When asked about what it would be like before His return, Jesus made this stunning statement to His disciples:
“And many will turn away from Me and betray and hate each other….Sin will be rampant everywhere, and the love of many will grow cold.” (Matthew 24:1–12 NLT)
As we look around at the world, it’s not hard to see that sin is running rampant and that the love of many is growing cold. The world sins. This should not come as a shock to believers. What is shocking is that Jesus isn’t talking about the world in this passage, but about Christians. The Greek word for “love” used in this passage refers to agape love, which is the love of God shed abroad in our hearts. It is this selfless, sacrificial love, developed in us through the work of the Holy Spirit, that Jesus tells us will grow cold.
What could possibly make this love grow cold? Jesus gives us the answer earlier in this passage. He says, “And many will turn away from Me and betray and hate each other.” Why would people do that? Offense. If we are not intentional in dealing with offense and living out God’s love for others by forgiving them as He forgave us, our love will grow cold.
When I was getting my start in ministry, God called me to serve as the youth pastor at one of the most influential churches in the nation. During my time there, I was repeatedly treated very unfairly by a staff member above me. It was obvious he wanted me fired and was doing everything he could to get me removed from my position. This was a man I had respected, and it hurt deeply.
Over time, I let his offense take root in my heart. Because he had treated me so unfairly, I felt justified. Little did I know the bitterness I was holding against him was desensitizing me to the love of God. I wasn’t experiencing His intimate presence like I was used to.
I’ll never forget this one time I was driving in the car with Lisa. We were listening to some worship music, and she was literally in tears as she experienced God’s nearness. When she asked me why I wasn’t being moved in a similar way, I said, “I’m meditating.” But deep down, I knew something was off.
Without even realizing it, the love of God in my heart had begun to grow cold.
This was a wake-up call.
As I sought God on the matter, He began to reveal the bitterness that had taken root in me. Then He invited me into the long and arduous process of learning forgiveness. Immediately, the excuses came pouring in. God, You don’t know what he did to me. I’ll forgive him when he repents! But God wouldn’t let me go. He kept pressing me to forgive this man who had hurt me so deeply. Through much prayer and the empowerment of the Holy Spirit, I eventually did. And I was set free.
Jesus told His disciples, “It is impossible that no offenses should come” (Luke 17:1 NKJV). You will be mistreated. You will be wronged. You will be misunderstood. You will be spoken of poorly. You will experience all kinds of injustices. Forgive anyway. Don’t give a place in your heart to any form of bitterness. Offense seeks to take you prisoner if you let it. Resist it. Don’t yield any ground to it. Don’t let the love of God in you grow cold.
Rather, may we allow God’s love to be shed abroad in our hearts. May we give it away as we have each received it—not because it’s deserved, but precisely because God loves and forgives us even when we least deserve it. That is the agape love we’ve received from Him, and that is the love He calls us to freely give away. In releasing those who have offended us—in forgiving them, in loving them, in praying for them, and even seeking their good—we will find ourselves set free.
Written by John Bevere. Visit John’s blog at http://messengerinternational.org/blog.
Follow John Bevere on Twitter @JohnBevere