I love Pastor Voddie Baucham's definition of love: "Love is an act of the will accompanied by emotion that leads to action on behalf of its object." *
Man, I want to love like that!
God’s standard of love is high and impossible for me to live out apart from His Spirit. Just take a look at Romans 12:9-21:
9 “Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good.
10 Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.
11 Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord.
12 Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.
13 Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.
14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them.
15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.
16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight.
17 Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. 18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.
19 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”
20 To the contrary, ‘if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.’
21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”
The fact that God commands this standard of me is not just daunting to me but is simply impossible to carry out in my own strength and by my own instinct (which is naturally selfish). Still, the impossibility of me to obey this high standard to which He calls me does not negate the fact that He still calls me to this high standard! There is an answer to this dilemma though. God graciously gives us His empowering Spirit when we first believe, and He graciously fills us with His Spirit as we humbly ask Him to do so. We seek to be continually filled with the Spirit in prayer, through the Word (and particularly through the example of Jesus), by walking in the light before our brothers and sisters, through the counsel of those who know and love Him, and as we spend time in worship of Him, etc. So when I fail to meet this standard of love (as I frequently do) I must humbly go to God in repentance and dependence, asking to be filled by Him. When I do not feel the genuine affection of love, I must still follow through with the actions of love—however, I also must fall on my knees before my gracious Father and pray for the heart of love. After all, God cares about the heart or motives of my actions as much as He cares about the actions that flow from them. And ultimately, if all I have are actions without heart, then my actions are meaningless.
*For more from Voddie Baucham: