Christian Love Defined

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Hey TD!

I read this devotion from Tabletalk recently and thought I should pass it on to you. It’s based on a chapter of Scripture I memorized long ago and recite each week to this day. May it help you in your “love” life! – Arthur

John 15:12–13

“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.”


In an age when love is frequently lauded but often misunderstood, we must have a proper view of love. Modern culture bombards us with messages telling us that love is a mere feeling, that we will never disapprove of those whom we truly love, and that everything done in the name of love is right. But the Scriptures instruct us otherwise. God’s Word makes it clear that true love is costly.

Jesus, in today’s passage, emphasizes the cost of love. Having told us to abide in His love (John 15:1–11), Jesus begins to unfold what abiding in His love looks like. Love means loving others as Jesus has loved us, particularly in laying down our lives for our friends (vv. 12–13). Our Savior obviously makes an allusion here to His atoning death on the cross that turns away the wrath of God (Rom. 3:21–26), and this means we must first consider what laying down our lives for our friends does not entail. After all, none of us is the spotless Lamb of God sent to save sinners, so none of us can lay down our lives in exactly the same manner as Jesus. Christian theologians have long recognized this truth. Augustine of Hippo, for example, comments on it at length in a sermon on today’s passage.

We cannot love others as Jesus has loved us in the sense of atoning for their sin; however, there are other ways in which we can imitate the love of Christ. For example, Christ loved us so much that He was willing to leave His place of glory with the Father in order to pay for our sins on the cross (Phil. 2:5–11). We, likewise, can refuse to exploit our privileges in order to meet the needs of others. Furthermore, Jesus spent His life in service to others, healing the sick and teaching God’s truth. Similarly, we can spend our lives in service to others, helping even those who seem the least deserving of our assistance and pointing people to Christ.

Some of us may literally have to die in order to save another person’s life, but that will be rare. More likely, we will lay down our lives in a multitude of smaller ways. Parents can set aside their right to rest quietly after a hard day of work in order to spend time with their children. Employers, when appropriate, can refrain from giving overly harsh but deserved criticism of employees in order to work alongside them and help them improve. Retirees can give up part of the spare time they labored years to earn in order to volunteer at their churches. Whatever our station in life, we should look for ways to spend our lives for the sake of others.


CORAM DEO Living before the face of God

Christian love is costly, and it looks for ways to give of itself to others. Every day, there are little ways we can sacrifice some of our rights and privileges in order to love others, especially those in the body of Christ. Let us look this day to give up something in order to do good to another person.

  • Ruth 4
  • Song of Solomon 8:6
  • Mark 14:3–9
  • 1 John 3:16–18

TD Fri. – “Out of This World”- final study on Rom. 12

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Hey TD,

I’m excited to wrap up both our TD summer and our journey through Romans 12 this Friday with a message on Romans 12:16-21! In our study of Romans 12, we’ve seen that Christians are transformed people who are also continually being transformed into the likeness of their Savior and Master, Jesus Christ.

In these last 6 verses of Romans 12, Paul tells us what a transformed life looks like when we interact with anyone in the world, no matter who they are. No one is excluded—not the lowly, not unbelievers, not even our enemies. The humility it takes to follow these commands is out of this world. It’s OK to gulp when you read these imperatives. Do you have what it takes to be a peacemaker? To seek peace and do good even with those who seek your harm? Most people would look at this passage and scoff: “Don’t be so naive, that’s just not the way the world works.”

But that’s exactly the point. What this world needs is otherworldly love and grace. Join us as we explore our calling to reflect the only One who has given exactly what the world needs.

– Robert

Romans 12:16

16 Be of the same mind toward one another; do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly. Do not be wise in your own estimation.17 Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men. 18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. 19 Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. 20 “But if your enemy is hungry, feed him, and if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Come Serve at SOS Saturday!

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Hey TD, it’s time for another edition of Serve Our Society Saturday!  This Saturday, we will once again visit our friends at the So. Pasadena Care Center.  Our visits mean so much to them that we cannot NOT go!  They really look forward to our visits.

Meet at the Hsiehs’ at 9:30 a.m.  and get picked up by noon. There will be no lunch this week due to a meeting.

Make the time to do what’s good and right, TD, and you know God will bless you as you do!

“‘They that honor Me, will I honor,” says the Lord …” 1 Sam. 2:30

TD Fri. – “On Love and Desire”

Hey TD!

Due to our shortened December schedule, we will only be having one regular Friday TD meeting this month.  This Friday, we will take another step toward rebuilding our life in Christ as I lead us from evaluating our personal infrastructure last month to  evaluating the core of who we are, in a lesson entitled, “On Love and Desire.”

Since this is a series that builds each month upon the previous months, I would highly encourage you to review last month’s teaching on “Rebuilding Our Infrastructure” .  Just click and spread it out over the next few days, making sure you are solid on the material by Friday night.

See you Friday! – Arthur


TD Friday: Ohana Means Family and Family Means …


Hey TD’ers!

