Love is a Pain

"Those who say that they are in the light but hate other believers are still in the dark. Those who love other believers live in the light. Nothing will destroy the faith of those who live in the light." - 1 John 2:9-10 (GWT)

Light and Darkness

John constantly uses the pictures of light and darkness as metaphorical examples of how people live on earth. Those who live in light are true followers of Jesus Christ; those who aren't true followers of Christ live in the darkness. Obviously, "light" and "darkness" here refer to the spiritual condition of a person.

Beware of "Grey Areas"
If I "hate" other Christians John tells me I'm in the party of spiritual darkness. I live in the dark. Us humans are pretty smart. We know how to twist things very well so as to feel better about ourselves (see Jeremiah 17:9). So we have to be careful here. You see, I can rationalize John's above exhortation and defend myself by thinking, "I don't hate so-and-so I just don't love them." But to John, it's either one or the other - there's no in-between. I either "hate" certain fellow Christians or I love them. I either live in the light or I live in the darkness. Beware of "grey areas" in your life. They're usually not very Biblical.

How to Protect my Christianity
Notice the last thought John gives us at the end of verse 10. One of the ways I can live in the light and protect my Christian walk from being destroyed is to love other Christians: "Those who love other believers live in the light. Nothing will destroy the faith of those who live in the light." Let me paraphrase back what John just said to bring it home for us: "If I don't love other Christians I'm living in darkness and my faith could be destroyed." This is how important loving other Christians is. Not loving them is to hate them; and hating other Christians can absolutely destroy me. That's how important getting "loving" down is.

To Love Me is to Not Hate Me
So, how do we love Christians? To answer this question we must first define "love." This word "love" (agapao) in the Greek language is very important to get down. It is not the feel-good kind of love that we tend to gravitate towards. Agape love is a sacrifice. It almost always hurts when put into action. "For God so loved the world that He gave His only Begotten Son... (John 3:16)." Do you see the pain in that verse?

If you don't have pain in loving others you might not really love them. If you don't live in painful love you might be living in darkness. If you are pained often in loving fellow Christians you are probably living in the light of Christ's love. It is much easier to despise a fellow follower of Christ than to love them. The reason for this is simple: despising, hating, begrudging, judging, and so on are much easier to do than to love. John's view is this: if you don't love-with-pain another Christian you might really hate them. And, in the end, this can destroy you.

Practical Points of Love
So, how do we love other Christians (or anyone for that matter)? Here are some points to practice:

1. Take Pains, Don't Give Them (John 3:16): As we have already pointed out, agape love is painful. It is a sacrifice on behalf of others. Let others be a pain to you for Christ's sake rather than you being a pain to them.

2. Forgive As You've Been Forgiven: "Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you." - Ephesians 4:32 If Christ has forgiven me with pain shouldn't I do the same for others?

3. Watch out for Bitterness: "See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God ; that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many be defiled." - Hebrews 12:15 The alternative to painful love in my life is roots of bitterness. Forgiveness is the means of pulling up these roots. As my wife often points out, the only thing found in Scripture that can actually cause a believer to "come short" of the grace of God is bitterness. So, be careful.

Closing Thoughts
I'll leave us with this thought: if Christ doesn't allow other Christians to pain me how, will I learn to love other Christians in pain? If I'm not living in painful love could I be living in spiritual darkness and in the danger of spiritual destruction? Love is a pain.

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