We hear a lot today about how “love is all we need.” We’re supposed to have this great feeling of acceptance for everyone in the world — whether we believe the same things or not.
In fact, what we believe shouldn’t matter. We need to accept and promote the beliefs and opinions of others, instead of our own standards. Because we might be wrong. And that would make someone feel like they’re being judged or criticized, and make them depressed.
But true love is more than that.
True love requires hard work, and sacrifice. And true love is not the ultimate goal of true Christianity (contrary to public opinion).
In fact, this is not just a modern-day issue. I think it’s been around for a while. Consider what the apostle Paul had to say to the Christians at Philippi, way back in the first century (circa A.D. 60).
1. True love requires discernment.
Read Paul’s prayer for the Philippians [1:9-10]: “And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent…”
True love is not blind to sin. It does not simply accept everything that is in the world, every belief or opinion that people share; rather, it stems from genuine knowledge of God’s Word, and accepts only what is excellent in His eyes. It distinguishes between right and wrong, and is discerning of truth and error in those whom it loves.
2. True love admonishes others.
Paul continually proclaimed his great love for fellow believers – but he also continued to admonish them. “Stand firm,” he told them. Or “be likeminded.” Or “look out for evildoers.” He didn’t just let them go on living the way they were; he pushed them to something higher, a more Christlike way of living.
True love for others manifests itself in encouraging right living – in “provoking to good works” and building each other up in godliness.
3. True love requires suffering.
We cannot truly love someone unless we are willing to suffer with them. Consider the example of Epaphroditus, who nearly died for the sake of sharing the gospel. That’s true love in action! And consider what Paul had to say about the Philippians, who “shared in his trouble.” They sacrificed of their money and time, in order to help one they loved.
True love gives of itself. It is more than just words. And it is not afraid to suffer, in order to help another. It is willing to be spent, in order that another might benefit.
4. True love is not our ultimate purpose.
No, love is not “all we need.” Nor is loving others the greatest thing of which we can boast. Rather, Christ is all we need. He alone is the one worth exalting. Again – consider Paul. He had a long list of achievements and qualities that could have brought great status and prestige. But then he says [3:7-10]:
“But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish … that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death.”
Paul’s greatest desire was not for everyone to “feel the love.” His greatest priority was not to “reach out and touch someone.” It was to know Christ – and to share in Christ’s sufferings.
Knowing Christ is our greatest priority! It is only through knowing Him, and experiencing His suffering, that we can learn how to truly love others. Because He loved us first. Loved us enough to suffer for us.
God’s love distinguishes between right and wrong, and has definite standards, and cannot abide the slightest sin.
God’s love chastens us to godliness, painfully correcting us so that we might be more like Him.
God’s love experienced the greatest suffering possible – for our sake, and in our place.
Maybe we should change that saying to: God’s love is all we need!