14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.
Many of us assume that because we are Christians, we know how to love. We think we know all about love because we think we know all about God. Yes, we know the Bible tells us that God is love (see 1 Jn. 4:8). We also know that God’s love is shed abroad in our hearts when we accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior (see Rom. 5:5).
Godly love is unconditional love; it does not depend on merit, but is extended freely to all, even those who don’t deserve it. Come to think of it, none of us deserve love, especially the love of God. Our sin nature disqualifies us. Fortunately for us, God doesn’t look at it that way. We don’t deserve His love, yet He loves us anyway. And that’s the way He wants us to be as His children.
The genuineness of our faith is measured by the genuineness of our love, not only for God, but also for others. If God loved us even when we didn’t deserve it, what right do we have to withhold love from others just because we think they are “unworthy”?
And yet, this limited, “conditional” love is the kind that many of us most often give and receive. Here’s what we say (in attitude and behavior, if not in words), “If you treat me the way I want you to treat me, and if you do what I want you to do, then I will love you. But if not, then I won’t even talk to you.” Or, “I love you when you’re good, but not when you’re bad.” Have you ever heard that one?
It’s all a faith issue, believing that even if someone doesn’t love us, as long as we show God we have faith in Him, somehow He will work things out in our lives. Jesus gave us the secret to successful living when He said, “Love your enemies. Do good to those who hate you. Bless those who curse you” (Mt. 5:44, paraphrased). Yet, if some guy flips us off in traffic, we’re ready to run him off the road! Jesus told us to bless those who curse us, and pray for those who mistreat us. Why would He command such a thing? Because He knew that we cannot hate somebody we’re praying for. It is a love test.