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Love and continue to love to the end!

God is love. If you have God, you have love. To love, you have to know God. To know God is to understand who God is. And to understand who He is, you need to understand His love for His Son, Jesus Christ, which caused Him to put everything under His Son’s authority; that the whole world would be reconciled to Him through His Son.

Here is what Jesus Christ told us about loving God: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment.” (Matthew 22:37). You should also know God’s Will for your life and bend your will to Him. To achieve this, listen to King Solomon’s advice: “Fear God and keep his commandments for this is the whole duty of man.” (Proverbs 12:13).

You may be wondering what fear has to do with love. It is the fear of God that discourages man from sinning (Exodus 20:20). God’s commandments are designed to keep human beings from doing what is evil against one another. (Job 35:6-8). God does not do anything evil. The Bible says: “Far be it from God to do evil, from the Almighty to do wrong.” (Job 34:10).

And He wants all human beings to desist from evil, because evil brings all kinds of calamities to human lives. All the problems in everybody’s life today are the results of evil done by people. Evil is sin, because it works against the will of God. That God wants humanity to stay away from hurting one another is a great demonstration of His love for all humanity; and a testament that He treats the entire human race as His children without favoritism. In our human families, we work very hard to create conditions that foster love and eliminate hurt. We learned that from God, the Father of all mankind.

That is why Jesus Christ told us in the gospels: “But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than the others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matthew 5:44-48).

Continuing, Jesus said: “Be careful not to do your ‘acts of righteousness’ before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in their synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. (Matthew 6:1-4).

In our human families, we love all our children; those who obey us and do things the way we instruct them to, and those who disobey us and cause trouble within the family all the time. We love our trouble-making children because they are our children. We do not hate them or throw them out of the house because they are disobedient and give us headaches. As a matter of fact, we invest more time overseeing their affairs than we do on those of the children that obey us. God is that way towards all his children. If they are human, they are God’s children, regardless of their behavior; and God cares for them as much as He cares for those that obey Him. That is why He gives everybody a long time to change and do what is right. That is also why He tells all of us to leave revenge to Him.

To make sure that we understand the power of love, Jesus Christ puts it succinctly: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:39).

And in the same verse, He added that this commandment is like the first and greatest commandment which is about loving God. In what way is this commandment like the first? This commandment is like the first in the sense that we are to accomplish it with all our heart, with all our soul and with all our mind; because love knows no boundaries. Whether it is the love of God for us, or our love for one another, love is love, and it operates the same way all the time. That is why love overcomes everything.

The grace of Jesus Christ is given to all mankind, freely. But grace automatically requires that you take up a burden, a debt, to love your fellow man with all your heart; with all your soul and with all your mind. For, where there is love, there also are mercy and compassion. That is why Jesus Christ told us: 

“If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very self? If anyone is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels. (Luke 9:23-26).

In the passage, Jesus Christ is saying to you to forget about your self-importance, your values, your attainment in life, your wealth and your popularity, and do as he taught us through His own life and His teaching. And what did He teach us? He taught us that we have been given grace out of love. Now we should love others the same way we have been shown love.

Out of His own love, Jesus Christ showed us mercy and gave us grace. And in that spirit of love, we should do likewise to our fellow human beings. He added: “No one who puts his hand to the plough and look back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:62).

You asked and you received freely. You are then required to give freely to others, without any excuses. He came to the world to give us grace, and He asks that we help position others to receive the same gift, using every means necessary: our time, our money, our material, our mercy and our compassion.

He told us the parable of the unmerciful servant to demonstrate the necessity for reciprocating love: “Therefore the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him. Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt. The servant fell on his knees before him. ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay back everything.’ The servants master took pity on him, cancelled the debt and let him go.

“But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii. He grabbed him and began to choke him. ‘Pay back what you owe me,’ he demanded. His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back.’ 

But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. When the other servants saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed and went and told their master everything that had happened.

“Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I cancelled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ In anger his master turned him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed. That is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart.” (Matthew 18:23-35).I

n this parable, Christ’s message is clear. We are expected to give as freely as we received or our heavenly father will be greatly displeased with us.

It is then understood that when you receive grace, you received with it, an obligation to serve God through your kind deeds. That is why apostle Paul talked about the continuing debt of loving one another. He said: “Give everyone what you owe him: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor. Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law.” (Romans 13:7-8).

Love well and you’ve met all the requirements of the law! Isn’t it amazing? Yes! Amazing, but true.

Loving your neighbor is not something you chose to do when you receive grace; it is an obligation you have towards your neighbor. That is why it is itemized with all the other debts in the passage above. And it has a unique nature as a debt; it is a continuing debt that can never be fully satisfied. It is a debt you carry all your natural life. No amount of generosity on any believer’s part would credit him or her as having paid this debt in full.

This debt of loving your neighbor is always present, always active, and always requiring your attention. It follows you everywhere, and it is always calling for you to pay towards it. Even when you sell everything you have and give to the poor, this debt is never fully resolved. It is a burden but a burden for Christ; and for that, Jesus encourages: “Come to me all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30).

And Apostle John wrote, alluding to Cain’s hatred for Abel that led him to murdering his own brother: “We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love our brothers. Anyone who does not love remains in death. Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life in him.

“This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with action and in truth. This then is how we know that we belong to the truth, and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence, whenever our hearts condemn us. For God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything.

“Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God and receive from him anything we ask, because we obey his commands and do what pleases him. And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us. Those who obey his commands live in him, and he in them. And this is how we know that he lives in us: We know it by the Spirit he gave us.” (1 John 3:14-24).

Continuing, Apostle John said: “Dear Friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us, and his love is made complete in us.

“We know that we live in him, and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in him and he in God. And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. “God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him. In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment, because in this world we are like him. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.

“We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. And he has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother.”(1 John 4:7-21).

“Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves the father loves his child as well. This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out his commands. This is love for God: to obey his commands. And his commands are not burdensome, for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world? Only he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.”(1 John 5:1-5).

“This is the one who came by water and blood — Jesus Christ. He did not come by water only, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth. For there are three that testify: the Spirit, the water and the blood; and the three are in agreement. (1 John 5:6-8).

“We accept man’s testimony, but God’s testimony is greater because it is the testimony of God, which he has given about his Son. Anyone who believes in the Son of God has this testimony in his heart. Anyone who does not believe God, has made him out to be a liar, because he has not believed the testimony God has given about his Son. And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life. (1 John 5:9-12).

“I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life. This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us — whatever we ask — we know that we have what we ask of him. (1 John 5:13-15).

“If anyone sees his brother commit a sin that does not lead to death, he should pray and God will give him life. I refer to those whose sin does not lead to death. There is a sin that leads to death. I am not saying that he should pray about that. All wrongdoing is sin, and there is sin that does not lead to death. (1 John 5:16-17).

“We know that anyone born of God does not continue to sin; the one who was born of God keeps him safe, and the evil one cannot harm him. We know that we are children of God, and that the whole world is under the control of the evil one. We know also that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true. And we are in him who is true — even in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life. Dear children, keep yourselves from idols.” (1 John 5:18-21).

And here is what Apostle Paul said about love in first Corinthians: “If I speak in tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to flames, but do not have love, I gain nothing. (1 Corinthians 13:1-3).

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. (1 Corinthians 13:4-7).

Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child; I reasoned like a child. (1 Corinthians 13:8-10).

“When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” (1 Corinthians 13:11-13).

And in the Book of Romans he wrote: “Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with God’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.”(Romans 12:9-13).

“Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud; but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.” (Romans 12:14-16).

“Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”(Romans 12:17-18).

“Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord. On the contrary: ‘If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.’ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”(Romans 12:19-21).

