Most of us know that Christ is the perfect model of love. We know the message in 1 Corinthians 13 about the preeminence of love, and we know that God is love. But then we foolishly try to love more in our own strength. We make well-meaning, deliberate attempts to overcome selfish habits and our natural distaste for cranky, obnoxious people. But when we react unkindly and sense failure, we just go back to the drawing board, convinced that if we only try harder, or read more scriptures, we’ll somehow get better at loving others.
Paul spoke of “love in the Spirit,” which is something totally separate from human ability. Remember his teaching to the Galatians? “The fruit of the Spirit is love” (Galatians 5:22). Love is a fruit growing within us from a supernatural source. It’s not your love, and yet it is, since the Spirit works in you both to will and to do loving things that are on his mind. He is our life and bears the fruit — not us. That is why he was sent to live in us.
How else could Stephen, as he was being stoned, say, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them” (Acts 7:60)? Only the love of God could make him love like that.
Without the miracle of God’s love, life has a way of hardening all of us. We become cynical, crusty senior citizens without the glow of the “first love” we experienced at the beginning of our life in Christ. This is not only bad for us but also for the cause of Christ to a watching world. But it doesn’t have to be that way. “They will still bear fruit in old age, they will stay fresh and green” (Psalm 92:14).
Let’s ask for a fresh baptism of God’s love. Let’s then walk in that love so everyone encountering us can have a peek into the heart of God.
Jim Cymbala began the Brooklyn Tabernacle with less than twenty members in a small, rundown building in a difficult part of the city. A native of Brooklyn, he is a longtime friend of both David and Gary Wilkerson.