We are constantly presented with a worldly love. This love has reservations, counter-act behaviours, alliances, pre-set and constantly changing conditions. “If you, then I…”; “because he didn’t, therefore I…”; “I don’t feel like…”; “but it is normal to…”; “everybody does it…”. This love is fear and feeling driven.
In stark contrast, Christ’s love is unconditional. According to Dr. Bob Utley, verses 8-10 emphasise the priority of our love firstly as covenant children of God (Matt. 22:39-40; John 13:34-35) as well as fellow human beings (cf. Matt. 5:42; Gal. 6:10).
We are indebted to love one another (verse 8) – Christians and non-Christians. Love fulfils what the Mosaic Law demands. It is a call to intentional lifestyle of Christ-like love to both Christian brothers and sisters and those who have not experienced the love of Christ and have come to know Him personally. Notice that only love, not human rule-keeping, can truly fulfil the Law, as Jesus did on the cross.
Reference is made to the Ten Commandments – all of which are not selfish or hurtful to any neighbour. Jesus refers to “You shall love your neighbour as yourself”, quoted from Leviticus 19:18, as the second great command. In our love relationship with God, we will love what He loves. Believers must love themselves as God loves them – failure to do this makes it difficult to love and accept others. Appropriate self-love is not evil. It includes accepting Christ’s forgiveness for sins – accepting also that Christ has forgiven others for their sins. Christ like love does not harm my neighbour with my words or actions. God’s love is a self-giving, sacrificial love and in the presence of this kind of love, “laws” fall away – it becomes unnecessary, as it is automatically fulfilled (verse 10).
Verse 11-12 calls us all to action. Sleep is used as a metaphor for our laxity and moral carelessness. The time is now to do what is right and good and not waste time. There is an urgency in this verse – the time for slackness is over. The Lord is about to reveal His salvation, redeeming the lost and setting things right (Isaiah 56:1). The end is near – Jesus is about to return – and this summons us to put off all evil works and live in the light today. The words “cast off” are a reference to Col 3:8 “anger, wrath, slander and obscene talk from your mouth”. Be clothed in the garment of Jesus’s salvation and His righteousness – the armour of light. This is an allusion to Isa. 59:17.
Light cannot be hidden – we are therefore called to live as an example, in our thoughts, deeds and actions, amidst the fears of the world for the sick, the poor, the rejected. He has “crowned man with glory and honour” (Ps 8:6). Who then are we to disrespect, dishonour, neglect, discredit, gossip about, lie to, betray or tear apart our neighbour? Decent living must characterize the children of the light. Behaviour such as drunkenness, sexual immorality, orgies, dissipation, jealousy, orgies and quarrelling breaks down the testimony of what Christ has done for us.
God’s righteous armour is available to us, but we need to recognize our need, recognize that God provides in this need and then personally and intentionally implement it in our daily thought and life. Honouring the Lord in our daily lives as we draw closer through a personal relationship with Him. Paul knew very well that the lusts of our flesh are a continuing struggle and we are therefore called to stop an act that is already in process. Through the power of Jesus this is possible, for we cannot do this on our own.
We cannot love or forgive on our own. The blood of the King most high, was enough to buy us back from the darkness. Through His Son, Jesus Christ, we are free to love, serve, give and go where He has called us to. He says in Deuteronomy 30:14 that His word is very near to us. It is in our mouths and in our hearts – we have been empowered to obey His commands.
To think about: Have we thought that love is intentional? Christ’s sacrifice on the cross was an intentional act of love that has no end.
Written by: Elzaan de Villiers, Co-Founder: Building Hope Foundation and a trained Churches Channels of Hope facilitator