My family returned recently from the most externally beautiful and the most internally and familially beautiful trip we’ve ever had together.  In a word, it was … Narnia … for us.  My heart was so full of richness, it hurt (and still does).  There was a  mutual loyalty and friendship felt that’s hard to describe. “Heaven” was an oft used word. One phrase my boys uttered a few times was, “Ohana means family, and family means no one gets left behind or forgotten.”

It made me think of what heaven’s designed to be like.  The external beauty will surely be there … and so will the internal beauty and richness of loyal friendships, with God and His ohana.  And if our friends (Christian and non-Christian alike) are going to get an idea of heaven, it ought to be via seeing or experiencing authentic Christian “ohana” relationships, where life is laid down one for another (like Christ did) and no one in the “ohana” gets left behind or forgotten.

The Christian church isn’t lacking in verbal arguments or defenses, or even in niceness and nice gestures; but it IS lacking in sacrificial Christ-like others-centered commitment in its Christian “ohana” relationships. And that is a damaging apologetic.  Who wants to join a “family” that isn’t even loyal to each other? Even gangs know better than this (see my message).

Jesus said, “By THIS all people will know that you are My disciples …”  What’s “THIS”? He answers, “… if you have love for one another.”  The word used for love there is agape, the most committed, determined, loyal kind of love in the Greek language; the word used for God’s love.

It’s this kind of demonstrative apologetic that we need to develop … and it is HARD.  But it is what we’ll be working on this Friday at TD in our discussion groups.

“Improving Our Impotence” (mp3 – Arthur)

So, in preparation for this vital discussion, please review my last message, “Improving Our Impotence,” as well as the recent blog posts on loyalty and friendship.

Until TD! – Arthur

A Thought in the Wake of the Same-Sex Ruling

Hey TD,

Just a quick thought this morning.  This is my version of a tweet :):

The issue of same-sex unions has very rapidly emerged as THE social issue of our day, and it has sent Christians into a confusing tail spin.  Yesterday’s Supreme Court Decision continues to illustrate our fundamental problem – that we humans made in the image of God are always striving to usurp God’s authority, striving to be co-regents with Him.  That’s how the Fall began humanity’s history-long downward spiritual spiral, resisting God’s rightful rule over HIS creation. That’s not love.

Thanks be to God, however, that there has been one Person in history who has succeeded in resisting the tsunami of history’s current in actually loving God enough to listen to Him, trust Him, and obey Him.  No other person in human history on his/her own has ever done so.  He proved that indeed, True Love wins; and He offers the power of that love to us (now that’s love). His love is complete, offering complete forgiveness for our treachery, new Ultimate citizenship, new God-loving and people-loving compassion and clarity, empowerment for a new life direction of love, a new destination, and a new Spirit in our lives that will learn how to authentically love God and love our neighbors – finally! – with a True, Higher, Sustainable love that will last beyond this lifetime, both for us and potentially for those we love.

TD, it’s time to receive that love wholly, deploy it resolutely, and live it out graciously and generously in the Spirit and Name of True Love Himself – Jesus Christ.

“This is how we know that we live in him and he in us: He has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God. And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. We love because he first loved us.”  1 John 4:13-19

– Arthur

Who Are You God? The God of Love

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Hey TD,

A few years ago I wrote an essay for the Who is God? series that we’ve been posting over the last year.  My focus was on love.  If you could use a boost in your understanding of your “love life,” read on.  I hope it helps you towards becoming a better lover, as you learn from the One who loves best. – Arthur

Who Are You God?  The God of Love

“Do you love me?” Jesus repeatedly asked Peter in John 21 … and for good reason.  Prior to Jesus’ arrest, “trial,” sentencing, and execution, Peter, the emotionally charged and flamboyant disciple boldly, repeatedly, and confidently professed his love and allegiance to Jesus.  Relying on the emotion of the moments, and his strong “feelings” of love, Peter would make daring claims of loyalty.   So self-driven was he that on one occasion, he rebuked Jesus after He informed His disciples of the manner in which He would die, promising the Master that he would never let that happen to Him.  This prompted Jesus to return the rebuke, saying to Peter, “Get Thee behind me, Satan.”

On that terse Thursday evening, shortly before Jesus was to be arrested, Peter assured Jesus, “Even though all may fall away because of you, I will never fall away.”  Jesus informed him that before the rooster would crow that very night, Peter would deny him three times, to which Peter insisted, “Even if I have to die with you, I will not deny you.”  Such was Peter’s confidence in his own love.  The rest, as they say, is history.  When presented with the opportunity to align and associate himself with Jesus, while Jesus was on trial, Peter’s “love” took a leave of absence, and indeed, as Jesus stated, Peter denied any association whatsoever with Jesus … three separate times, even cursing and swearing at one point for emphasis! (Matt. 26:74)

One of the most poignant, dramatic, and chilling verses in the New Testament, to me, comes soon after, when Luke records, “The Lord turned and looked at Peter.” (Luke 22:61)  Imagine the piercing guilt and shame Peter felt when their eyes met, knowing that he had done the unthinkable: he forsook His Master.  No wonder Peter couldn’t answer Jesus’ question any other way than to say, “You know I love you.”  You may be scratching your head a little, asking, “Wait.  What do you mean?  Jesus asked Peter whether he loved him, and Peter answered in the affirmative.  What’s the issue?”  Let me explain.

