Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. (Philippians 2:5-8)
We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. (1 John 3:16)
Our Lord Jesus emptied Himself completely in order to deliver His very heart of love to us, even to the point of bearing our death sentence by taking on our sin and embracing crucifixion. He has abundantly poured out on us His love and life and light. He has “blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places,” and has “lavished” His grace upon us (Eph. 1:3-8). He “never” leaves us or forsakes us, and He “has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness” (Heb. 13:5-6, 2 Pet. 1:2-3). And we could cite many more scriptures such as these.
The point here is that Jesus has loved, and continues to love us wholly. Everything He does, every expression of His love is wholehearted and fully delivered. “Greater love has no man than this.” (John 15:12-13). There is nothing timid or half-hearted about Jesus. His love goes beyond human affection, duty, and “having a commitment,” to that “which surpasses knowledge” (Eph. 3:14-19).
It is good that we take in and abide in His love always. But this is not an end in itself. He also wants us to become like Him in how we love too.
“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”
Are you daily endeavoring to follow His example? Do you display and deliver your love to those around you like He has? Loving is not some sideline of the Christian life-it encapsulates the whole of scripture and embodies the greatest two commandments we have been given to us by the Lord (Matt. 22:34-40). It is the very “goal of our instruction” (1 Tim. 1:5). When we read First Corinthians 13, we see that walking in love IS A BIG DEAL-so big, in fact, that Paul amazingly declared that it is “a more excellent way” than even walking in all the spiritual gifts and the functioning of the gifted men that the Lord has appointed in the church, as important as those things are (1 Cor. 12:27-31, 14:1). Loving in a way that corresponds to Him is the very quality of the heart and practice of the bride of Christ.
Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind let each of you regard one another as more important than himself; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. (Philippians 2:3-4)
What about these verses? Do you embrace the loftiness of the standard here or do you dull the point of it by rationalizing that “well it’s just an attitude of the heart” in order to avoid having to apply it in your life? Have you discovered the Lord’s heart in these words and are deepening in walking out their meaning?
How can you tell if you are walking in this kind of love? One way is that when you are out in the world, you are constantly aware of His heart for all, and His love is displayed through your eyes, your words, your tenderness, your kindness, your smile, your questions, your interest, your sacrifices, and your every action. Another way is that you are one that is more than just “willing” to be poured out for the people of God, but you actually live out a daily laying down of your life for the saints. You can also tell that you are walking in that kind of love by people’s feedback. When they think of you they know they are loved-they get it! You know it’s being delivered when they come back for more. They can’t get enough; they want to be close. We are all drawn to love.
This kind of “Philippians 2:3-4 love” shows up in our homes as our being the wife that “the heart of her husband safely trusts in her” (Prov. 31:10-12). Your husband really knows he is loved, he feels it all the times, and he almost wears an invisibly radiant sign that says “I’m taken care of!” It also shows up as our being the mama who is absolutely in love with her children. No matter the cost, lost sleep, financial burden, gained weight, etc., she is the safest place on earth for her children’s hearts. “They know that they know” that they are loved, and they bear no burden of guilt for taking it in because you never complain about the sacrifices your make. You actually have a joy in being burned up for their benefit and welfare.
Wherever we are in our life in God, one thing for sure is that He is working in and through us to deepen our capacity for loving as He loves. Like Paul’s exhortation to the church of the Thessalonians, there is always room for us “to excel still more” (1 Thes. 4:9-12). I find it helpful to recognize different aspects of walking in love because I can then be more keenly aware of areas where I need to grow. Here are four parts I see in loving.
We must be emptied
In order to love as Jesus loved, we have to be empty ourselves just as He emptied Himself (Phil. 2:5-8). To quote my dad, “You can’t put something where something else already is.” The love of God cannot fill our heart when something else is occupying its space. Allow the Lord to expose selfishness, unforgiveness, pride, fear, worries, cares, lusts, and any other impurities of the heart. Do whatever it takes to “pluck out” whatever needs to go and allow Him to do His transforming work in your heart (Matt. 5:29-30). Because our hearts are deceitful and we, therefore, do not see ourselves accurately (Jer. 17:9-10), we need to invite the Lord daily: “Lord, purify me. Lord, expose my hidden motives. Show me where I am selfish.”
