Authentic Love in Action


Grace means there is nothing I can do to make God love me more, and nothing I can do to make God love me less. It means that I, even I who deserve the opposite, am invited to take my place at the table in God’s family. Philip Yancey, What’s So Amazing About Grace?

What Is Authentic Love?

Jesus revealed the greatest love possible.

12 “This is my command: Love one another as I have loved you. 13 No one has greater love than this: to lay down his life for his friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command you. 15 I do not call you servants anymore, because a servant doesn’t know what his master is doing. I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything I have heard from my Father. John 15:12-15 CSB

1 Corinthians 13 tell us what genuine love is.

4 Love is patient, love is kind, is not jealous, does not brag, is not puffed up; 5 it does not act unbecomingly, does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered; 6 it does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; 7 it bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 8 Love never fails, but if there are gifts of prophecy, they will be done away; if there are tongues, they will cease; if there is knowledge, it will be done away. 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 LSB

These same verses in 1 Corinthians 13 can also be used to describe what love isn’t.

Impatient. Unkind. Boastful. Puffed up. Acts unbecomingly. Seeks its own. Provoked. Takes into account a wrong suffered. Rejoices in unrighteousness and not with the truth. Doesn’t bear all things. Doesn’t believe all things. Doesn’t hope in all things. Doesn’t endure all things. Fails.

God has demonstrated His love for us.

7 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. 8 He who does not love does not know God, for God is love. 9 In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. 10 In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has seen God at any time. If we love one another, God abides in us, and His love has been perfected in us. 13 By this we know that we abide in Him, and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit. 14 And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son as Savior of the world. 15 Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. 16 And we have known and believed the love that God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him. 17 Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness in the day of judgment; because as He is, so are we in this world. 18 There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love. 19 We love Him because He first loved us. 20 If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen? 21 And this commandment we have from Him: that he who loves God must love his brother also. 1 John 4:7-21 NKJV

Verses 9-10 tell us how God demonstrated His love for us.

9 In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. 10 In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 1 John 4:9-10 NKJV

Did we do anything to deserve God’s love? Could we do anything to deserve God’s love?

Why we ought to love one another and love God are given in verses 11 and 19.

11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 1 John 4:11 NKJV

19 We love Him because He first loved us. 1 John 4:19 NKJV

What do you think fear does to love and love to fear?

18 There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love. 1 John 4:18

Loving Unselfishly

Many people have learned only to coexist with others: “If you do your part, I’ll do mine.” This conditional type of giving is not true love. God wants us to say, “I will love you even if I receive nothing in return.” God forms this selfless giving and loving in our attitudes and actions. Yet there is something else. In order to love selflessly, we must have enough energy and fullness to give love. It is from God’s love filling us up that we are able to love others unselfishly.

Who Should Followers of Jesus Love?

The Lord Your God

5 You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. Deuteronomy 6:5 NASB95

37 And He said to him, “ ‘YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND.’ >38 This is the great and foremost commandment.” Matthew 22:37-38 NASB95

Your Enemies

27 “But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, … Luke 6:27 NASB95

One Another

8 Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins. 1 Peter 4:8 NASB95

Why did the Lord Jesus place such an emphasis on demonstrating love?

34 “I give you a new command: Love one another. Just as I have loved you, you are also to love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:34-35 CSB

Every one of us has legitimate God-given needs.

16 This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. 17 If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? 18 Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth. 1 John 3:16-18 NIV

Do you see the relationship between loving people and meeting their needs in these verses? Why is it important that we allow our own needs to be met by receiving love from others?

Loving in Humility

Humility comes from having the right perspective toward God and toward yourself. It has to do with who you trust. The verses below tell us something about humility.

23 This is what the LORD says:
“Let not the wise boast of their wisdom
or the strong boast of their strength
or the rich boast of their riches,
24 but let the one who boasts boast about this:
that they have the understanding to know me,
that I am the LORD, who exercises kindness,
justice and righteousness on earth,
for in these I delight,”
declares the LORD. Jeremiah 9:23-24 NIV

4 Such confidence we have through Christ before God. 5 Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God. 2 Corinthians 3:4-5 NIV

3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility consider others as more important than yourselves. 4 Everyone should look not to his own interests, but rather to the interests of others. Philippians 2:3-4 CSB

God opposes the proud person, but gives grace is response to the humble person.

5 You younger men, likewise, be subject to your elders. And all of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for GOD IS OPPOSED TO THE PROUD, BUT GIVES GRACE TO THE HUMBLE. 6 Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, … 1 Peter 5:5-6 LSB

Why do you think God places such a high value on humility in a person’s life?

What happens to people who humble themselves? Give an example from real life where someone who humbled himself was later exalted.

3 For through the grace given to me I say to each one among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound thinking, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith. Romans 12:3 LSB

What do you think are the results of overestimating yourself?
What do you think are the results of underestimating yourself?

