The Nature of Love
Series: How to Become a Better Church
Lesson 2: The Nature of Love
In the last lesson we focused on the foundational role of love in Jewish and Christian piety and practice. In this lesson we will deepen our understanding of the importance of love in the life of a Christian. In particular, we will look at some words of Paul to the church at Ephesus and some words of Jesus himself to his disciples in preparation for his leaving them.
Some of the deepest and most moving theology (meaning: information about God) in the New Testament comes in the prayers Paul prays for his churches. As a background to our first section of scripture, the Ephesians have been worried about Paul, who is in prison. Paul shifts the focus back to the church and describes the way he prays for them.
Ephesians 3:14-21 (ESV)
14 For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, 16 that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
20 Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.
- How would it make you feel to know someone was praying for you and your church that way?
- Rooted and grounded in love. What kind of importance does that phrase place on the idea of love? Does it sound like a Christian could manage to be a good Christian with love on the periphery?
- What kind of inputs would go into making us and our church rooted and grounded in love?
- What kind of outputs would come out of our being rooted and grounded in love? Paul has some suggestions.
- What does this passage teach us about the love of Christ?
- I think it is safe to say that being filled with the fullness of God includes the love of Christ. What else?
- What would it be like to have Christ living in us, being rooted and grounded in love, being filled with God?
As I read over this prayer of Paul, it seems almost too good to be true. Yet I’m certain he meant this as a practical prayer for the church at Ephesus and for the church at Indianapolis. It’s time we stopped looking at it as theoretical and start letting God put it into practice in our lives and in our church. We need to be rooted and grounded in love. That’s the starting point.
Now let’s move to a word from our Lord himself. Background: Jesus has been spending time with his closest disciples, preparing them for his coming death, resurrection, and going to be with the Father. Judas has just left the group with the expressed purpose of betraying Jesus to the Jewish leaders.
John 13:31-35 (ESV)
31 When he had gone out, Jesus said, “Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in him. 32 If God is glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself, and glorify him at once. 33 Little children, yet a little while I am with you. You will seek me, and just as I said to the Jews, so now I also say to you, ‘Where I am going you cannot come.’ 34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. 35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
- It’s almost as if Jesus is giving his final round of instructions to his students. Do you get a sense of how important this love command is to him?
- Not only does Jesus command the disciples to love one another, but he also says that love for one another is how they should be known and seen in the community. Love is to be their hallmark. Do you think love for one another is the hallmark of the church in today’s world? If not, how do people see us?
- How did the church become so fractured that we sometimes see other churches as competition instead of fellow Christians? Is it possible to overcome this fracturing into thousands of little denominations and groups? What will it take to accomplish that monumental task?
- Where would you suggest starting?
It would be easy to become paralyzed by the realization that there is so far to go toward being the church Jesus wants us to be. Rather than be paralyzed into inactivity it’s better if we get started a little at a time.
The goal is that we should love another better than we are doing now. In real, practical ways.
Jesus said we should be known for that.
- Is there any way for love to grow and thrive in a group without the pain that comes with practice? What kind of things can go wrong during the practice phase? Does the learning curve tend to keep us from trying? How can we overcome it?
- Am I willing to do the hard work of love, or is just too much?
- Why do we Christians so often settle for less than the fullness of what God has to offer?
- What would happen if our community knew us as a church that really loves one another?