Also, be accountable to others-we need each other to help us see our junk. Be humble and open and receive the needed corrections and admonitions that Jesus brings through the members of His body, as this is His express provision for keeping our hearts from being hardened (Heb. 3:12-15). Do you want more of Him in your life? Do you desire to love, really love, as He loves? Then be tenacious about putting your flesh to death (Rom. 8:12-14, 13:14). When we live at this place of being emptied, His pure love can fill our hearts and what we give will be completely originating from His Spirit.
Considering one another
As we are emptying ourselves, the next thing I see is “considering one another” (Heb. 10:24-25, Phil. 2:3-4). We do this by holding someone in our heart. It is more than merely “thinking” about them. It is embracing and loving that person before the Lord. Let me give an example. Let’s say that my husband, Matthew, has been out of town and is now on his way home. In order to love him fully, I can prepare my heart by first removing anything yucky in my heart that would get in the way of loving. But then I move on to considering him. I pray for him, take into account what his needs might be in getting home from a long trip, think about the things that bless him, and even ponder afresh all the things about him that I so dearly love. By the time he gets home, my love for him is overflowing. I have seen this happen so many times, and, thankfully, instead of him coming home to a preoccupied, uninterested, or even cold wife, I am ready to pour out my love on him.
We think that sometimes we can go hurriedly through life but then abruptly stop at strategic moments and love each other as Jesus loves us. What we are really doing is fulfilling our duty and our set of “supposed to’s,” and doing so in our spare moments or in the minimal amount of time we think will “do the trick.” Gross! Would you want to be “loved” as someone’s afterthought or as part of someone’s chores or checklist? Loving as Jesus loves doesn’t work that way. It takes grace-empowered effort on our part, and part of that effort is focused in giving unhurried, thoughtful consideration to one another.
Considering others enlarges our hearts and focuses on them. As we learn to live considering others all the time, there is no dwelling on ourselves and our own interests and trying to get our own need met (1 Cor. 13:5). “Me, me, me” quickly fades away and genuinely loving others becomes primary. If you live focused on yourself or on life’s busyness, or even if you are just kind of dead inside and “nobody’s home,” it will take a while to train yourself (acquire the capacity) to continually be aware of the needs of others, to constantly be considering how to love, and, for the sake of others, to look for “their proper food at the proper time” (1 Pet. 1:22, Heb. 10:24, Matt. 24:45-51, Eph. 4:29). Be encouraged. I have seen people who have gone from being completely self-absorbed and unloving to become delightful saints who pour out, who are always being burned up, who walk full of faith and love, who have a timely word of encouragement around every turn, who have eyes that look straight into yours and declare that you are loved by the Father.
If we are going to love as Jesus loves, we must cultivate living vulnerably all the time. No walls. No thick layers of self-protective fortifications that keep you pulled in and hidden away. He has called us to enter His kingdom as children (Matt. 18:3-4). He has called us to a life of letting go and walking in full abandonment to His Spirit, not caring what others think or say or do. How did Jesus live? Did He pridefully sit above others, analyzing them or haughtily looking down upon them? Was He emotionally detached from people, ever keeping them at arm’s length? No! He was fully there, always loving, always pouring out, and completely touchable. This is yet another area where we need to be “transformed into His image” (Rom. 8:29, 2 Cor. 3:18).
If you are someone who strives to maintain a reputation of “always having it together,” of if you are someone who is quite reserved, or, for whatever reason, you are one who doesn’t live vulnerably with your heart always open and fully available, then there is no way you can really love. If relationships scare you because you have been burned or because you fear allowing others to really see your heart, then humble yourself, cry out to the Lord, and do whatever it takes to pull the walls down. Love cannot flow out through fortress walls.
I hope that you can see that emptying yourself, considering others, and living vulnerably are places we must come from in our heart if we are to love as Jesus loves. If you feel like you are at “square one,” begin practicing these things with those closest to you-your husband, your children, and the saints you relate to the most-and then learn to so walk in every facet of life. As you do these things, the delivery of His love is as simple as opening your mouth and speaking, or giving that hug, or serving with your hands, or doing whatever rightly expresses the love of God that is filling your heart. If your heart is wholly behind these actions then real love is truly conveyed. It will be warm and so blatantly sincere, not detached. It will very obviously be a heart thing and not a cranial head thing. It will come over as the joy that it is, not as a duty fulfilled. I guarantee you that the love being expressed through your body language, eye contact, tone of voice, and overall expression will be genuine and very evident, and your love-His love-will be fully given and delivered.
© Copyright 2007 Kindling Publications Used with Permission