What does a Christian life lived by faith under God’s grace look like? How does the Christian follow Jesus and not the Law? Walking in the Spirit with Jesus is characterized by love. It is a life that chooses to exude the character of God, who is Love (1 John 4:8). Love is a tangible choice which affects every action, interaction, and reaction. Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends (1 Corinthians 13:4-8a).
The world tells us to look out for ourselves, to stand up against those who do us wrong with anger, fists, and shouting. It tells us to be offended by everything that disagrees with us and to whine as loudly as possible about the offense. But that isn’t love. Love is more effective than bellyaching over affronts. Love leads people to The Lord, teaches them who He is, and shows them His grace and mercy. Love involves our entire being, heart, soul, strength and mind. Verse 1-3 read,
I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
3 For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.
Whether among the church or not, believers are not supposed to consider themselves as better than other people. That’s how the world does it. Each person fights and claws their way up and exalts himself. We know we’re not better than anyone. We were all born the same, in need of Christ.
The church is made up of many diverse people. Each has her own personality, experience, set of gifts and talents, and level of maturity. There is no one among us who is better than any other. Can you look down on a brother or sister because their gift is generosity and yours is service? Is the brother who prophesies more needed than the sister who administers? The church needs each one! Verses 4-8 read,
For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, 5 so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. 6 Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; 7 if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; 8 the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.
We are marked by our love. Love is how we are recognized as belonging to Jesus. Jesus said it this way in John 13:34-35,
“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
We are supposed to be so united, so bonded to one another that we are like one body with one purpose, one Spirit, and one Lord. We each have functions connected to our gifts. If God has given you the gift of intercessory prayer, He means for you to pray for people. The church needs you to be a prayer warrior. The world needs you to be a prayer warrior. If He gave you the gift of prophecy, what good will you do the church or the world if you keep your mouth closed? It takes faith to exercise your gifts. It requires love to use your gifts for the building up of the church. Let’s love one another so deeply that the world takes notice. Let’s stop crying about being offended by words, laws, and attitudes and love people like Jesus loves people. Verses 9-13 read,
9 Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good.10 Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. 11 Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. 12 Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. 13 Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.
What if we outdid each other in respect, love, and service instead of looking for glory for ourselves? What if we loved each other so deeply that we responded with empathy, mercy, and grace instead of hurt feelings? The world would see Jesus alive in us. They would want to know more about how we are who they see. Currently, I don’t think the world looks at Christians and sees love. They see believers as self-righteous, judgmental, hateful, moaners who would rather fight over public bathrooms and the definition of marriage than choose mercy.
We are not better than anyone else. We know we didn’t save ourselves it was God’s graciousness that saved us and brought us where we are. I know if I’m living my entire life as worship that it extends beyond the few hours each week I am in church. If I am loving God with my entire life then I am loving others as He loves me. Why should I let a person who doesn’t know the Lord offend me? How could his opinions, which are based on all he knows hurt me? He doesn’t need my tongue clicking, judgement, or droning on about how offended I am; he needs Jesus. That means he needs me to love him as Jesus loves him, as Jesus loves me. Verses 14-21 read,
Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them.15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. 17 Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. 18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. 19 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” 20 To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
Is your life marked by love or by law? Do you check off every sin you see your brother or a stranger committing? The lost sin, they live in sin; we cannot judge them for that. Your brothers and sisters are not under the law and so they cannot sin (Romans 5:13, 1 Corinthians 6:12). If they are walking outside the will of God in the flesh, then gently restore them (Galatians 6:1-2) but remember you are not to think more highly of yourself than you ought. You were brought to life from death, just like them. You may be further along in your transformation than they are and you may not be. It is the Lord who saves you and who saves them.
Let your life be marked by love. Let the Holy Spirit be who you are. What if we stopped being offended and started loving instead? What if we met the needs of the people in the world instead of shaking our heads in disgust? It is my active and concrete love that should tell people I am a disciple of Jesus Christ, not my T-shirt, bumper sticker, or protest sign.