When Jesus’ disciples asked Him about the signs of His coming and the end of the world, He spoke of wars, pestilences, famines, earthquakes, persecution, murders, betrayals and false prophets who will deceive many. Then He said this, “And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold.” (Matthew 24:12)
There is no doubt that iniquity abounds today, but what about Jesus’ statement that “the love of many shall wax cold.”? How has the abundance of wickedness in our world affected our love? How are we affected when someone betrays our trust; we are lied to, stolen from and rejected; someone enacts a scheme to ruin our character, our career or our ministry; we have bad experiences in church situations from false brethren or false leaders? If you add to that list murders, wars, persecution, famines and plagues, life becomes one of “survival of the fittest”. Human nature builds a barrier around “me and mine” to close out anyone who might be a threat physically or emotionally. But as a Christian, what happens to our love? Real love. Active love. Selfless love. God’s Love.
Has our love already been lost in the chaotic mix of life experiences? Have we guarded our hearts from actively loving God and others because we have been abused, misused and rejected in the past? If we could measure our love, how would we measure up? All we have to do is look at the life of Jesus to see what love looks like in action. Then we can do a little measuring of our own.
COMPASSION – “But when he [Jesus] saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion on them, because they fainted, and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd.” (Matthew 9:35-36) Compassion is a stirring deep within that causes us to truly care for others and moves us to help change their circumstances. There were numerous times when Jesus had compassion on a group of people or an individual and met their need. He saw their sickness and healed them. He saw their spiritual blindness and enlightened them. He saw their need for food and fed them. He saw their sin and died for them. That’s what compassion does. It sees a need and meets it, whether it is a spiritual need, physical need or material need. We are to have that kind of compassion, the kind that moves us to do something.
1 John 3:17 asks us, “But whoso hath this world's good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him?” We can’t help them all, but we can start right where we are. (See Matthew 25:31-46.)
Acts of love and compassion are not always accepted, but we cannot allow rejection to cause us to get discouraged and let our love grow cold. Jesus mentioned Jerusalem’s history of rejecting and murdering the prophets God sent to them. He also knew they would do the same to Him there. Yet He wept over the blindness of the city and said, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not.” He still loved them enough to give His life for them even while they were rejecting Him.
Do we have that kind of compassionate love? It seems to be missing. Even in our churches, we lack the oneness in Christ that causes us to care for one another out of genuine compassion. Showing compassion is not acting out of a sense of duty. It is an overflow of the love of God within us. Without love there is no compassion.
SACRIFICE - “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)
Jesus certainly counted the cost of redeeming us. He looked ahead to the suffering and death He would endure, the constant contention of the religious rulers against Him, the betrayal by one of His disciples and the unbelief and desertion of even His closest followers. But because of His great love, He looked farther than that, all the way to the end, and sacrificed Himself for us. “…who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:2)
In John 15:12-13, Jesus told His disciples (that includes us today), “This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you. Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”
Whether we are called to give our physical life or to be a living sacrifice to accomplish the will of God, we are called to give up self. We forfeit the honors, rights and possessions of this world to gain much greater honor, rights and possessions - everlasting ones. Our culture puts great emphasis on standing up for our rights and looking out for ourselves. God’s Word puts great emphasis on doing the will of the Father even when it means sacrifice, because our work is an eternal work, not a temporary one. As Christians we will make those sacrifices grudgingly unless we look beyond this life and its hardness and see all the way to the end, to the eternal joy that is set before us, and to the souls who will be in heaven because of our obedience. Look beyond what you can see.
“Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.” (1 John 3:16)
FORGIVENESS – “So let it be clearly known and understood by you, brethren, that through this Man [Jesus] forgiveness and removal of sins is now proclaimed to you”. (Acts 13:38 AMP) Jesus knew all too well the price of sin. He certainly didn’t treat it lightly. Rather than leaving us to be destroyed by sin, He paid its price so we can “go and sin no more”. Sin is abolished forever in the lives of those who come to Him, repent, receive His forgiveness and surrender to His Spirit within them. We can have a life of freedom in truth and godliness.
We are also told to forgive. When we do, we not only free others from their debt to us, but we set ourselves free from bitterness. We are obligated to forgive, but we can only do it sincerely when we forgive from the love of God in our hearts.
“And when ye stand praying, forgive, if ye have ought against any: that your Father also which is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses. But if ye do not forgive, neither will your Father which is in heaven forgive your trespasses.” (Mark 11:25-26)
TRUTH – This attribute of love seems to be misplaced. It may even seem negative, but Jesus always spoke the truth because He knew it would set us free from sin, legalism, tradition, death and hell. He knew truth would break the chains of this life, and we would be free to live in the Kingdom of God.
Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” (John 14:6) He also said, “If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed: and ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” (John 8:31-32) If hearing the truth is hard for us, it simply means we have some areas where we have not fully lined up with it. The light of truth shines in areas where we need to make changes. Understanding the truth gives us the opportunity to choose freedom in that area or to stay in bondage to a lie.
As we receive the truth of God’s Word, we are to share it. It takes great compassion to speak out when we know it will initially be misunderstood as being unkind. But when we speak “the truth in love” to others and ourselves, we will “grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ.” (Ephesians 4:15)
Jesus often spoke against the hypocrisy and covetousness of the religious rulers who totally missed the truth of what God was doing. (Luke 12:1, 5) Once again, that may seem unkind, but He knew He must lead His flock in the right direction, and that meant He had to point out the wrong direction. Even a few of the religious rulers realized He was speaking the truth and followed Him. Open hearts will hear and be set free.
The whole essence of love can be seen in Jesus, and we are to follow His lead. Jesus loves us, so we love others. Jesus sacrificed for us, so we sacrifice for others. Jesus forgave us, so we forgive others. Jesus had courage to speak truth, so we must speak truth. Jesus brought us the goods news of the Gospel, so we take this good news to others.
There is no clearer place in the Scripture than 1 Corinthians 13:4-8a for us to see how this love is to work out in our daily lives. Let’s read it from the Amplified Bible.
“Love endures long and is patient and kind; love never is envious nor boils over with jealousy, is not boastful or vainglorious, does not display itself haughtily. It is not conceited (arrogant and inflated with pride); it is not rude (unmannerly) and does not act unbecomingly. Love (God’s love in us) does not insist on its own rights or its own way, for it is not self-seeking; it is not touchy or fretful or resentful; it takes no account of the evil done to it [it pays no attention to a suffered wrong]. It does not rejoice at injustice and unrighteousness, but rejoices when right and truth prevail. Love bears up under anything and everything that comes, is ever ready to believe the best of every person, its hopes are fadeless under all circumstances, and it endures everything [without weakening]. Love never fails [never fades out or becomes obsolete or comes to an end].”
We should all ask ourselves, “Is that a description of me?” How does our love measure up?
“There are three things that remain—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love.” (1 Corinthians 13:13 - TLB)