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Guest Blog: A Godly Love

Author: Joshua Barrera M.Div., Guest Blogger for Foundations by ICM

 

With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, you may be one of the thousands of people hurrying to find the perfect gift for your significant other. As the holiday approaches, few of us stop to think about what our culture teaches about love and romance this time of year. But only a moment’s glance at your local, mega-retail store speaks volumes – hundreds of various chocolates, flowers galore, and unique cards or love notes. Our culture tells us daily (but most strongly during Valentine’s Day) that love is demonstrated through gifting one another “stuff.” 

Jesus offers us a different perspective on love. In fact, He presents us with a different kind of love altogether. In John 13, as Jesus prepares for his mission to the Cross, He leaves the disciples one final, crucial lesson about love. 

Godly love is displayed through willful servanthood

 

A Demonstration of Love

“Jesus…rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him.” (John 13:3-5 ESV)

There are two important aspects of Godly love that we need to understand: intention and action. 

 

Willful Love

Love is willful servanthood because it involves intentional choice. I think back to when I first began dating the woman who would later become my wife. Those stomach butterflies, the heart skipping, and the persistent desire to make her happy were all guided by natural, organic feelings of love. I responded to those feelings of love by making the intentional, willful choice to love. I did not need to be told to bring her flowers or to spend time with her. I chose to do those things of my own accord because I wanted to.

In a similar way (in a more complete way), the Bible describes the Trinity as Three Persons in a constant, perfect, harmonious relationship with one another. There is no greater display of unity nor greater display of love as what is seen in the Godhead. The Father loves the Son who loves the Spirit who loves the Father, and on and on it goes. When Jesus stepped down to the earth and took the form of a man, He did so with the intent of welcoming humanity into that Trinitarian relationship. God loves us of his own volition with a passion far deeper than anything we have ever experienced. 

 

Servant Love

Love is willful servanthood because actions reveal, portray, and prove love. 

In today’s culture, we casually toss the word “love” around and use it as though it is similar to the word “like.” For example, we might say, “I love pizza” or “I love rock and roll.” Love in those cases means something completely different from when we say “I love you” to our spouses. Using the term “love” so broadly actually cheapens its meaning and causes us to use the word carelessly. Would your partner believe you when you say “I love you” if after saying so, you disrespect and hurt them? Of course not! Love must be backed with specific actions. Fortunately, Jesus reveals in this passage exactly what actions love takes. 

 

Humble Love

Oftentimes, the significance of Jesus washing his disciples’ feet is lost on us. During that time, people traveled in sandals long distances across dirt or sand roads. Their feet were disgusting. The kind of love that Jesus shows them here is remarkable…far more meaningful than a box of chocolates might be. The Lord and Creator of all things, the Son of God, humbled himself and took the role of a servant. 

First, love means humbling ourselves. Jesus didn’t just pour a cup of wine for the disciples he loved so much. He did the dirtiest, lowliest task in service to them. He didn’t think for a moment that His being God should prevent Him from doing a servant’s work. No, He loved them. Enough to forgo his status and do the work of someone far below Him. 

“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves” (Philippians 2:3 ESV). Can you relate to this? Do we intentionally seek out the most difficult and humbling tasks to show love to our spouses? Are we not only willing but joyfully seeking to deal with the nitty-gritty chores of looking after our children? Do you view humbling yourself as a way to love others? 

 

Sacrificial Love

Second, love requires sacrifice. It means taking the needs of others and putting them before your own. Jesus again sets the example, most prominently in His death on the Cross. God so loved the world, that Jesus willingly walked to His death to save us. 

While we struggle with selfish desires, Jesus had already made the ultimate sacrifice on our behalf. “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). 

Christians are called to have this same kind of godly love for all people. 

 

Godly Love

If Jesus will wash the disciples’ feet out of love, then we are called to follow in His footsteps. “I have given you an example,” He said, “that you also should do just as I have done to you” (John 13:15 ESV). 

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another” (John 13:34 ESV).

For Christians, passionate love for Jesus ought to be constant and persistent. We should be “Delighting in the Trinity,” as Michael Reeves puts it. We are instructed to love others in the same way that Christ loves the Church, both humbly and self-sacrificially. What does that look like in your relationships – your family, your friends, your coworkers? As our culture prepares to celebrate their understanding of love, Christians should strive to show the love of a willful servant. In doing so, “all people will know that you are my disciples if you have love for one another” (John 13:35 ESV).

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