And just when I was getting ready to publish this book, I received this revelation from God: Love is enduring pain, heartaches and wrongs visited on you by people you care about. Forgiveness is actually an expression of love. To forgive, you have to love. When people you love do wrong to you, in their irrational state, it hurts. It makes you recoil and want to distance yourself from them. But love dictates that you continue to give even when it no longer feels right to give. That is why Jesus Christ said: “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13).

Love is being ready to offer yourself for someone you love, not only when they are good to you, but also when they are not so good to you. And this is not figuratively speaking but literally speaking. Jesus Christ offered his life for us even though all humanity has gone its way and turned its back on God.

He did not die on the cross for mankind because mankind was reciprocating His love. He died for all mankind in spite of mankind sinning greatly against Him. And Jesus Christ reminded us in this passage that making such a sacrifice is the ultimate expression of love. It does not get any better than that.

In the parable of the prodigal son, Jesus Christ showed that not only did He agree to sacrifice His life to bring us back into God’s kingdom, He also agreed to share what is rightly His with all of us when we get there. In this parable, it appears that the good son was displeased that his father welcome back his selfish brother, even giving a party in his honor. That is a natural human reaction and totally forgivable. And that is why his father said to him: 

“My son,” “you are always with me, and everything I have is yours.” (Luke 15:31). Notice that Jesus Christ Himself said the same thing to God the Father in His prayer for His disciples in the gospel of John: “All I have is yours and all you have is mine.” (John 17:10).

This is the highest level of commendation that any loyal son needs from his loving father. Hearing it from him that all you have done is appreciated and well-received. How can anyone still have issues after that kind of response? In one sentence, the older son received a confirmation of his dedication, loyalty and service to his father, and an affirmation of his all-inclusive reward.

And the father went on: “But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.” (Luke 15:32).

And there is no reason not to believe that the older son came into total agreement with the father on this point. Jesus Christ is the loyal older brother; we are the selfish irresponsible younger son; and God is the father in the parable. Man’s sins against God are sins against His Son Jesus Christ, since the Son is one with the Father. Out of His great mercy, He forgave us, and out of His immense love, He gave us grace. So through His example, He demonstrated to us how to love. And that is why He commanded us to love our enemy and pray for those who persecute us. We were all enemies of God when God chose to sacrifice what is precious to Him for our sake! And our own enemies are children of God, too, who also deserve God’s mercy and grace.

And that is what having the mind of Christ is all about; extending our love to people, even when they do not deserve our love because they have done us wrong. You love those who hurt you and show them your kindness to give them time to realize that what they did to you was wrong, so they could make up for it, if it is possible to. The Bible reminds you: “Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”(Romans 12:17-18).

“Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord. On the contrary: ‘If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.’ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”(Romans 12:19-21).

Your spouse, your parents, your children, your friends and others you have personal relationships with also fall into this category. Everyone eventually disappoints, because nobody is infallible. The people that love you most, hurt you the most, because you share more things, time and space with them than you share with people you barely know.

Sometimes we wrong others deliberately, and at other times, we do not even realize that what we are doing will result in so much hurt. Either way, it hurts when you are done wrong. Love is forgiving other people. Most of the time it is hard to do but remembering that your Father in heaven have done that for you, and loves to see you do the same for others, is a good motivation to forgive. Love is making sacrifices for people that are important to you, even when they have not earned your love.

When you endure hurt from someone you love and overcome the hurt and forgive, you have demonstrated a good capacity to love. Love is not only being kind and doing good to people who do good to you. That is reciprocating goodness for goodness. And Jesus Christ reminds us that even the wicked do that; they love those that love them. And because they do, we are no different from them if all we can do is return good for good. We are made better than that. We are made to be like our Father in heaven, who overlooked all the disobedience and disloyalty He received from His own chosen people, Israel, and later, the church, and reinstated them time and time again.

God made even His prophets endured hurts, hardship and indecency, so they would appreciate what God had endured from humanity, and especially Israel, whom He had set apart from the world as the apple of His eyes, in order to make the world envious and anxious to have intimate relationship with Him. God allowed the prophets to suffer persecution, and even death, at the hands of the people, to demonstrate His patient love to the whole world.

