God insists that love characterize our lives as it does his. He wants love to be an affection that fills our hearts so that our hands engage in loving acts. The heart affection is what makes our hands’ actions authentic. Love is firstly the affection of the heart that arises as we view someone or something as valuable. Then, secondly, love is the appropriate action that expresses our affection. Actions apart from this affection are meaningless, like “noisy gongs or clanging cymbals.” To engage in activities that look like love but don’t proceed from a loving affection are particularly detrimental to us. Our “love” becomes hypocritical, which it shouldn’t (Romans 12:9), and does not benefit us, which it should (1 Corinthians 13:3). Because it seems to be difficult for us to sincerely and earnestly love one another from the heart (1 Peter 1:22), God encourages us in our efforts by telling us how everyone will benefit when we do as he asks. Considering the following encouragements will help us when we are struggling to fine tune our faith so that it will truly work itself out in love for those around us (Galatians 5:6).
In addition to all of these virtues (compassion, useful kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering patience, and grace) clothe yourselves with love, because love is the glue that perfectly binds them all together. Colossians 3:14
Love is like the thread that turns pieces of cloth into a garment. Love is like the “life of the party.” We might be gathered together with good friends, enjoying one another’s company, but still sensing that something is missing until … until that one special person walks into the room. Love is like the piece of jewelry that completes an outfit we’re putting together; without it we’re just wearing clothes. Love is like the bassline of a good piece of music; without it we feel cheated of the intended effect. Love is like the glue that binds the layers of plywood. Love is like the ligaments that hold our bones together. We feel the truth of these similes, even if we should mix them up as Paul did. Viewing someone as having value in our eyes generates an affection that enables us to live with integrity as whole people. It allows us to bring all of the virtues we develop into play together, seamlessly. When we are motivated by love for the people in our community, we can relax, knowing that we can accommodate ourselves to their needs and weaknesses. As we choose to treasure people, as God chose to treasure us, we can recruit and coordinate all of our spiritual muscles with deftness and dexterity to serve them effectively and joyfully.
Lord Jesus, as I clothe myself with love, open my eyes so I can see clearly how best to activate my love for each person you bring to me.