Perfect Love: Loving one another.
'Beloyed! if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another. No man hath beheld God at any time. If we love one another, God abideth in us, and His love is perfected in us.'—I John iv. 11, 12.
rpHE first mark of a soul in whom the love of -*- God is to be perfected is: keeping His word. The path of obedience, the loving obedience of the perfect heart, the obedience of a life whollygiven up to God's will, is the path the Son opened up into the presence and the love ,of the Eather. It is the only path that leads into perfect love.
The commandments of Christ are all included in the one word Love, because 'Love is the fulfilling of the law.' 'A new commandment I have given you, that ye love one another, even as I have loved you.' This is Christ's word: he that keeps this word, keeps all the commandments. Love to the brethren is the second mark of a soul seeking to enter the life of perfect love.
In the very nature of things it cannot be otherwise. 'Love seeketh not her own:' love loses itself in going out to live in others. Love is the death of self: where self still lives there can be no thought of perfect love. Love is the very being and glory of God; it is His nature and property as God to give of His own life to all His creatures, to communicate His own goodness and blessedness. The gift of His Son is the gift of Himself to be the life and joy of man. When that love of God enters the heart it imparts its own nature—the desire to give itself to the very death for others. When the heart wholly yields itself to be transformed into this nature and likeness, then Love takes possession; there the love of God is perfected.
The question is often asked whether it be the love of God to us, or our love to God, that is meant by perfect love. The word includes both, because it implies a great deal more. The love of God is One, as God is One: His Life, His very Being. Where that Love descends and enters, it retains its nature; it is ever the Divine Life and Love within us. God's love to us, and our love to God and Christ, our love to the brethren and to all men—all these are but aspects of one and the same love. Just as there is one Holy Spirit in God and in us, so it is one Divine Love, the Love of the Spirit, that dwells in God and in us.
To know this, is a wonderful help to faith. It teaches us that to love God, or the brethren, or our enemies, is not a thing our efforts can attain. We can only do it, because the Divine Love is dwelling in us; only as far as we yield ourselves to the Divine Love as a Living Power within, as a life that has been born into us, and that the Holy Spirit strengthens into action. Our part is first of all to rest, to cease from effort, to know that He is- in us, and to give way to the love that dwells and works in us in a power that is from above.
How well John remembered the night when Jesus spoke so wonderfully of love in His parting words! How impossible it appeared to the disciples indeed to love as He had loved! How much there had been among them of pride, and envy, and selfishness; anything but love like His! How it had broken out among them that very night at the supper table! They never could love like the Master—it was impossible.
But what a change was wrought when the Risen One breathed on them, and said, 'Eeceive the Holy Ghost!' And how that change was consummated when the Holy Spirit came down from heaven, and out of that wonderful Love which there flowed in holy interchange between the Father and the Son, when they met again in the glory, shed abroad in their hearts The Love Op God! In the love of the day of Pentecost, the Perfect Love celebrated its first great triumph in the hearts of men.
The Love of God still reigns. The Spirit of God still waits to take possession of hearts where He has hitherto had too scanty room. He had been in the disciples all the time, but they had not known of what manner of spirit they were. He had come upon them on that evening when the Eisen One breathed upon them. But it was on Pentecost He filled them so that Love Divine prevailed and overflowed, and they were perfected in Love. Let every effort we make to love, and every experience of how feeble our love is, lead us and draw us on to Jesus on the Throne. In Him the Love of God is revealed and glorified, and rendered accessible to us. Let us believe that the Love of God can come down as a fire that will consume and destroy self, and make love to one another, fervent perfect love, the one mark of discipleship. Let us believe that this Love of God, Perfect Love, can be shed abroad in our hearts, in measure to us hitherto unknown, by the Holy Ghost given to us. Our tongues and lives, our homes and Churches, will then prove to sinful, perishing fellow-men that there still are children of God in whom the Love of God is perfected.
Even as the whole Christian life, so love too has its two stages. There is love seeking, struggling, and doing its best to obey, and ever failing. And there is love finding, resting, rejoicing, and ever triumphing. This takes place when self and its efforts have been given into the grave of Jesus, and His life ami love have taken their place. The birth of heavenly love in the soul has come; in the power of the heavenly life, to love is natural and easy; Christ dwells in the heart, now we are rooted and grounded in love, and know the love that passeth knowledge.