Any preoccupation with self is pride.
Pride is thinking too highly of self: “I do not want to trust God. God’s work can’t get along without me!”
Pride is also thinking too lowly of self: “I cannot trust God. God can’t do anything through me!”

Look at our Lord and Savior’s example of humility, trust, love, obedience, and exaltation from Philippians 2:5-11.

5 Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, 6 who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, 7 but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. 9 Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, 11 and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Philippians 2:5-11 NKJV

Who did Jesus trust?
How did Jesus exercise humility?
What motivated Him to love so unselfishly?
How did God the Father respond to Jesus’ attitude?
How would you articulate your own growth in love and humility?

Loving in Speech

Loving words can meet people’s needs.

25 Anxiety in the heart of man causes depression, But a good word makes it glad. Proverbs 12:25 NKJV

4 “The Lord GOD has given Me
The tongue of the learned,
That I should know how to speak
A word in season to him who is weary.
He awakens Me morning by morning,
He awakens My ear
To hear as the learned. Isaiah 50:4 NKJV

29 No foul language should come from your mouth, but only what is good for building up someone in need, so that it gives grace to those who hear. Ephesians 4:29 CSB

6 Let your words always be with grace, seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should answer each person. Colossians 4:6 LSB

How have you experienced verbal love from others? How do you typically respond to affirmation from others? Who is someone you could love through kind, encouraging, or affirming words? What could you say?

There are also things to avoid. Some of them are listed below.

Avoid verbal incontinence.

19 When words are many, sin is not absent,
but he who holds his tongue is wise. Proverbs 10:19 NIV84

Avoid repeating offenses to others.

9 He who covers over an offense promotes love,
but whoever repeats the matter separates close friends. Proverbs 17:9 NIV84

Don’t praise yourself.

2 Let another praise you, and not your own mouth;
someone else, and not your own lips. Proverbs 27:2 NIV84

Loving in Good Works

Loving God and loving people is an act of the will. Love can be revealed by its effect on those who receive it. For a time it was popular to do random acts of kindness. Expressing love through good works is always appropriate for a follower of Christ.

The relationship between salvation and good works is given to us in Ephesians 2:8-10.

8 For you are saved by grace through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift — 9 not from works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared ahead of time for us to do. Ephesians 2:8-10 CSB

Why do you think followers of Jesus should do good works?

The primary motivation behind your actions is important.

31 So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God. 1 Corinthians 10:31 CSB

Love Reality Check

17 If anyone has this world’s goods and sees a fellow believer in need but withholds compassion from him — how does God’s love reside in him? 18 Little children, let us not love in word or speech, but in action and in truth. 1 John 3:17-18 CSB

Would you be willing to take off your coat and give it to a needy person? Perhaps you can think of an instance when you could have met another’s need but did not. What can you do when another opportunity like this arises?

Remember the things in the verses below as you do good works.

9 Let us not get tired of doing good, for we will reap at the proper time if we don’t give up. 10 Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us work for the good of all, especially for those who belong to the household of faith. Galatians 6:9-10 CSB

8 This saying is trustworthy. I want you to insist on these things, so that those who have believed God might be careful to devote themselves to good works. These are good and profitable for everyone. Titus 3:8 CSB

Sometime ago a young soldier called his parents after his release from military service. He asked them if he could bring his buddy home with him. “You see, Mom, he said, “my friend was pretty badly wounded in battle. He has only one leg, one arm, and one eye.” After a long pause the mother said grudgingly, “Of course, son, he can stay with us a little while.” Her voice, however, carried the message that they would not like to be burdened very long with such a severely handicapped person. Two days later they received a telegram saying their son had plunged to his death from a hotel window. When his body arrived for burial, his mother was heartbroken, for he had only one leg, one arm, and one eye! The memory of her last conversation still lingers with her, and she often cries out, “Oh, why didn’t I speak more carefully, more lovingly? If I could only take back those selfish words, ‘He can stay with us a little while.’ But it is too late now!” Henry G. Bosch, Founder of Our Daily Bread

Memory Verse

13 Now these three remain: faith, hope, and love — but the greatest of these is love. 1 Corinthians 13:13 CSB

Points to Remember

  • The Scriptures reveal and demonstrate God’s unfailing love.
  • Love should be our hallmark as followers of Jesus.
  • Trust is the starting point for love.
  • We demonstrate love by our kind words and affirmations.
  • Actions will show the reality of our love.

Things to Ponder

The willingness to forgive others, to extend mercy to them, is a deep part of a character of love. Does your heart find it difficult to forgive others when they don’t ask for forgiveness? That’s where mercy and forgiveness do their greatest good. On the cross Jesus proclaimed, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34). Jesus offers mercy—not justice. Meditate on Matthew 6:14-15, Matthew 7:1-5, and James 2:12-13.

Consider God’s forgiveness, judgment, and mercy, and how they relate to loving others.