All You Need Is Love
by Wes Peaden
Love is everything that matters for the Christian. After all, God is love (1 John 4:8), and it was because of His unabated love for the souls of humanity that He gave His Son to pay the penalty for the sin that separated us from Him (John 3:16; 1 John 4:9). Jesus summed up the whole of the Old Testament in this way: “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind (CF Deuteronomy 6:5)…Love your neighbor as yourself (CF Leviticus 19:18). The entire law and demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments” (Matthew 22:37-40 NLT).
We may take it for granted that what these verses speak is forever true. Unfortunately, church history is filled with our failure to apply what we read in them. Love is patient and kind. Humans are often impatient and unkind. Adam and Eve lacked the trust and patience necessary to sustain the kingdom on earth. In a moment of seeking pleasure and trusting the words of deception rather than the boundaries of love, they condemned the whole world. Jesus’ first twelve disciples struggled to have patience with His restoration of this kingdom built on love. They wanted to see a physical kingdom come and change the things we see instantly (Luke 24:19-21). Peter was ready to fight for his, and Jesus’ rights. This Peter sounds like a good, modern, western Christian on any news network today. When we get disappointed and impatient because love, patient and kind as it is, takes too long, our self-will shines all too brightly. That selfish will can lead us to stand against the things which represent God’s love. This is not the identity God intends for His bride to have in the earth.
God is patient, loving and kind (2 Peter 3:9; Romans 2:4 & 5:8; 1 Corinthians 13:4). We are in a hurry from the day we are born. I think we innately know that we are finite. Our impatience and desire for self-pleasure drives us to define ourselves by what pleases us or upsets us. My wife and I have five children; we understand the mindset of a newborn child and a two-year-old, who is just beginning to comprehend that the entire world does not exist to please him. Mature people are defined by what matters most to them. What should matter most to the people of God, according to the Word of God, is love (1 Corinthians 13:1-3, 13).
It was a cool, spring morning in 1990 when I received the call of God to ministry. As a pastor’s child, I did not have any interest in working in the church. I had seen and known too much to love the people who called themselves Christian. In the two-plus decades since that call, I have fallen in love with the bride of Christ. My distrust and pain has not been refuted or replaced with ease and unending tenderness. In fact, my concerns are confirmed almost weekly. The healing has not come because of what changed in others, but because of what changed in me. I asked God to give me a love for His people or take the call of ministry from me at the very start. Honestly, I thought that would get me out of the whole thing. God changed my heart one experience at a time. I have to tell you this, He has taught me to love when it hurts. Admittedly, this is as foreign to me as it would be to anyone else, but everything we do is meaningless without love.
My three-year-old son discovered that the stove was hot a few months back when he wanted to help in the kitchen. We tried to warn and protect him many times before and at this moment, too. All it took was two seconds and we heard the revealing screams that made it clear he now understood “hot.” I am very much like my son. When I feel the hurt of others, I would rather not get near the source of the pain again. However, we were not called to play it safe and avoid the pain. We were called to love. Love makes us vulnerable; it cost Jesus His earthly life.
Every Christian and pastor I know wants the community in which they minister to believe in Jesus, to know that the gospel message is true and receive it. Jesus gave us the plan for how this will happen in His prayer, recorded in John 17: “I pray that they will all be as one—as You are in Me, Father, I am in You. And may they be in Us so that the world will believe that You sent Me” (John 17:21 NLT). The key to this unity and powerful testimony is love. “By this all men will know that you are MY disciples, if you have love for one another” ( John 13:35).
I am not sure where your life or ministry stands as you read this. Wherever you are at this moment, I have prayed for you, and myself, that Jesus’ words would melt our hearts in love for Him and each other. There are many tools to draw people to church in our day. Only one tool will always draw them to Christ: Love. Romans 1 makes it clear, as does the crucifixion of Jesus, that some people will reject that love. However, there is a multitude who will melt into the open arms of Jesus (Revelation 7:9).
The world around us is waiting for the church to rise. I am speaking of the bride of Christ who is loved and loving. When we are joined by love for God and others, we will be more like Jesus, doing good and healing those who are oppressed (Acts 10:38). If we do not find our identity in that love, we will find it in opposition. Then the whole world will know us by what we are against, what we dislike. May God help us to love Him, one another, and the world just as He loved them. In the end, everything we do is of no worth if we have done it without love (1 Corinthians 13:1-3).
[Wes and Becky Peaden are the founders and lead pastors of Providence chapel in Pace, FL. They are passionate about seeing people discipled and following Jesus. To learn more, visit providencechapelpace.org or follow them on Twitter @pastorattheprov or @liveit4jc. ]