The Power to Love

I felt like I lost my power to love last year. If love was a bank, my account felt like it became overdraft on November 9th. Betrayal, slander, misrepresentation, Christian indifference, white supremacy, racism, bigotry, condescension, belittlement, ungracious accusations, and people judging my motives wiped my love account clean, or so it seemed. To be honest, my account had felt like it was sitting at $0.00 for a few months before that but it definitely felt like it went under afterward. We all have various capacities and the more we grow in the Lord, the more we are able to handle things. As a social introvert, I have a certain capacity for human engagement before I become exhausted. As a Seminarian, I have a certain intellectual capacity before I have mental burn out. One of the benefits of the Christian life, however, is that we do not operate according to our capacity to love. We walk in the Spirit who is Love, and He is cultivating and empowering us to love like Jesus. I felt like I ran out of love last year, but I didn’t stop loving. In fact, when I reached my human capacity to love, the Spirit empowered me to go beyond that and to love deeper.

The greatest expression of love that I have ever done is loving in the midst of opposition. Whether its in marriage, friendship, family, or church life; loving in agreement is simple. It is always easy to love people who you have everything in common with or who you are at peace with. What is hard is loving those who reject you or slander you. What’s difficult is Loving those who disagree with your convictions and passions or who engage with you in an unkind manner. It is in those moments where the human capacity to love meets it’s match. It is in those situations where divine love must come to the rescue and where the Christian faith is most clearly displayed in all its glory. I love my enemies because God loved me while I was one of His worst, but even that truth only gets me in my flesh so far. I praise God for giving me His Spirit which is able to love even when my flesh finds itself incapable. Reconciliation and faithfulness concerning love are not contingent upon my capacity to do so, but in the Spirit’s capacity to do his work of Christ-conformity.

When is love most gloriously displayed towards my wife? When I pursue her in the midst of or after an argument.

When is love most gloriously displayed towards my family? When a family member let’s me down in some sense and I still pursue them.

When is love most gloriously displayed in a friendship? When a friend betrays me or violates my trust and I still pursue them with grace.

When is Love most gloriously displayed towards a church member? When they have offended or sinned against me and I still pursue them in reconciliation.

When is love most gloriously displayed towards an enemy? When I pray for and love them despite their hatred for me.

Faith in Christ does not only free us from the bondage of Sin. Salvation frees us from the bondage of a limited/weak love. The world defines love according to a person’s willingness to agree with you, conditional love. “Spiritual” teachers will tell you love is unconditional. True biblical love is not conditional or even unconditional, but contra-conditional. True biblical love is loving even if someone doesn’t meet the conditions. Love is most gloriously expressed not by loving according to conditions or by ignoring conditions altogether. There are indeed conditions that serve love in thriving and these conditions should be expectations. Still, loving despite whether or not someone measures up to those conditions or expectations is the most glorious expression of love. Why? Because it declares that your love is not dependent upon a person’s commitment to love you but in your commitment to love them. It humbly says, “My love cannot be conquered because my love is powered by the Spirit of God. I may come to my end of my human capacity to love you, but it is then that The Spirit empowers to go further and deeper. Behold the power of the Holy Spirit that dwells in me! I am Going to love you!”

Is this not how God Himself operates? He loved Israel because His covenant affections were set on Israel. God’s love for Israel was not contingent upon Israel’s faithfulness to Covenant conditions. Israel frequently rebelled against God, and God loved Israel despite Israel’s unfaithfulness. Jesus died for sinners and continues interceding for sinners. The Godhead has always demonstrated that Love transcends whether or not conditions have been met. God even loves the world and presents it with various blessings even though it continues to reject him. Yes, God has established conditions which allow for love to thrive and yes God desires our love in exchange for his, but our Father does not throw in the towel when we fail to meet the conditions. In fact, we are told in scripture that God’s persevering love is what leads us to repentance when we are not meeting his conditions (Romans 2:4). This is why, as a biblical counselor, I can look at a dysfunctional married couple and say, “there is hope for you two to abound in love towards one another.” Or I can speak into a situation of disunity between two believers with the confidence that reconciliation can take place. Where the Spirit is present so is the power to love well. Therefore, as long as the Spirit is indwelling believers, faith can never say; “I cannot love.”

Matthew 5:43-48
43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’
44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,
45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.
46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?
47 And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?
48 You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

 

You can follow me on Twitter @KyleJamesHoward. Also, check out my podcast “Coram Deo Podcast” which focuses on Practical Theology. You can search podcast on any major podcast catcher or follow updates @CoramDeoPodcast

 

About Kyle James Howard

My name is Kyle, I am married to my “high-school sweetheart” and we have 3 children. I have a 7 year-old daughter (Hadassah), a 2 year-old son (Jonah), and 1 year old (Kesed). I am 32 years old and I am currently a student at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. I have an Associates degree in Biblical & Theological Studies, A B.S. in Biblical Counseling, and I am finishing up an Advanced M. Div in Historical Theology. Click on the "About Me" link at the top of my home page to read my full testimony.

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