The beautiful ballroom of the Marriott Hotel in Chicago was crowded to capacity with more than 1,300 college students and Cru staff members. I explained one of the most exciting spiritual discoveries that I had ever made — how to love by faith.
For years I had spoken on the subject of love. I had a simple four-point outline:
God loves you unconditionally.
You are commanded to love others — God, your neighbors, your enemies.
You are incapable of loving others in your own strength.
You can love others with God’s love.
But, as in the case of most sermons on love, something was missing. Then, some years ago, in an early hour of the morning, I was awakened from a deep sleep. I knew that God had something to say to me. I felt impressed to get up, open my Bible and kneel to read and pray. What I discovered during the next two hours has since enriched my life and the lives of tens of thousands of others. I learned how to love.
With this discovery, God gave me the command to share this wonderful truth with Christians around the world. In that life-changing time of fellowship with the Lord, I was given a fifth point for my sermon on love: We love by faith.
Love is the greatest thing in the world — the greatest privilege and power known to man. Its emphasis in life and word changed the course of history as the first-century Christians demonstrated a quality of life never before witnessed on this earth. The Gentiles and Jews hated one another. The very idea of love and self-sacrifice was foreign to their thinking. When they observed Christians from many nations, with different languages and cultures, actually loving one another and sacrificing to help each other, they responded in amazement, “Behold, how these people love one another!”
I challenged the students at the conference to become part of a revolution of love. I suggested that they make a list of all the individuals they did not like and begin to love them by faith.
Early the next morning, a young woman with sparkling eyes and face aglow said to me, “My life was changed last night. For many years I have hated my parents. I haven’t seen them since I was 17, and now I am 22. I left home as a result of a quarrel five years ago and haven’t written or talked to them since, though they have tried repeatedly to encourage me to return home. I determined that I would never see them again. I hated them.
“Before becoming a Christian a few months ago,” she continued, “I had become a drug addict, a dope pusher and a prostitute. Last night you told me how to love my parents, and I could hardly wait to get out of that meeting and call them. Can you believe it? I now really love them with God’s kind of love and can hardly wait to see them.”
Everybody wants to be loved. Most psychologists agree that man’s greatest need is to love and be loved. No barrier can withstand the mighty force of love.
There are three Greek words that are translated into the one English word “love”: eros, which suggests sensual desire — it does not appear in the New Testament; phileo, which is used for friendship or love of one’s friends or relatives — it conveys a sense of loving someone because he is worthy of love; and agape, which is God’s love: the purest, deepest kind of love — it is expressed not through mere emotions but as an act of one’s will.
Agape is God’s supernatural, unconditional love for you revealed supremely through our Lord’s death on the cross for our sins. It is the supernatural love He wants to produce in you and through you to others by His Holy Spirit. Agape love is given because of the character of the person loving rather than because of the worthiness of the object of that love. Sometimes it is love “in spite of” rather than “because of.”
God underscores the importance of this kind of love through the inspired pen of the apostle Paul, as recorded in 1 Corinthians 13. In this beautiful and remarkable passage of Scripture, Paul writes that, apart from love, anything that you might do for God or others is of no value. Consider these words:
If I had the gift of being able to speak in other languages without learning them, and could speak in every language there is in all of heaven and earth, but didn’t love others, I would only be making noise.
If I had the gift of prophecy and knew all about what is going to happen in the future, knew everything about everything, but didn’t love others, what good would it do? Even If I had the gift of faith so that I could speak to a mountain and make it move, I would still be worth nothing at all without love.
If I gave everything I have to poor people, and if I were burned alive for preaching the Gospel but didn’t love others, it would be of no value whatever. (1 Corinthians 13:1-3, The Living Bible)
In other words, no matter what you do for God and for others, it is of no value unless you are motivated by God’s love.
© 1999 Bill Bright, © 2009 Bright Media Foundation and Campus Crusade for Christ International. All rights reserved. Adapted from Bill Bright, “How You Can Love by Faith,” Transferable Concept 8 (Peachtree City, GA: Cru).
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