The Love of Your Life
The Love of Your Life
In February 1977, Bishop Festo Kivengere was part of a group of church leaders who delivered a letter of protest to the dictator, Idi Amin, speaking out against the beatings, arbitrary killings and unexplained disappearances taking place across Uganda at that time. The next day, Festo Kivengere’s friend and leader, Archbishop Janani Luwum was murdered by Idi Amin and Bishop Festo was driven into hiding and then exile.
Soon afterwards, Festo Kivengere published a book entitled I Love Idi Amin. In the book he explained the extraordinary title: ‘The Holy Spirit showed me that I was getting hard in my spirit… so I had to ask for forgiveness from the Lord, and for grace to love President Amin more… this was fresh air for my tired soul. I knew I had seen the Lord and been released: love filled my heart.’
Love is more than a feeling or an emotion. It is a decision about how we treat one another. Jesus was the supreme example of love in the history of the world. He tells us to love God, to love one another (John 13:34–35), to love our neighbour as ourselves and even to love our enemies. He demonstrates all this in his own life through loving everyone (even Judas who betrayed him as we see in today’s passage), and laying down his life for us all in love.
Love GodPsalm 66:13-20
When you are in trouble do you ever make a promise that if God were to answer your prayer you will do something (… or you won’t do something ever again!)? The psalmist made such a promise – and when his prayer was answered he fulfilled his promise. He wrote, ‘I will… fulfil my vows to you – vows my lips promised and my mouth spoke when I was in trouble’ (vv.13–14).
God loves you. He does not withhold his love from you. The psalmist praises God: ‘He stayed with me, loyal in his love’ (v.20, MSG). Your love for God and others is a response to his love for you. ‘We love because he first loved us’ (1 John 4:19).
God, in his love for you, hears and answers your prayers. If you want to enjoy God’s love to the full, experience answered prayer and show your love for him, there is one thing you need to avoid: the psalmist writes, ‘If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened’ (Psalm 66:18).
If there is sin in the past, you can confess it and repent of it and be forgiven. What really blocks our relationship with God is if we deliberately plan to sin in the future. Then we cannot come into God’s presence with a clear conscience. This blocks the experience of his love.
It is because God, in his love ‘has surely listened and heard my voice in prayer’ (v.19), that in response the psalmist wants other people to listen to him: ‘Come and listen, all you who fear God; let me tell you what he has done for me’ (v.16). It is so encouraging to hear other people’s testimonies about what God has done in their lives. It inspires the rest of us and increases our faith.
Lord, thank you for your forgiveness, mercy and love. Thank you for the many times when you have listened and heard my voice in prayer (v.19). ‘Praise be to God, who has not rejected my prayer or withheld his love from me!’ (v.20).
Love one anotherJohn 13:18-38
Nothing is more of a hindrance to the message of Jesus than a lack of love between Christians. If our nations are to be changed, if people are going to turn back to following Jesus, we must start loving one another. This means loving Christians of different churches, denominations, traditions and different views to ourselves.
It means loving one another in the local church. Disunity destroys. Love unites. Love attracts others to the person of Jesus. Loving God and loving one another in Jesus’ name must be our overall ambition above all others. That is the kind of love that can change the world.
Here we have three men (Judas, Peter and John, author of John’s Gospel) who have radically different relationships with Jesus. They represent each of us at different moments in our lives.
John, the beloved disciple, knew the love of Jesus in a very intimate way. Of all the disciples he was the closest friend of Jesus. He was the one dwelling next to him (v.23). Four times in this Gospel, John describes himself as ‘the disciple whom Jesus loved’: here (v.23), at the cross (19:26), at the empty tomb (20:2) and with the risen Jesus (21:20). He reveals that we are all called to be in close communion with Jesus.
Out of this intimate experience of Jesus’ love, John’s Gospel and letters speak so much about love. He records that Jesus told his disciples, ‘A new command I give you: love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another’ (13:34–35).
People fail to love for different reasons. Judas betrays Jesus in spite of being so close to him: ‘He who shares my bread has lifted up his heel against me’ (v.18). Satan entered into him (v.27). Here we see the very opposite of love. Judas hated love. He was in revolt against Jesus. Yet Jesus continued to love Judas.
Peter loved Jesus. But he was a complex personality with a very human vision of Jesus and his mission. Peter said that he would lay down his life for Jesus (v.37), but Jesus tells him, ‘You will disown me three times’ (v.38). And that is what Peter did (18:15–18,25–27). Yet Jesus continued to love Peter.
Jesus sets before you this amazing challenge: ‘As I have loved you, so you must love one another’ (13:34). Jesus loved you by laying down his life for you. He says that you are to follow his example and show self-sacrificial love. This is the mark of a true Christian. ‘By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another’ (v.35).
Love is the most effective form of evangelism. When people see real love they see God. The best way to start to tell people about Jesus is to love them and to love other followers of Jesus.
Generally, in the world, people get into groups with people they are naturally attracted to and who think the same way as them. We are meant to be quite different. The church of Jesus Christ brings us together with a variety of people from different backgrounds, of different interests, different ages, ethnicities, races, perspectives, lifestyles, opinions and different views: all who love one another.
Lord, help us to love one another as you have loved us. May we see a new love between Christians of all churches, denominations and traditions in the local, national and global church. May the world be changed by our love.
Love like God1 Samuel 13:1-14:23
There are times in your life when you may feel outnumbered by problems – illness, temptation, attacks on your faith and so on – but God is able to save you when he acts on your behalf. However much you seem to be outnumbered by your enemies, when the Lord acts on your behalf you will be saved.
Trust God not just when things are going well, but also in the difficult times. God is looking for men and women of faith.
Samuel said, ‘The Lord has sought out a man after his own heart and appointed him leader of his people’ (13:14).
God’s heart is full of love, compassion, mercy, justice and creativity. He is looking for people who are like him – like Jesus. Only the work of the Holy Spirit in your heart can make you like Jesus.
Saul failed. God had told Saul to wait until Samuel arrived. When Samuel was delayed, the people became restless. Saul cared more about what the people thought than what God thought. He became impatient and panicked (vv.6–12), just as we so often do. Learn to be more patient – to wait for God to act – and not panic if little things go wrong. Do not rush into rash decisions in the heat of the moment.
Jonathan, on the other hand, trusted ultimately in God’s love. He said ‘Perhaps the Lord will act on our behalf. Nothing can hinder the Lord from saving, whether by many or by few’ (14:6).
Lord, please give me a heart like yours – a heart of love. Help me to trust in your unfailing love. Thank you that your love is poured into my heart by the Holy Spirit, who has been given to me (Romans 5:5). Lord, please pour your love into my heart today.
‘By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.’
I remember the first time I came across a group of young Christians working together. I was so struck by their unconditional love for me and for each other that I desperately wanted to be part of this group. Hopefully that is what people experience coming to the Sunday services, coming on Alpha and getting involved with any other church community – that people are struck by the love they have for one another.
Verse of the Day
‘As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another’ (John 13:34–35).
Festo Kivengere, I Love Idi Amin (Marshall, Morgan and Scott, 1977).
Unless otherwise stated, Scripture quotations taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version Anglicised, Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 Biblica, formerly International Bible Society. Used by permission of Hodder & Stoughton Publishers, an Hachette UK company. All rights reserved. ‘NIV’ is a registered trademark of Biblica. UK trademark number 1448790.
Scripture marked (MSG) taken from The Message. Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.