Walking in Love

Salvation frees us to care for others in the same way Christ cares for us.

Watching a toddler mimic mom or dad is humorous, but it also highlights the important role God has given parents. Imitation is a process by which the young learn and grow into adulthood, and it’s also the way Christians mature—by imitating their heavenly Father. When Paul wrote his letter to the Ephesian church, he repeatedly talked about the “walk” of believers. This was his way of describing an ongoing practice and lifestyle. After listing Christian virtues like humility, gentleness, patience, tolerance, and love in chapter four, Paul summed it all up by saying, “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God” (Eph. 5:1-2 ESV).

 

Christ’s Love for Us

One of the most important ways we are to imitate our heavenly Father is by walking in love. However, since our human concept of love falls far short of the Lord’s, we must seek to understand what His love looks like, as displayed in His Son.

  • Christ’s love is selfless. He “gave himself up for us” (Eph. 5:2 ESV). This began with His incarnation when He left the glories of heaven to take on human flesh and live on this fallen earth among sinful people. But His selfless love stooped even lower when He humbled Himself to the point of death on a cross (Phil. 2:6-8).

  • Our Savior’s love offers forgiveness. Jesus gave Himself as an offering for our sin by dying in our place. Now everyone who believes in Him and trusts in His death as payment for sin receives a full pardon and a righteous standing before holy God.

  • On the cross, Jesus became a sacrifice to God by bearing His Father’s wrath until every sin was fully punished.

  • Jesus’ love is sacrificial. Although salvation is a free gift offered to us by God’s grace through faith, it cost the Savior more than we can imagine. On the cross, He became a sacrifice to God by bearing His Father’s wrath until every sin was fully punished. Because Jesus was the sinless Lamb of God, divine justice was fully satisfied, and His death became a fragrant aroma to His Father, signifying that atonement was complete and forgiveness of sins was accomplished.

Our minds cannot fathom such infinite love, yet we are told to walk in love just as Christ did. How is this even possible? We live in a fallen world, face temptations, and struggle with sin. In our humanity and self-effort, we have no ability to love like Christ. However, because we are God’s beloved children, His love can be expressed through us. He has given us a new nature (or self), which is created in His likeness in righteousness, holiness, and truth (Eph. 4:24). We also have Christ’s life flowing through us as we abide in Him (John 15:5), and the Holy Spirit dwelling within us produces the fruit of love in our heart. The entire Trinity is at work lavishing us with grace, which frees us to walk in love.

 

Our Love for Others

Christlike love isn’t achieved by working up emotional fervor for someone. Rather, His love for us was always manifested by action. He emptied Himself of His rights and privileges in order to give us what we desperately needed but could never achieve on our own: salvation. These same actions of selflessness, forgiveness, and sacrifice should become evident in our life as well when we walk in love.

  • Selfless Love. Being self-centered is part of the flesh nature we were born with, and the battle to overcome its sinful patterns continues after salvation. Our culture does us no favors because it promotes putting ourselves first and demanding our rights. However, Christlike love puts the interests and needs of others first and is willing to give up our rights. This is why Romans 14:13-15 says if we let our freedoms hurt a fellow believer, we are no longer walking according to love.

  • Christlike love isn’t achieved by working up emotional fervor for someone. Rather, His love for us was always manifested by action.

  • Forgiving Love. This expression of love is perhaps the most difficult because in our mind, those who wrong us deserve only justice and vengeance. Therefore, we must remember that we likewise were unworthy of God’s pardon, yet Jesus died for us so we could be forgiven. Having received such great love, we have no right to withhold forgiveness from anyone else.

  • Sacrificial Love. Sometimes extending love to others is costly, especially if the person is unlovable or abrasive. This, in fact, is how we all appeared to God before salvation, yet He loved us while we were still in that condition. Christ laid down His life for us; should we not be willing to sacrifice lesser things like convenience, time, or personal preferences in our love for others?

Christlike love begins in our mind as we come to know and believe the love that God has for us (1 John 4:16). If He hadn’t loved us first, we’d never be able to care for others (1 John 4:19). But His love now abides in us and, as we depend on Him, flows through our life to touch those around us. Although the Lord Himself teaches us to love, we must become imitators of God and put His loving ways into practice each day until doing so becomes the habit—or walk—of our life.

 

Reflect

Does loving others like Jesus seem too high a standard to attain? Although you will never be able to do it perfectly, that should never stop you from seeking to walk in love. Do you stop praying because you can’t do it flawlessly? If you tell a lie, do you abandon honesty and give yourself over to deceit? Of course not! Walking in Christlike love is learned through practice and dependence on the Lord. Each time you act in another person’s best interest instead of yielding to selfishness, ease, or convenience, you are imitating God and growing in love.

God’s love now abides in us and, as we depend on Him, flows through our life to touch those around us.

 

Pray

Heavenly Father, thank You for Your amazing love in sending Your Son as my Savior. Since Your love has been poured out within my heart through the Holy Spirit (Rom. 5:5), cause me to increase and abound in love for others in accordance with Your will (1 Thessalonians 3:12). In Jesus’ name. Amen.

 

Meditate

  • 1 Corinthians 13:4-7
  • Galatians 5:13-15
  • 1 John 3:17-18
 

Practice

Paul explained to the Thessalonians that they were taught by God Himself to love one another; then, after commending them for practicing love toward fellow believers, he urged them “to excel still more” (1 Thessalonians 4:9-10). This should be our ambition as well. The first step is to recognize when we are tempted to respond selfishly, hold on to a grudge, or insist on our rights, comforts, or privileges. Once we see our shortcomings, we should ask God to empower us to forsake our selfish tendencies so His love can freely flow through us to others.

 
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1 Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children;

2 and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma.

2 and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma.

6 who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped,

7 but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men.

8 Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

24 and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.

5 I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.

13 Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather determine this--not to put an obstacle or a stumbling block in a brother's way.

14 I know and am convinced in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself; but to him who thinks anything to be unclean, to him it is unclean.

15 For if because of food your brother is hurt, you are no longer walking according to love. Do not destroy with your food him for whom Christ died.

16 We have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.

19 We love, because He first loved us.

5 and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.

12 and may the Lord cause you to increase and abound in love for one another, and for all people, just as we also do for you;

4 Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant,

5 does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered,

6 does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth;

7 bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

13 For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.

14 For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF."

15 But if you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another.

17 But whoever has the world's goods, and sees his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him?

18 Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth.

9 Now as to the love of the brethren, you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves are taught by God to love one another;

10 for indeed you do practice it toward all the brethren who are in all Macedonia. But we urge you, brethren, to excel still more,

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