In this final study on love, we will look at what love in action really means, how we are to respond to it and put it in action in our own lives. Always remember, what we do in this area of love is not meant only to lift up others, whether they are saved or not, though it is our brothers and sisters in Christ walk that we should have the most concern for, but our main goal is in everything to bring Glory to God and to lift up the Name of Jesus.
“…neither lie one to another.” (Lev. 19:11) One of the greatest truths of love is honesty, “in all things we are to live honestly.” (Heb. 13:18) This means our business dealings, our own personal finances, our walk in the world, the thoughts of our minds, and even the words that come out of our mouths. Love should always build up, should always edify, but sometimes love in truth can be very hard to swallow. It is quite easy to speak the truth, but in order to speak the truth in love, we have to give a part of ourselves away, for the one we are talking to is one that Christ also died for.
This type of love that we are speaking of here does not hide itself for fear of hurting another’s feelings, though their emotions must be taken into consideration at all times. The one’s that you are trying to convey these truths to have more than likely experienced the platitudes of individuals who may pretend to assist them with whatever they are going through, but ‘do not want to pry,’ and so their words can many times ring hollow.
A man I worked with for many years a long time ago was an extreme alcoholic, drinking upwards to a case of beer every day, and on the weekends much more than that, and for a while at that time I could drink him under the table. By the grace of God, a very real miracle occurred, and on that day the urge to drink was completely removed from me, praise God! But this man continued to drink. I initially pushed no demanding words on him whatsoever to quit, for I knew full well what he was going through, and every excuse he gave for not quitting I fully understood, for I had used all of them myself. I freely admit that my prayers for him should have been much more concise, and though at times my words became harsh towards him in this area, for the most part the remarks I spoke were always sprinkled with concern. This man suffered a serious stroke, has very limited mobility, no longer works for a living and still does not know the Lord Jesus as Savior. The point of this account though is this, many others who knew this man, some much longer than I, repeatedly stated that it was none of their business what he did with his life, that they did not want to ‘butt in,’ as it were, though they continued to call him friend.
As I stated earlier, love, true love, does not hide itself for fear of hurting another’s feelings, even if it is to the loss of a friend for a time, but realizes that if the truth is not spoken, in one way or another, the recipient will be greater hurt if it is not revealed. You would not lie to someone about the effects of drinking Drano just so not to hurt their feelings, or let your children play on a busy street, just so that they will never resent you.
This effect of this love though has to work both ways, when something is ‘eating you up inside,’ and a Christian truly wants to help you with this trouble your experiencing, you must be willing to open up to them. If you decide to use the excuse that you just don’t want to bother them with your problems, or do not want to be a burden to them, then you are missing out on three important things. You will not be blessed by accepting their help, they will not experience any blessings by “Bearing your burdens with you,” (Gal. 6:2) and most importantly, neither one of you will be able to give the Glory to God for whatever He allows to transpire. Fear is a terrible thing, but be sure of this, if this is a sin we are talking about, your sin will find you out. (Num. 32:23)
When we are encouraged to be speakers of truth in love, sometimes the circumstances can be very difficult, for at these times we must “go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone.” (Matt. 18:15) The Scriptures are not talking about hurt feelings here, but a genuine trespass that could have serious implications, for if you read through to the 17th verse of the chapter, this person could be counted as a heathen man, and possible asked not to return to the fellowship until he has truly repented. Helping is one of the evidences of love, and sometimes the cost can be very high, but this is what we are commanded to do. These are the times that love must be spoken in firm truth. It would be much worse if we were to let these things ‘stew’ inside of us, much less tell others of what is happening with this individual, but never reprove the guilty party. But this is what many do, for the thought of offending overrides the prescribed way that God has commanded we approach the incident. One on one can be a frightening experience for many in this area, and most will run, as it were, to the pastor or another in the congregation, instead of approaching the offending party with the Word of God, spoken in truth and love. By going to another to handle the problem, instead of accepting what they are to do, these individuals miss an important growth possibility in their spiritual walk with our Lord. It is sad to say, but many times these incidents are just ‘glossed over,’ rumors are allowed to fly, then die away, and the offending party and the congregation just go along as though it never happened, for it is easier to ‘sweep it under the rug’ than to address the offence. Many, many churches would rather not offend than to speak the truth in love, and so the brother in Christ and the congregation lose the opportunity to grow in the Grace of our Lord. If the commandment is not adhered to, what it shows in reality is that the individual in question is not truly loved, that their and our walk with the Lord is really not that important, and that the first part of Proverbs 27:6 are of no value.
I can pretty much guarantee one thing here, even after much prayer and supplication, whether you are speaking to the saved or lost, when you speak the truth in love, you will be rebuked. We do these things for Christ sake, and believe it or not the one you are talking with is secondary, though with our whole heart we desire to serve them for their continued growth towards our Lord. We must use wise discernment, (John 7:24) we must always remember that the lost cannot understand spiritual things, (1st Cor. 2:14) and for those that refuse continually, we are commanded not to “cast ye your pearls before swine.” (Matt. 7:6) We must also always remember never to continuously assist someone that is not only forsaking all we say, but refusing to stand up for the truth and away from the sin they are continuing in, for then we have become enablers, and this deceit of Satan is in full bloom right now and needs no assistance from the child of God. But, when the decision is made to help, we must do so whole-heartedly, looking for nothing in return.
To be able to truly “feel” the heart of another is a Holy attribute and can only be expressed by the Spirit of God working through His servants. In this world, “how are you” means nothing more today than “hello.” I have tried many different approaches to this ‘acknowledgment of my presence’ over the years, ranging from giving the person who is asking every little thing that is going on in my life at that moment, to completely overlooking the fact that they are speaking to me. In fact, many times to my shame, I have mentioned to them that they really do not care how I am, and they are only saying hello in a different way. What I have learned over the years is that the best answer to “how are you” is “I am well,” to most, but to the brothers and sisters in Christ with whom I have discussed this subject in depth, “I am content,” is very applicable, for we are told in Phil. 4:11 to be so.
To rejoice with another is to be glad because they are glad, to weep with them means that you are willing to abide in the pit of despair that they are currently in, willingly bearing your brothers burden with them, sharing in the brokenness of their heart in their time of trial. This is love.
True love, the love that our Lord speaks of, always speaks the truth, no matter how much it hurts. The world calls this being brutally honest, but that is far from what it is. If a brother is in a continuing pattern of sin, and you fail to address the issue with them, are you truly showing love? Do you realize that sometimes when these things occur, that there is a much deeper issue that is unresolved, at that many time this is the only way that some individuals know how to ask for help? I am not saying that it is right to try to cover one sin with another, but if we are not willing to help, then we are not showing love, and by not doing the good we ought to do, we are sinning. (James 4:17)
Love is sharing, caring, speaking always the truth in love to all we meet, and always in the knowledge of how much Christ loves us and gave Himself for us with a price that we could not pay. “And above all things have fervent love among yourselves, for love shall cover the multitude of sins.” (1st Peter 4:8) One of the most difficult things for us to do is to express this type of love, and in a way that no man can or will ever understand, it is the easiest thing for Our Lord to show toward us. Praise God for His infinite love and mercy toward us. In all of the things that we have to offer Him, or anyone else, most certainly, love is the greatest.