The human body is made up of over 200 bones tied together by tendons and ligaments. Skin and muscle surround the bone, giving the skeletal framework a substance and grace that would otherwise be lacking. The bones provide the framework on which all the tissues sit The bones give strength and stability to the entire body. The proper movement of the body is dependent upon a relatively small body part. The ligaments and tendons tie bone to bone and bone to muscle. Without those bonds the nicely shaped body could do absolutely nothing.
Love is the ligament that binds together all the graces of the Christian life. The many righteous words, deeds and attitudes which are to characterize the Christian life find their source in love. Love produces the right behavior to all others. Love fulfills all the commands of the law. Love perfects the expression of Christian kindness. Without love words of kindness, patience with others or a quiet demeanor are empty. Without love the most selfless act is as beautiful as the racket made by a toddler with a wooden spoon and a kitchen pot.
In 1 Corinthians 13, while talking about love, Paul says, “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.” Love is the binding force which makes all the other Christian graces both possible and present in the Christian’s life.
What is love? American culture has defined love in many different ways. The Bible presents a consistent description of love that is contrary to popular understanding. Love is a commitment to do what is best for another no matter the cost or how the other may respond. Love is a choice made for another’s good. Scripture commands the believer to make the choice to do what is loving at all times. The commitment of love does not spring for a compelling feeling for someone. The commitment of love is a commitment to do what is best regardless of the personal emotional response at the time. Love is committed to doing those things which show the infinite value of the person by bringing real, tangible and eternal benefit to another. This kind of love is a difficult model to imitate, but this real, Biblical love is the defining feature of the Christian.
Biblical love has it’s source in Christ. It is understood only by understanding the love of Jesus and how His love was made known to men. The love of the believer begins in the love of God for the believer. Biblical love first responds to God’s love with love for God. Christian love relies on the Holy Spirit then turns to others in imitation of Christ’s love. The believers love for others flows out of the spring of God’s love, wells up in the heart of the Spirit filled Christian, pours out of the believer, branches into many streams and nourishes a wide delta of compassion.