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Love is absolutely essential to Christian testimony. It is the key component of evangelism.
"By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another" (John 13:35).
In fact, if you do not get biblical love and exhibit it to others, John goes as far to say in 1 John 4 that you do not know God at all: "Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. ... We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, "I love God," and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother" (vv. 7-9, 19-21).
There is no perfect church. Perfection right now is a totally unreasonable standard to expect of a church. The Bible is clear that the perfection Christ promises to work in us is not going to be fully realized until we are seated with him in heaven. First Corinthians 13:12 says that we are seeing a dim, distorted reflection in a mirror right now. The clear picture will be seen only when we are face to face with Jesus in heaven.
We are part of an imperfect church—both corporately and individually. And imperfect churches only demonstrate the profound need for consistent love. Without love, every issue is potentially divisive; but with it, the details can be covered with grace.
Consider 1 Peter 4:8: “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.” I love the phrase “love covers a multitude of sins.” The idea is not that love sweeps sin under the carpet. Rather, love keeps others out of the room until the appropriate people can deal with the sin.
Love gives us a specific way for speaking the truth, for teaching correct doctrine, for calling others (and ourselves) to repentance, and it involves kindness, gentleness, humility and patience. You cannot present truth without love and expect a healthy church.
Thank God there are those in the contemporary church who are determined at all costs to defend and uphold God’s revealed truth. But sometimes they are conspicuously lacking in love. When they think they smell heresy, their nose begins to twitch, their muscles ripple and the light of battle enters their eye. They seem to enjoy nothing more than a fight.
Others make the opposite mistake. They are determined at all costs to maintain and exhibit brotherly love, but in order to do so are prepared even to sacrifice the central truths of revelation. Both these tendencies are unbalanced and unbiblical. Truth becomes hard if it is not softened by love; love becomes soft if it is not strengthened by truth.
The apostles call us to hold the two together, which should not be difficult for Spirit-filled believers, since the Holy Spirit is Himself "the Spirit of truth" (John 14:17) and His firstfruit is “love” (Galatians 5:22). There is no other route than this to a fully mature Christian unity. (John Stott, The Message of Ephesians)
Adapted from Wendy Alsup's blog, theologyforwomen.org. Wendy has authored three books, including By His Wounds You are Healed: How the Message of Ephesians Transforms a Woman's Identity. She is also a wife, mom and college math teacher who loves ministering to women.
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