14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.
The distinguishing mark of a believer in Christ Jesus is love. The word used for “love” is the Greek word “agape.” This specific word refers to a love that is self-sacrificing and is focused on the benefit of others. This is a truly divine love modeled by Jesus’ death on the cross. Taking all the sin of man upon Himself, He willingly laid down His own life, suffering death on a cross for the sake of God’s love for us. That is the example of love Christians follow. Christians are to exemplify dying to self so that others can delight in life! Paul explains the nature of Christians’ ministry in 2 Corinthians 4:11-12. “For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death is at work in us, but life in you.” The love that Paul exhorts Christians to display is intense. It goes beyond feelings and simple displays of affections. This kind of love gives itself over to death for that sake of others. Is there a greater binding power than this kind of love?
The love of Jesus breaks through every barrier and creates a connection that transcends this earth. When Jesus died on the cross, he bore the sins of all mankind on the cross. He bore the sins of all nationalities, all dispositions, all types of people. John states it well when he says that Jesus “is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.” Jesus’ love does not select types or races of people. Rather, His love breaks through barriers of all types and brings salvation to any who believe. Galatians 3:28 states, “there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Christ has removed all divisions and segregations that mankind has been beholden to.
In considering this kind of love, the church ought to be the place in which every tribe, tongue, and nation brings their own unique expression of worship into the symphony of love for God’s glory and presence. The love of Jesus not only removes all barriers, it also unites those who believe in praise to God. The church should mirror that reality. It is a sad reality that churches in the west do not reflect the variety of God’s creation. Our churches lack diversity and yet we proclaim a love that transcends cultural divides. So, to my brothers and sisters in leadership in the American church, we must do better. We must love well every person in our neighborhood and seek out those who do not have the same cultural background. This is not simply a justice issue! This is more than that. This is a love issue. We cannot rightly display the love of God if we are unwilling to express that love beyond our own race, culture, or creed.
Moreover, those who direct worship must exemplify this kind of love by displaying the various creative methodologies for worship! Incorporate art and poetry into your services. Utilize dance and drama to the display of His glorious might! Paul uses the musical metaphor to describe love here because the display of love is inherently musical to God! As we display His love on this earth, we join the symphony of praise in creation and display His very creative nature. I contend that we can do more! We can express the praise of God through art, speeches, poetry, displays of kindness, giving, service… etc. Explore the avenues to express the love of Christ and do not tie yourself or your people down to songs, prayer, and sermons alone. God is infinitely giving His love, our praise of His glory ought to display that love infinitely!
Notice, this love that has set us free from sin also binds all things together. Indeed, in the end, all things will be bound together by the love of God. As God restores and re-creates the earth in the book of Revelation, all things will be united in worship of His glory. Yet, this unity need not wait in the heart of Christian community. It is possible, now, for the church to mirror such radical culture defying love. As people join the true Christian community through faith in Jesus Christ, that community should so radically reflect the love of Jesus that diversity of culture and expression would be explosively manifest in the church! Let us strive for such a love. A love that transcends all else – the love of Jesus made manifest in His people, revealing the very nature of God to a dying world.
There is much more to say about the implications of the transcendent love as the greatest mark of a Christian. It is not my intention to exhaust the inexhaustible love of God and the subsequent manifestation of that divine attribute. What are some of the implications and applications that you see? Let’s chat about them! Put them in the comments below!