Perfect Love: As I Have Loved You By Scarlett Stough


Jesus commanded his followers to love one another “as I have loved you.” (John 15:9, 13) He modeled this love for us in the way he lived his life and as he gave his physical body for us. His love has the power to unify us.

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. [Author’s emphasis] Colossians 3:12-14

When divine love unifies a group of people, those people are going to stand out as people who practice Jesus’ teachings--they will be recognized as his disciples (his students):

A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another. John 13:34-35

This command to love was not new (Leviticus 19:18), but the kind of love they were commanded to express was new: “As I have loved you.” Jesus loved with a perfect love. His love brought him from heaven to live as flesh and give his body in suffering and death to bring life to a dying world. (John 1:1-18; 3:13-21; Philippians 2:5-11)

We all know how imperfect we are in all aspects of our lives, so how can we possibly live up to God’s high standard? The short answer is we can’t in this life, but that does not mean we are exempt from aiming for it. In one sense we can love with perfect love because we are clothed in Jesus perfect righteousness. In another sense we are still God’s work in progress.

Jesus set us an example of obedience to the Father’s commands. When we remain united with Jesus, we also will obey the Father’s commands. One of the simplest summaries of the command to love is the admonition: “Love does no harm.” (Romans 13:10) There are degrees of harm, but perfect love does no harm. My tongue has harmed people because my heart controlling it was in rebellion against the God of love. I still struggle to rein in that willful member of my body. I am still learning and I am still leaning on God’s forgiving love to be able to continue to aim for his perfect love in the way I treat others.

The key is not trying harder; the solution is to yield more completely to God in the desire to please God and allow his Spirit to continue to clean out that seemingly bottomless trash pile of self-interest that is the source of wrong attitudes, thoughts, words and actions.

Jesus agonized in prayer to prepare himself to face the wrath of God in our place. He was God who took our punishment for rebellion. He willingly submitted to accepting the punishment each of us has earned. (Isaiah 53:1-12) He submitted out of love for his Father and out of love for us. In his prayer, his thoughts turned to all of his disciples through all the ages, including our own:

My prayer is not for them alone [those at that time]. I pray also for those who will believe in me [that’s us!] through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one; I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world. [Author’s emphasis] John 17:20-24

Notice that love is the reason and love is the goal and God is the source. God gave us this promise:

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. [author‘s emphasis] (I John 4:15-10)

God eliminated the need to fear punishment by taking our deserved punishment himself. When we realize God also took the punishment for those we do not love as he commands, then we are free to love the person God loves and desires to save from eternal punishment. Now we are free to love God and one another with the love he provides by his Spirit. (Galatians 5:22-23) Perfect love is ours to the degree that we understand the lengths to which God will go to draw people back to him with his patience and kindness.

 


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