During the 17th century, Oliver Cromwell, Lord Protector of England, sentenced a soldier to be shot for his crimes. The execution was to take place at the ringing of the evening curfew bell. However, the bell did not sound. The soldier’s fiancé had climbed into the belfry and clung to the great clapper of the bell to prevent it from striking. When she was summoned by Cromwell to account for her actions, she wept as she showed him her bruised and bleeding hands. Cromwell’s heart was touched and he said, “Your lover shall live because of your sacrifice. Curfew shall not ring tonight!” (The story as written in “Our Daily Bread”). God wants us, as believers in the church, to love one another with a love like this. Our love ought to be a loyal, genuine love. This is how God loved us and we are to love one another in the same way. John, in 1 John 4:7-10, writes of two ways to love one another like we mean it.
1. God loved us sincerely.
God is love (1 John 4:7-8). John speaks about the loving nature of God as demonstrated by sending His Son to be the atoning sacrifice. That’s why God can LOVE us naturally. Love is an essence of God, not just an attribute. It’s His essential quality and nature. As children of God, we have the nature of God (1 John 3:9; Ephesians 4:24; Colossians 3:9-10). In fact, Paul says that “…the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us” (Romans 5:5). The Holy Spirit’s presence bears the fruit of love in our lives (Galatians 5:22). Thus, we are to love our brothers and sisters sincerely as an expression of our new nature, as children of God.
2. God loved us tangibly.
Our love to each other should be practical and tangible. Many times I tell my wife that I “love her,” yet I act inconsiderate toward her or be inattentive to her needs. However, God’s love is unlike our flawed love. God said He loved us and He acted on that love. He manifested it like this: He “has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him” (1 John 4:9). His love toward us was practical and tangible. To demonstrate His love toward us, “He…did not spare His own Son but delivered Him over for us all” (Romans 8:32).
Here are some practical ways we can love one another tangibly:
- We can provide a meal to an elderly person in our church.
- We can seek friendships with people we’re unlikely to be friends with otherwise.
- We can be thoughtful and intentional about taking our wives or daughters for a nice dinner or picnic.
- We can try to volunteer to help babysit a busy couple’s kids for free, so they can have a date night.
- We can strive to put others before ourselves in ministry, position, or status.
God’s love for us is the standard and the measure for which we are to reach. We are to love the way God loves us. God loves us sincerely because He is love. God loved us tangibly by sending His Son. We are to love one another like we mean it, with a sincere heart. Love one another and accept the difficult-to-love side of others. “For anyone can love a rose, but it takes a great heart to include the thorns” (unknown source).