Who are we?

In this blog, there will be a variety of material: thoughts on Bible books, book reviews, historical characters, aspects of Scottish church history and other things.

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

What is Christian love? (Philippians 1:9)

The word ‘love’ is probably the most commonly-used word today. It is both a verb and a noun, and sometimes is used instead of a name. Songs, books and films focus on it. Yet it is also true to say that the term is one of the most misunderstood and at times most abused words that are used by people every day.

When we look at how the word is used within the church, we discover a wide variety of meanings. Sometimes it is used in a theological way, at other times in a practical way. The danger of the theological usage is that love becomes an abstract discussion, whereas the danger of the practical usage is that love descends into an acceptance of everybody’s behaviour without little thought as to what the Bible says about love in action.

Paul’s intercession for the Philippians teaches us several things about Christian love. The first detail to note about it is that it exists. This is a reminder of a Christian impossibility: it is impossible for a Christian not to love God, his fellow believers, and the unconverted. His love may not be as strong as it should be, but it will be there.

The second detail to note about Christian love is that it can expand, and expand greatly. Paul’s vision is that it would abound more and more, that it would never cease to grow. This is a reminder that we can never be satisfied with the level of our love, whether it is to God, to fellow-believers or to others. 

This why Paul prayed for the love of the Philippians to be educated. What are the best helps for having an abounding love? Paul says the helps are knowledge and discernment. Christians need information and application. Our love cannot develop without an increasing understanding of who God is, of who our fellow-believers are, and of who the unconverted are. We should remember that Christian instruction is not merely cerebral, it is also experiential.

There are many more aspects to the knowledge that enables our love to grow. This knowledge gives us the information to make choices that will increase our love. The fourth detail that Paul makes about a person who wants developing love is that he/she will always choose to say the more excellent word, do the most excellent activity, think the most excellent thought. There are many things in life that are harmless but which don’t come into the category of things that are excellent. A person with a growing love will not waste his time on things which are second best.

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