This year, our church theme is “Love First.” Not only is this statement a strong word in favor of obedience and missional living, it is also a word of action. This calls to mind Mother Teresa’s famous quote: “Faith in action is love, and love in action is service.” The biblical idea of love is active, which can run counter to the popular understanding of love in our culture. We tend to think of love exclusively as a “feeling” which implies a passive quality. To our way of thinking, love is something that “happens” to you. We speak of love as something that you “fall into” and “fall out of.” But biblical love is not understood this way. Biblical love always manifests in action.
This active love is demonstrated in the love God has for us. I think it’s fair to say that God “feels” love toward us; after all, He created us in His image. And yet, God doesn’t simply have these lovey-dovey feelings for us from “up there” in heaven. He’s not just sitting around hoping we’ll fall in love with him. No, He takes initiative. His love is expressed actively. As we noted in the missional post, He actively sends His Son on a rescue mission to redeem the world. God’s love is expressed for the sake of others. And the Scriptures call us to the same kind of love. James 2 says that true Christian faith is active. If you see someone’s physical needs and you say, “I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,” but you do nothing to help, James says that faith is dead — because it’s not active.
So Love First is a word of action that encompasses our whole beings.
Eugene Peterson expresses this well when he says, “Love isn’t a sentimental way of feeling but a sanctified way of living.” As we unpack this theme more fully, we want to define love this way — not by the passive understanding of our romantic comedy culture and certainly not by the ooey-gooey, sentimental standards of Hallmark. Love has been co-opted by Hollywood and Hallmark, but make no mistake, love is God’s Word. And He wants it back. And God defines love this way: in the rugged, whole life commitment of our Lord who left the comfort of heaven to bleed out and die for our sake. THAT’S love. It’s an action that encompasses the very essence of God.
The best way I know to summarize all of this is in the words of 1 Corinthians 16:14, Do everything in love. Do everything in agape love. With that succinct statement, Paul calls to mind everything he said about agape love in 1 Corinthians 13 (which we will look at in a future post). But in doing so, he gives us a great summary of what we mean by Love First. Love First is our attempt to be faithful to this command: to do everything in love.