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by Jacob Ninan
"For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son ..." (Jn.3:16). "We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren" (1Jn.3:16).
The essence of divine love is to give by laying down one's life. Human love appears to give, but does not lay down one's life.
Isn't it amazing that in the one chapter which the Holy Spirit has given us about divine love, He does not exhort us to give money, or to help the poor and needy, etc.? On the contrary, He says that we can do all these and yet be without love! (1Co.13).
What then does this chapter speak about? It speaks about patience, kindness, not being jealous, not bragging, not being arrogant, not behaving unbecomingly, not seeking one's own, not getting offended, not keeping an account of wrongs suffered, not rejoicing in unrighteousness but rejoicing with the truth, bearing, believing and hoping all things, and never failing in any of these things!
All these things refer to our inner life, and not to our outward actions. If we do not have this inner life, all our good deeds are done with a selfish motive (e.g., "If I help this man now, he will help me when I am in need." "If I don't do it, what will he think of me?").
In order to attain to this love, we have to lay down our self life. "He who loves his life loses it; and he who hates his life in this world (and lays it down) shall keep it to eternal life (hat is, obtain divine love)" (Jn.12:25).
"Greater love has no man than this, that one lay down his life for his friends" (Jn.15:13). We cannot really imagine that we are willing to lay down our physical life for the others if we are not willing to lay down our impatience towards the others! We can see that if we are not willing to deny ourselves for the others, we do not really love them.
A lot of good deeds give the impression of a lot of self denial. But God knows if real self denial (which leads to a death to self life) is going on inside, or if a smiling outside conceals complaints, criticism, demands, self pity, etc., inside.
No one has a special advantage when it comes to attaining to this divine love. At the human level, there are people who have a natural temperament which may appear to be very loving, and there are others who are not so gifted in their expressions.
But the so called loving type of person can easily turn around and hate a person, if he, figuratively speaking, stamps on his/her toes!
On the other hand, those who appear to be unloving may be the ones who will make great sacrifices inwardly in order to do good to the others.
The first category of people are in danger of thinking that they are already so loving, and as a result, not seeing their need for divine love.
The second category are in danger, if they are not free from the opinions of men, of despairing that they are not so loving as these others.
But as it really is, both categories have to overcome selfishness and self-centredness in order to partake of divine love.
All of us have equal opportunity to take up our cross daily, to deny ourselves and to partake of this divine love.
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