Thursday, January 17, 2013

Love - Beautiful or Ugly

Love - Beautiful or Ugly


Beloved, you do faithfully whatever you do for the brethren and for strangers, who have borne witness of your love before the church. If you send them forward on their journey in a manner worthy of God, you will do well” – 3 John 1:5-6

Love is such a powerful force.  It is what keeps a mother up all night long when her child is sick.  It’s what brings us to our knees in times of tragedy.  It can instantly lift us up and inject us with joy, or drop us to the lowest of lows.  Being made in the image of God, we were made to love. It is present in some form at all times, for we always love someone or something.
Love puts the desires of the heart on display.  In fact, all our actions are, at their very base, rooted in the love we have.  It can be beautiful, or sinfully ugly.  Which it is depends on the source of the affections of the heart.  In its ugliest form, it is an abomination to God. 

The Apostle John was a lover.  Love is often the subject of his teachings.  He called himself the “disciple whom Jesus loved” many times.  Of course, Jesus loved all His disciples, but the fact that John uses “the disciple whom Jesus loved” instead of his very name says how important that love was to him.  At the last supper, he was the disciple who leaned on Jesus chest, displaying the love He had for Christ.  He also was the one to write “God is love” in 1 John 4:8. In fact, if you search the books he wrote, 1 John through 3 John, you will find the words love and beloved occurs 39 times. 
But in 3 John 1 you will find that the words love and beloved occur seven times in the single 13 verse chapter.  John has focused the entire chapter on love, yet he does so by contrasting two members of the church, Gaius and Diotrephes.

John begins his letter talking to Gaius, and says in verses 2-4. “Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers. For I rejoiced greatly when brethren came and testified of the truth that is in you, just as you walk in the truth. I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth.“  We are told that Gaius walked in the truth, which means he lived Christianity to the fullest, not just giving God lip-service, but being faithful to the work of God.
In the early days of the church, there were very few inns for a travelling minister to stay in, and most of those available did not have reputations whereby a minister would want to stay in them. Gaius was generous to those that travelled to his church and his town.  John said that Gaius did faithfully support the brethren (ministers, missionaries, and other Christians) and strangers.  Those he had helped had “born witness of your love before the church” by supplying their needs.  John also commends that because of his generosity and hospitality, Gaius was “a fellow worker for the truth”, providing the resources they needed to continue ministering. 

Gaius’ love was for others, and for God.  His love showed up in generosity and acts of service.  The love in his heart oozed out his hands and feet.  He taught Christianity in the purest form, a loving spirit, to all that he served.
But then there was Diotrephes. We know something of him based solely upon his name.  Diotrephes is a Greek name meaning “nurtured by Zeus”, and was only given to those that were noble or wealthy.  Diotrephes does not receive the accolades that Gaius was awarded.  John writes of Diotrephes in verses 9-10, “I wrote to the church, but Diotrephes, who loves to have the preeminence among them, does not receive us. Therefore, if I come, I will call to mind his deeds which he does, prating against us with malicious words. And not content with that, he himself does not receive the brethren, and forbids those who wish to, putting them out of the church.” 

Since the letter John wrote to the church isn’t mentioned in God’s word, we are lead to believe that Diotrephes destroyed it.  Diotrephes did have love in his heart, but it was for himself.  He loved “to have preeminence among them”, which means his love had displayed itself in pridefulness.  He would not receive others into his local church, which probably met in his home, and would remove those from the church body that though he should.  But not only did he not receive them, but he spoke badly of them, “prating against us with malicious words”.  Slander often comes from a prideful heart that feels superior to all others. 
If we back away from the personalities of Gaius and Diotrephes, we see the character and personality of two local churches.  The church body that Gaius was part of was welcoming, gracious, generous, and kind.  The church body that Diotrephes was part of was unwelcoming, selfish, prideful, and judgmental.

Which church would you want to be a member of?  And now the harder question…which church do you most resemble?
Galatians 5:22-23 says But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,  gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.”  There are two things to notice about this verse. First, these are not your fruits.  You’re not going to work on loving and be loving, or work on patience and be patient.  These are fruits of the Holy Spirit in you, which is seen in the use of the capital “S” in Spirit.  It is His work in you that produces the fruits.  Have you ever seen a tree struggling and striving to create an apple?  No.  It happens naturally because of what is in the tree.  The more you surrender to God and His Holy Spirit, the more the fruits will grow.

Secondly, love is first in the list of fruits because without love, none of the others can exist.  Love in its fullest form will produce joy in your heart, peace in your relationships, longsuffering for others, kindness towards others, goodness that shows up in your deeds, faithfulness to relationships, gentleness in your words and dealings with others, and self-control when others get on your last nerve.  God’s beautiful love creates a beautiful life.
The ugly love, love for self, does not come from God.  If you recall there once was one who found a love for himself over that of his love for God.  His name was Satan, and it cost him everything.


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