For the Love of Christ
“For the love of Christ!” is often a vain exclamation made by people who are disgusted with someone or something. Christians often talk about God being love (1 Jn 4:8), sometimes in a manner of utter exclusivity. God is more than love, however, and when we talk about God and love, we sometimes miss the mild distinction of the love of Christ.
Because Christ is God, the concept is basically interchangeable. We can talk about the love of God and the love of Christ together because we can speak of the love of God in Christ (Rom 8:39). Christ is like the sunbeams, which bring the light and warmth from the sun to us. Christ brings us the light and warmth of God’s love for the world. This is seen and felt when we observe how God demonstrates His love through Christ. Let us consider this means for God’s love to come to us.
First, Christ died for us (Rom 5:8). This is a stunning display of God’s love for His people. Jesus Himself taught, “Greater love has no one than this, than a man lay down his life for his friends (Jn 15:13).” Paul wrote to encourage the Ephesians to walk in love, “just as Christ loved you, and gave Himself up for us…(Eph 5:2).” Jesus loves the church like a perfect husband, who loves his bride, and who gave Himself up for her (Eph 5:25). Love sacrifices itself for someone else. It is other focused. Therefore, Christian love must be broad, “for all the saints” (Col 1:4). We love because He first loved us (1 Jn 4:19).
Second, the love of Christ is the eternal glue holding us in the bond of unity (Rom 8:39). If one claims to be able to lose her salvation, then she does not understand salvation. The whole point of salvation is that we might know the love of Christ now and forever. Nothing can separate us from the One who loved us, and who has made provision to keep us. Salvation is, “reserved in heaven for you (1 Pet 1:4).” It is our inheritance. Christ bought us with His precious blood, and no one can snatch us out of His hand (Jn 10:28). Love never fails (1 Cor 13:8), and God is love, who never fails to keep His promises, “I give them eternal life, and they will never perish (Jn 10:28).”
Paul called God’s loving salvation an “eternal comfort” (2 Thess 2:16).” There is no love and no comfort, if one thinks salvation can be lost or stolen because God has failed to keep His love. The love of the Spirit is a permanent indwelling, “I will never leave you…” Love is eternal, for God has said in the context of covenant promise keeping, “I have loved you with an everlasting love (Jer 31:3).”
Third, to know the love of Christ surpasses knowledge (Eph 3:19). Because Christ dwells within the believer, God’s love is emanating from the believer’s heart. Christians love one another in thought, with words, and in actions (Eph 3:17). Christ in us is the true knowledge and wisdom of God (Col 2:3). If someone tells you the truth, she loves you (Eph 4:15). If someone lies to you, she hates you.
Because Jesus is the truth (Jn 14:6), knowing Him is knowing true love. God’s love (agape) is very different from human love (phileo and eros). How many people could confess that someone consciously and deliberately died for them, to save them from the peril of death itself? Very few have known such sacrificial love, but every Christian knows this is true about Jesus Christ’s death on the Cross.
Jesus’ motive, in dying on our behalf and in our place of punishment, was love (Jn 3:16). He loved us and gave Himself up for us (Gal 2:20). John wrote it this way, “In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins (1 Jn 4:10).” There are some great things out there but the greatest thing to know is love, true love, the love of Christ (1 Cor 13:13).
Fourth, our love for others comes from God and from the Lord Jesus Christ (Eph 6:23). This means true love is incorruptible (Eph 6:24). It powerfully works unity into the body of Christ (Phil 2:1–3). The church can boast in the Lord, “His banner over me is love (Songs 2:3).” Jesus gave the commandment to all who would claim to be His disciples, “love one another (Jn 13:34–35).” This follows Christ’s example. It extends to our neighbors (Mt 22:39) and even our enemies (Mt 5:44).
Paul claimed, “For the love of Christ controls us… (2 Cor 5:14).” This is true because the Spirit of Christ is living in us. He is willing and doing God’s good pleasure (Phil 2:13). The fruit of the Spirit begins with love, and love is patient and kind (1 Cor 13:4), which are also fruits of the Spirit (Gal 5:22–23). We must be careful not to lose our first love (Rev 2:4), for when love grows cold and we no longer walk according to love, we hurt our weaker brethren (Rom 14:15).
So, we have learned that the love of God comes to us through the love of Christ. Being one and the same, we observe God’s love vividly displayed in the true words and sacrificial actions of Jesus Christ for His people. The Good Shepherd loves His sheep and puts Himself in harm’s way to protect them. The husband loves His wife and lays down His life for her. Christ died for us because He loved us.
Upon receipt of such love as Christ brings, we join the channel of God’s love. With the Spirit of Christ in us, the love of the Spirit flows out to others, being manifested as the delicious fruit of the Christian life. We give. We sacrifice. We forgive. We rejoice with the truth. We seek not our own. Far from being forbidden fruit, true love comes from the tree of life. Take and eat…for the love of Christ.
Spokane Valley, Washington
February 22, 2021