The Greatest Gift

by Scarlett Stough

For the Scripture References and related Bible Study Guide, go to Bible Study Guide: Love One Another.

From the Scriptures we learn "God is love" (1 John 4:16). The same verse reminds us "whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him."

When we receive the Holy Spirit, God's gift of himself to us which is how God lives in us, we receive the power to love as God loves (Galatians 5:22-25). Acting out love, however, does not come easy to us; we still have to resist our inclination to selfish, unloving words and conduct. We also have to build our knowledge of what love is and what love does. We learn to love by practicing love (1 Corinthians 13:1-13).

Let's back up a minute. The greatest gift, (greater than receiving the gift to love others), is the gift of God's love to us. We do not merit it; we can do nothing which will stop God from loving us. Everything he does, he does for us, for our benefit, to complete his work of transforming us into his likeness (Romans 8:28-39; Hebrews 12:4-11). We can, and we do, grieve God when we ignore his instructions for living by behaving in a way which harms us and others.

God's instructions are more than the "don'ts" of the Ten Commandments or the many other laws given to ancient Israel. There is more to loving one's neighbor than what we do not do to him or against him.

When we love our neighbor, we will be actively serving our neighbor as well as not murdering or stealing from him (Luke 6:27-36). Love requires doing good for our neighbor as well as obedience to the Ten Commandments. Love fulfills the law, because when we are actively serving our neighbor, we will not be harming him. There is no law against love. This does not mean as some have taught that love is a substitute for law. It's not; it is the basis for God's laws meant for our good.

Because God loves us as a gift not earned by us, the Holy Spirit will lead us to love others whether they "deserve" it or not. We are called by God to bless and not curse whatever the provocation we might feel (Matthew 5:44; Luke 6:28; Romans 12:14; 1 Corinthians 4:12).

Our reaction to the sin around us ought to be compassion for the sinner enslaved by his or her sin. Since God leads us to repentance with his kindness, should we not show the same kindness to those around us (Romans 2:4)? Since God is patient, not wanting any to perish (2 Peter 3:9), shouldn't we aim for the same attitude? God's kindness tells the truth about behavior that is harmful, while giving hope for the mercy and new life God so longs to give.

Volume 16 Issue 05 | Notes from Nancy | Women in Christ Commentary | Bible Study Guide | Abundance of the Heart | Exhortation | Book Review |

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