"Love is kind." Kindness is fundamental to Christ's love. Throughout the Gospels, Jesus extends remarkable kindness to those who truly do not deserve it. Too often, Christians forget that kindness is non-negotiable and mirrors the world’s harshness toward them. A life marked by authentic love will be permeated with kind speech, actions, and attitudes that dignify others and reveal the heart of Christ.

"Love is not jealous." We see this exemplified in the parable of the workers in the vineyard (Matthew 20:1-16). When those hired late in the day received the same payment as those who had toiled all day, the early workers grumbled enviously. However, the landowner reminds them that he has the right to be generous, asking, "…is your eye envious because I am generous?” Christian love does not begrudge others when they receive an unmerited blessing but rejoices over the gracious goodness shown to them. Envy has no place in the heart filled with Christ's selfless love for others.

"Love does not brag and is not arrogant." Pride and self-promotion are antithetical to true love. Loving Christians walk humbly, building others up rather than boastfully flaunting our possessions, talents, or status. We do not act arrogantly, deceived into believing we are superior to others. Christ-like love presumes a posture of humility.

"Love does not act unbecomingly." When we love as Christ loves, we do not behave in inappropriate ways that bring disgrace or shame. Our actions do not belittle or demean others created in God's image and deserving human dignity. In word and deed, love honors others as Christ did.

"Love does not seek its own." Love is selflessness. Christians are to be outward-focused, putting the interests of others before our desires and perceived rights. We sacrifice our privileges for the greater good rather than insisting on our way. Christ's love prompted Him to lay down His very life for us; we, too, must be self-sacrificial in our love for others.

"Love is not provoked and does not take into account a wrong suffered." Loving Christians refuse to nurture grudges and resentments, letting go of offenses instead of cataloging them. We extend to others the same boundless forgiveness and grace Christ has showered on us for our failings and sins. Love grieves over unrighteousness but does not retaliate or keep score.

"Love does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth." Love celebrates light overcoming darkness. As Christians, we must be careful not to take delight in anything that violates God's standards, even if it may seem beneficial to us or align with our personal interests. We cannot ally ourselves with unrighteousness simply because it provides some worldly advantage or avoids a cost to us. True love rejoices only in what is true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, and virtuous (Philippians 4:8). Love's allegiance is to the truth, not to that which scripture defines as evil.

"Love bears all things." In the original language, love is described as continually bearing up patiently under burdens and trials. This is the steadfast, self-sacrificing love Christ embodied in his tortuous journey to the cross, where He bore the penalty for our sins so we could be redeemed. His love endured immense suffering for our sake. We are called to this same unflinching, load-bearing love.

"Love believes all things." Selfless love assumes the best about others and is not cynical or jaded. It gives people the benefit of the doubt rather than jumping to negative conclusions about their character or motives. This doesn't mean being naively gullible, but it does mean extending trust and not assuming the worst about others' intentions unless clearly warranted.

"Love hopes all things." Similarly, a defining quality of Christ's love is its unquenchable hope. Rather than despairing over others' faults, failures, and sins, love hopes tenaciously for transformation and restoration. It does not give up on people but extends an unwavering, dogged belief that God can redeem any situation or heart. No circumstance is too dark for love's stubborn hope to shine through.

"Love endures all things." True, godly love is unshakeable. It perseveres under trial, hardship, and suffering without wavering or giving up. Christ's love for us propelled Him to endure unimaginable torment to accomplish our salvation. Likewise, our love must be willing to endure all things for the sake of others as an extension of Christ's relentless, enduring love.

If we are to be recognized as authentic disciples of Christ, our love must mirror His selfless, sacrificial love described so vividly by Paul. This is a supreme calling - to love as Christ Himself loved. Not simply talk about love but put it into unceasing action and total surrender of self.

Let the world be unkind toward us if it must, but never because we, as Christians, have failed to demonstrate love. Ultimately, sacrificial, hope-filled, truth-rejoicing, humble love will expose the world's hatred and sin as empty.

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