Explore the Bible Study: Compassionate

11:46 PM

What causes someone to hate another human being? What makes some people harder to love than others? Is it even possible to disagree with someone and still love them today? It seems that hate is much easier to express than love, especially during the times in which we are living. One must ask, “How did we get to this point in our society?” LifeWay's Explore the Bible Study: Compassionate, will give us instructions on how we are to overcome hate with love, but it's the kind of love that isn't easily or readily available to everyone.

If you listen to the news, you can find a wealth of reasons people use to justify their hate for other individuals. It might be because of their political views, the way they voted, the color of their skin, opinions they express on social media, their view of the COVID pandemic, or even their ancestral background. It seems anything can become a trigger for the unleashing of unbridled hate toward our fellow man. Jesus expects something different from those who profess Christ. He expects us to love as He loved. 

In Luke 6:27-31 Jesus outlines a different way that we are to love. 

We are to love our enemies. Do good to those who hate us. Bless those who curse us. Pray for those who mistreat us. We are not to retaliate when we are mistreated.  We are to treat others as we would like to be treated. 

If you go down your street asking your neighbors how they might identify Christians, would they respond by saying it was by their love for their enemies, how they bless those who curse them, how they pray for those who mistreat them, or how they respond to those who abuse them? Would they be able to include you in that list?  If that were to be the only criteria by which individuals assessed our commitment to Jesus Christ, where would most of us fall?

You need to understand that Jesus emphatically denies that any man or woman has the ability to fulfill this, in and of themselves. It is not just a moral imperative or a philosophical way of living that can somehow be attained by any human being on their own. It is impossible for mankind to love one other in this manner without Christ. 

Our knowing Christ doesn’t necessarily make this kind of love easy, because we battle our own human nature to hate, despise, or reject those who don’t act, think, look like, or agree with us. We desire to get something in return for our love and desire to return hate with hate. This is the perverted nature of love that is indicative of a sin-broken world. This is why we need a supernatural love that is only available outside of ourselves. 

God tells us in Romans 5:5 that God’s love has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us. It is His love that we are demonstrating, not our love. Philippians 2:13 tells us that our ability to love or to live our faith at all is only because “it is God who is working in you both to will and to work according to His good purpose.” It is a supernatural love that is only possible through the indwelling Spirit of God who produces His fruit of love in us—we call it the “fruit of the Spirit,” see Galatians 5:22-23.

Jesus goes on to describe what it means to love supernaturally in Luke 6:32-36.

The test of real, supernatural love is that it is unselfish. It expects nothing in return! When there is something given in return, then it doesn’t satisfy very long. Or when there isn’t a response then it usually produces bitterness, hatred, or anger because your actions didn’t get the response you expected. This isn’t agape love.

Agape love is much bigger, much greater, and much more rewarding. In verse 35, Jesus uses the contrasting conjunction "but" to emphasize the difference between these examples and the kind of love that believers should exhibit. Instead of loving only people who love us or from whom we get some type of return, we are to love, even our enemies, without any expectations. Christ’s law of love reaches past the expected to the undeserving and unexpected.

The challenge of loving as God loves.

We must all acknowledge that we are uncomfortable with trying to live out Jesus’ command to love in this manner. The Jesus way is very different than the narrative we hear daily. Yet it is the message, the command, the kind of love that can transform individuals, a society, and the world.

You can only change people’s hearts by loving them as Christ loved them – by giving them the gospel, by sharing and showing the good news of Jesus Christ. Some might think this kind of love is passive or silent, but that is not the case. Agape love requires us to speak out against godlessness, to defend the helpless, and to encourage the hopeless. If we allow the voices of descent to silence our love, then we fall prey to the temptation to replace agape love with the very hate and resentment that is reflected by the world.

The love of God and our command to love as God loved is woven like a never-ending thread throughout Scriptures beginning with creation when God loved us so much that He made man in His image. It is evident in the stories of God’s never-ending love for the Israelites and His desire for them to love Him and others in the same manner. In the New Testament, the thread continues, with God proving His agape love for us “in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). 

Believers are told to make it their life mission to develop this greatest character trait of all – love (1 Corinthians 13:13). We are to learn to love God and love our neighbor (Luke 10:27). 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 tells us that this love is to be patient and kind. It does not envy, is not boastful, is not arrogant, is not rude, is not self-seeking, is not irritable, does not keep a record of wrongs. It finds no joy in unrighteousness but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. This love never ends!

One would think that loving other believers might be the easiest expression, yet we struggle with this as well. This has been evident by how believers are treating one another today because of differing views, opinions, and ideologies. We must rally together and provide a picture of Christ’s love to a world so devoid of authentic love. This is why Jesus says, “I give you a new command: Love one another. Just as I have loved you, you are also to love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:35). This is our job, our calling, our mission.

As I close, I pray as Paul prayed in Ephesians 3:17-19: “I pray that you, being rooted and firmly established in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the length and width, height and depth of God’s love, and to know Christ’s love that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God,” and, might I add, so that you can go out and lovingly share and show the good news of Jesus to world that is in so much need of God's love today.

The Bible study helps have been modified in order to provide opportunities for both online and face-to-face teaching venues. Ideas in boxes will be provided for engaging groups more when meeting in person. The boxed items could also be modified and used for online discussion as well. 

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