The surpassing greatness of the knowledge of God made these prophets readily abandon the pursuit of their own comfort and personal ambitions in life, and instead chose to serve God by dedicating their lives to getting their fellow human beings to turn from their evil ways and return to God and be saved. And to this cause, they remained faithful to God even unto death.

By holding the prophets accountable for an evil man’s life if the prophet refused to deliver God’s message to the evil man and he died of his sin, God was making the prophets share in the evil doer’s sins, and his redemption. God said to Ezekiel: “When I say to a wicked man, ‘You will surely die,’ and you do not warn him or speak out to dissuade him from his evil ways in order to save his life, that wicked man will die for his sin, and I will hold you accountable for his blood. But if you do warn the wicked man and he does not turn from his wickedness or from his evil ways, he will die for his sin; but you will have saved yourself.” (Ezekiel 2:18-19).

“Again, when a righteous man turns from his righteousness and does evil, and I put a stumbling block before him, he will die. Since you did not warn him, he will die for his sin. The righteous things he did will not be remembered, and I will hold you accountable for his blood. But if you do warn the righteous man not to sin and he does not sin, he will surely live because he took warning, and you will have saved yourself.” (Ezekiel 2:20-21).

This demonstrates God’s reluctance in destroying any human lives. Instead, He goes to great lengths, inconveniencing Himself and people loyal to Him, to save people from their own recklessness and inconsiderateness for others. He commits a righteous man’s time and devotion to saving his fellow men, even when they do not deserve that kind of effort and consideration. We are, indeed, all precious to the God of the universe who had so much to do and yet makes time to give attention to the way we treat one another on planet earth, and call us to order. No wonder He calls Himself the Father of all mankind. That figures.

He made Ezekiel cook with cow manure to show his great displeasure for the filth Israel had been feeding Him. He made Ezekiel’s wife die, and told Ezekiel not to mourn her death so Ezekiel could serve as a sign to the Israelites for their impending calamity due to their unrepentant hearts. Time and time again, He turned Ezekiel into a righteous ‘prop’ to the Israelites to demonstrate to them the different disasters that would overtake their lives because of their vile and wicked hearts; and what they must do to not perish altogether; because their wickedness was unmatched, not even by the pagan nations surrounding them.

God made Hosea reunite with his prostitute wife to show what it meant for Him (God) to take Israel back after all their idol worshipping, and their vile and wicked ways. (Hosea 3:1-5). And the prophet humbly followed all of God’s instruction to Him, so that Israel could learn from his example and repent and return to the merciful God.

Jeremiah become so reviled by everybody in Israel for bringing to them the prophecy of the unavoidable devastation that would overcome Judah and Jerusalem due to God’s dissatisfaction and anger against His people. Jeremiah was so ridiculed, hated and mistreated, jailed, beaten and cast away to die inside an abandoned cistern. It became too much for him that he lamented about it, cursing the day he was born and the person that brought the news of his birth to his father. He continuously lamented over the people and the enormity of their punishment. And he was later murdered.

So, if you truly love Christ, you have to be able to bear unfriendly treatments from loved ones and remain committed to the relationship, while at the same time, committing yourself into God’s hand for the saving power of His grace. No other relationship calls for that commitment more than marriage and we currently do such a bad job in that. The Bible says: “For it had been granted you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for him.” (Philippians 1:29). That is what the prophets and the apostles did; they suffered for Him, and we can, if we chose to, because it is our way of loving — even loving our enemies.

That is why Jesus Christ also washed the feet of Judas Iscariot when he was washing the feet of His apostles at the Last Supper. He washed His traitor’s feet in spite of His foreknowledge that Judas, within a matter of minutes, would accept money from the Sanhedrin to hand Him over to them to be crucified. This is in keeping with what apostle Paul expressed in Romans chapter 9: “… God choosing to show his wrath and make his power known, bore with great patience the objects of His wrath —prepared for destruction”(Romans 9:22).

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