Walking in Love

Joshua West

“Therefore, be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” Ephesians 5:1-2 (ESV) 

Love is the central and overarching principle of Christianity, so we must be mindful of it in all other things we do. Since love is such an important part of Christianity and walking in the Spirit, we must be very careful to define it biblically and correctly right from the start. 

Often people wrongly define love from a worldly point of view instead of a biblical point of view and then determine what is right and wrong, good and bad from this flawed perspective. We must understand everything from the perspective of Scripture. The scripture is God’s Holy and inspired Word and should define the reality of a Christians life in every way. 

Instead of trying to determine anything from our flawed and corrupt mind by faith we must let the scriptures renew and transform our mind. Walking in the Spirit of God starts with a transformed or regenerate heart, we cannot perceive love or truth in a real way before this because in a very real way we are dead. 

So, once we have the Spirit of God living in us, we can perceive the truth of God’s Word. Many Christians fall in the trap of letting unregenerate people define love for them and then spend their life trying to fit God into that box. How then do we define love? It’s simple, we look to Scripture. 

“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him.  In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” 1 John 4:7-10 (ESV) 

God is love! God is perfect and so the perfect definition of love is God himself. And 1 John 4 shows us that the most excellent example of this for us to examine is that of Jesus Christ coming and atoning for our sins on the cross. So, we can’t judge if God is loving based on our fallen human perception of love, but instead we determine what love is based on our understanding of God. 

The love of God for us is inseparable from the gospel; it's through the lens of what Jesus did for us on the cross that we should view all this. When we realize that all humanity deserves punishment and judgement because of our sin, our perspective about God changes. When we look at ourselves as good and innocent we think of life as being unfair in so many ways. But when we see the reality that we are the creation of God, and that we rebel and wrong him and actually deserve wrath and judgement, we see how good and loving God really is. 

So, we love God because he loved us first and from this principle the Christian life is oriented. Our love for others is born in God’s love for us. Walking in the Spirit is Christ through us fulling the law. What do I mean by this? When Jesus was asked what the greatest commandment was, he replied: 

“And he said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.’” Matthew 22:37-40 (ESV) 

Jesus basically summed up the Ten Commandments in light of the overarching principle of love. If you look at the two tables of the Ten Commandments in the Old Testament it is divided in this way: Commandments about our relationship with God and commandments about our relationships with people. 

As listed below, the first four commandments are in regard to how we should relate to God, while the last six are how we are to relate to people.  

Commandments on how we relate to God 

  • You shall have no other gods before me.
  • You shall no not make a graven image or idols.
  • You shall not take the name of the Lord in vain.
  • You shall remember the sabbath day and keep it holy.

Commandments on how we relate to people 

  • You shall honor your mother and your father.
  • You shall not commit murder.
  • You shall not commit adultery.
  • You shall not steal.
  • You shall not bear false witness against a neighbor.
  • You shall not covet.

If we biblically understand God, and if we biblically understand love, we will see that if we love the Lord with everything we have—heart, soul and mind— we fulfill the first four and most important commands of the Ten Commandments. And from that you will be able to love your neighbor as yourself (or the way God has loved us by which we fulfil the last six commandments). 

Which brings up the question: can we really love that way? I often hear people say we don’t have to keep the Ten Commandments we just have to love God and love people, but they are obviously using a flawed and human definition of love. Jesus is requiring something of us that is humanly impossible, he is pointing us back to the law which exposes that we are unable to keep it and our need for something or someone outside of ourselves to save us. He points us to the law and the prophets which point us to him. 

No person has ever loved the Lord God with all their heart, all their mind and all their soul perfectly and at all times; Jesus was the only one who ever did that. That is what it means to fulfill the law of God. The gospel was always God’s plan to save, sanctify and perfect a people for himself. 

Walking in the Spirit of God is all about being grafted into the life of Jesus, the death of Jesus and the resurrection of Jesus, and this is merely evidenced in our love and obedience to God and how we love and treat others. 

Remember, God is love. If we are connected to this love, we have life. If we are grafted into the Living Vine as Jesus refers to himself in John 15, we are progressively being sanctified, bearing the fruit of Christ through the Spirit and being pruned of parts and branches that are not bearing fruit and have no evidence of life.  

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you.  Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.” John 15:1-4 (ESV)

In Christ,

Pastor Joshua

Joshua West is a pastor, evangelist, and author. He is also director of the World Challenge Pastors Network.