The Context of Love


I am doing a lot of thinking about the call for Christians to love.  This past week I preached at my home church on Jesus’ command to love in John 13.  I have preached that passage several times.  This time I felt the need to come at it very differently than in the past messages.

I realized that I have completely focused on the immediate command and looked carefully at the language in the verse.  If we forget the setting of the passage we miss the meaning of what Jesus is saying.

So I focused on the context.  In this case there is a large context.  Jesus is about to accomplish humanity’s redemption.  He is going to the Garden in a few moments where He would seek His Father’s comfort.  Judas was about to lead the soldiers to arrest Jesus and take 

Him away to be tried.  After that He would be crucified.  He was about to pay the price we deserve to pay so that we can experience God’s favor.

Jesus is preparing the church to carry on His ministry in His absence.

The work of the church is to build God’s kingdom.

To build God’s kingdom we must love one another as Jesus loves us.

So we have to understand love.  Our culture understands love in its own particular way.  The Bible presents love very differently. 

A cultural view of love is really looking at love without a context.  It is more often than not a “feel good” love.  A movie in the 1970s entitled “Love Story” is known for a quote that “love means never having to say you are sorry.”  Culturally we also see that love is about comfort, pleasure, and ease.  We see in our culture a reactive love.  I am paying attention to you if I love you and when you are sad, uncomfortable, unhappy, or otherwise down I will do what I can to make you feel better.

That is not a Biblical view of love.  The Biblical view of love is love in context.

We are always in the context of the universe around us.  We are not complete in ourselves.  Biblical love is in the context of building God’s kingdom.  The ultimate goal of love is God’s glory, honor, and worship.  We will spend eternity worshipping God and delighting in Him.  The next level of context is corporate eternal well-being.  The bride of Christ complete and united worshipping God.  We love well if we are preparing for that corporate wholeness.  Then we are concerned about individual eternal well-being.  I love another well if my goal is that they are growing in their identity and experience as one who belongs to Jesus and is preparing for their eternal home.  Their treasure is in heaven and they are focused on that.  After that I begin to think about material, relational, physical, temporal well-being.  These issues are important, but they are not as important as eternal issues.  If I feed someone who is hungry and do not care about their eternal state, then I am not loving them.  The church battles keeping a Biblical balance of both the eternal and the now.  Trying to care about both now and eternity is humanly overwhelming and beyond my ability.  It is, however, the way Jesus loves.  It is the way He commands us to love.

In order to even attempt to love this way I need grace.  I need to trust in the work Jesus has done to redeem and transform me.

More to come in another blog.

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