Terry R Baughman is Lead Pastor for LifeChurch in Gilbert, AZ. See his complete bio at trbaughman.com
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Proof of Our Love
Living in Relationship with Jesus
Terry R. Baughman
“In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another” (1 John 4:10–11).
Jesus changes everything! The God who, “so loved the world,” and “became flesh and dwelt among us,” challenged the status quo of relationships. He stated the traditional view of His culture (what now may be called the politically correct view) and then elevated the conversation to a higher level of love and respect. Jesus taught in the Sermon on the Mount, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you” (Matthew 5:43–44).
The God of love expects us to love others also. He challenges us to move beyond the expected retort and reciprocal reaction into the unexpected response. It is easy to love those who love us and do good to those who have shown us favor. It’s not so easy, if not impossible, to love those who are spiteful, sarcastic, and hateful in their demeanor and actions towards us. The only way to love such a one is to have the high view of heaven and recognize that there is a spirit in this world that opposes all that are representatives of that heavenly kingdom. We know God loves every individual, no matter how vile and cruel they may be. Only by His Spirit and His empowering can we break the bitter separation of satan’s kingdom to invade the world with the Savior’s love.
The sterling quality of every disciple of Christ is that they have love for one another. Repeatedly in Scripture Jesus reminds us, “By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35, also see 13:34, 15:12, 17). The quality that sets apart the Christ-follower from others in the culture should be their demonstrated love for God and other people. God’s love being evident in all our relationships is the defining proof of our love for God.
Relationships are holistic. It must always be more than “me and Jesus.” The very nature of a relationship with God requires relationship with others. Before we can claim to love God we must also love one another. John said, “If someone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen? And this commandment we have from Him: that he who loves God must love his brother also” (1 John 4:20–21). Before we can profess love for a transcendent God we must learn to love those with feet on the ground.
The vertical direction of our relationship with God is totally dependent upon the horizontal relationship with humanity. We cannot communicate with God to the exclusion of everyone else around us. We cannot insulate and isolate ourselves from all communication with humans just so we can claim some exclusive connectivity with the Almighty. The only way we can love God is to build relationships with His creation and allow His voice to communicate love through us.
God’s church, His followers, are His representatives in the world. The only way the created ones will ever know God and His infinite love is to first experience it in the interactions they have with His people. Our love for others will be the proof of our relationship with God.
“Adam’s one sin brings condemnation for everyone, but Christ’s one act of righteousness brings a right relationship with God and new life for everyone” (Romans 5:18 NLT).