There are at least two keys to better understand this intense relational exchange between Jesus and Peter.  The first has to do with what is meant by “love.”  The word Jesus used in His question was the Greek word agape, which is translated “love” in English.  This represents the highest form of love, God’s love, the love of unwavering fortitude and commitment to another’s best, even at personal expense.  Unfortunately, three other Greek words are also translated as “love” in English, so something gets lost in the translation.  There’s storge – a familial kind of love, as family members would have; there’s eros – a romantic, sensual, feeling type of love; and then there’s phileo – a brotherly, friendship type of love, as good friends would share.  Jesus asked Peter, “Do you agape me?,” to which Peter replied, “Yes, Lord; You know I phileo You.”

The second key is in the timing of the question.  A few weeks earlier, Peter would have answered with a resounding, “You bet!  Of course I agape You, and I always will!”  Now He’s faced with answering the question after having denied Jesus three times.  Though I’m sure he was agonizingly dying to respond in the affirmative, he couldn’t; not with the facts staring him in the face.  He could not tell Jesus, “I agape You.”  He could only truthfully say, “I phileo You.”  That exchange happened a second time.  The third time, Jesus asked Peter, “Do you phileo Me?”  This deeply grieved Peter.  Many think that this grief is Peter feeling offended and hurt that Jesus would question him on whether he even had phileo love for Him.  That’s a possibility.  I think another possibility is that Peter felt deeply grieved that he couldn’t honestly tell Jesus, “I love you,” though he desperately wanted to.

What if Jesus asked you that same question, “Do you love me?”  Would you be able to say, “Yes, I love You”?  When a servant-girl identified Peter as an associate of Jesus, the Scriptures tell us that he responded with an oath, saying, “I don’t know the man!”  (Matt. 26:72)  Peter lied.  Or did he?  I think it was Joni Eareckson Tada who once commented that this may be the first time Peter actually told the truth!  He didn’t know Jesus!  Not really.

The truth is, no one knows Him, and no one can know Him unless the Lord first loves us, reveals Himself to us, and unilaterally changes our hearts.  Hence, John’s admission in 1 John 4:10, “In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us…,” and later in verse 19, “We love because He first loved us.” (emphasis mine)  Remember when Peter boldly confessed, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.”?  Jesus reminded him that “… flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven.”

This is what Peter had to learn before Jesus was going to hand him the keys of heaven and build his church upon him (Matt. 16:18-19).  This is what we all must realize before our worship, proclamation, and ministry are to become authentic and mature.  The Lord is sovereign over absolutely EVERYTHING, even our love.  He controls it all. That’s humbling to know.  The Lord wants us to know this deeply, especially those of us who are regularly praised, followed, and admired for our “love for God.”

It’s very easy to get subtly seduced into subconsciously thinking that the reason we’re such “good Christians” is because we love God more than the average person; and it’s tempting to think that the reason we love God is because we believed, we obeyed, and we followed Him.  And of course that’s true in a sense.   But why is it true?  Because we’re so smart and wise?  Well, yes, that’s true too, in a sense.  But how did you get to be that way?  Why you and not your friend?  The reality is that once you weren’t and now you are, and it is God who made you the way you are; without first consulting you, and without using pre-existing “material.”  You were absolutely nothing –  zero, zilch, nada – until God, all by Himself, with no outside influences, unilaterally and lovingly fashioned you.  And that great love for God you have?  It isn’t yours.  It’s His.  He monergistically (by Himself, with no prior cooperation from you) bestowed that gift of faith and love to you (Rom. 12:3), so that through you, He will love Himself.

Peter finally came to understand that, and because of that, God was able to build His church upon Peter and the apostles; a church that is still growing and maturing today, two-thousand years later.   It’s important to note that years after Jesus’ return to heaven, Peter was again put in a position to affirm or deny his association with Jesus.  This time, God’s love, not Peter’s, won out.  Peter and his wife were crucified as lovers of Jesus Christ.  It is said that while his wife was being crucified, he kept reminding her to remember the Lord Jesus.  When it was his turn, historians tell us that that he requested to be crucified upside down, for he was not worthy to be crucified like His Lord.

What a difference God’s love, true love, makes.   If you truly love the Lord today, your potential for powerfully and distinctively loving God is limitless, because His love is limitless; and it is His love which abides in you today.  To the extent that your love is subsumed by His love, the sky is the limit!  So, what are you waiting for?  Love God and keep His commandments like you never have before; and do it with joy, power, zeal, and freedom, for “… the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” (Rom. 5:5)

“For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are NOT burdensome.” 1John 5:3

 – Arthur Hsieh