You’ve probably experienced it before. You do a simple activity like cooking a meal for yourself and it is boring and uninteresting. But you cook a meal for a homeless person and it is full of joy, significance and meaning.
You dig a hole in your yard for planting a shrub and it is all you can do to finish the backbreaking job without complaining about the hardiness of the soil or the aches and pains you will have in your back tomorrow. It’s tiring, arduous and not overly fun. But when you dig a 20-foot trench for an irrigation pipe for orphans in Africa it is exciting, inspiring and meaningful. Why?
What is it about serving and loving others that changes us and our attitudes?
I visit the prison every 3 weeks to see a man locked up for life. I always leave feeling thankful, blessed and overwhelmed by God.
Each time I go to the nursing home to visit I am encouraged, humbled and leave feeling like God is good and his love is wonderful.
What is it about loving others that seems to fulfill me?
I ran across this verse a few months back and have been allowing it to rattle around in my brain for some time now. I don’t know exactly what it all means but here’s my stab at it.
1 John 4:12: “No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.”
When reading this, two initial responses come to mind.
- I want God’s love to be “made complete” in me. I don’t really know what that totally means but I want it.
- Loving other people is important and it is somehow connected to what God wants to do in me
Perfect in Christ
When thinking about this idea of being “made complete” I am reminded of Paul’s encouragement to the Philippians in 1:6: “I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” God in his amazing power will someday make everything perfect in me. All my sin, doubt and shame will be completely wiped clean like a dry erase marker. What a good day that will be!
With that said, I know I am deemed perfect in Christ now, but it is not until then that I will be presented perfect in Christ. In other words, my faith in Jesus’ final work on the cross puts me in the middle of that promise that God will make me perfect… someday… but I am still in process now. There is still work to be done.
It helps to know the end state but what does that mean for my life now??
God at Work
So does God do all the work to make me complete on the last day (day of Jesus Christ) or is there something in this for me now?? I think the answer comes a few verses later in 9 and 10.
Philippians 1:9-10: “And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ”
Starting at the end of the verses and working my way back here is what I conclude:
- The end state of “completeness” is to be made pure and blameless.
- Discerning what is “best” leads me closer to this end state of “completeness.”
- Abounding love and deepening insight leads me to discerning what is “best.”
It seems at the heart of all this is the word love. Paul’s prayer is that my love would be abounding and growing in insight so that I would be able to discern what is best and so be pure and blameless for Christ. One leads to another, which leads to another.
Abounding love –> discerning what is best –> purity and blamelessness
Is it surprising at all that love would be the key to the riddle of completeness?
God designed people to love him and love others. The more we seek to grow in knowledge and insight about God the bigger that reality becomes. When a life becomes aligned with God it operates as God operates…with love. Moreover, God then uses this life overflowing with love (abounding) to shape us into what he desires on that final day (purity and blamelessness). It’s quite spectacular if you ask me!!
What should our abounding love look like?
I think Paul addresses this question in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7:
“If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing. Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”
When our life is characterized with this kind of love – manifested, refined and worked in us by God – we inch ever closer to being who God is shaping us to be. And the reality is I feel that when I serve.
That’s why digging a trench for the benefit of orphans is satisfying. That’s why making a meal and serving it to the poor is gratifying. That’s why hugging a senior in the nursing home or visiting a prisoner is fulfilling. It’s because when I do those things for the benefit of others I am being who God made me to be! It’s these sacrificial, humble, simple acts of love fueled by the reality of God’s truth that complete God’s love in me. (1 John 4:12)
Being people who act
As the church we absolutely cannot miss this! We grow best when we are serving others! When we give ourselves away to others God does a work in us, and that work is the process of making us complete. We can learn through good instruction and sound teaching, but we really cannot grow if we remain uninvolved in the ministry of loving others.
Friends let’s not sit back and idly wait for the day of perfection, no let’s be people who act. Let’s be people who rely on God’s promise, and look for opportunities to learn and experience more of God through engaging in loving acts towards others. God wants to refine your faith and shape your life and he will do that as you pour it out on behalf of another. Don’t just sit idle, solve the riddle and be made more complete through the act of loving others.
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