For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life-John 3:16 NIV
Love is more than a sweet sentiment.
It is a formidable spiritual weapon.
It is not an accident (in my opinion) that the “warfare passage” we find in Ephesians 6:10-20 is preceded by two and a half chapters that spell out in detail what love “looks like” and how our faith and love for others ought to work itself out in our churches, marriages, parent-child relationships and workplaces (Ephesians 4:1-6:9).
Nor is it an accident the “love passage” found in 1st Corinthians 13:1-13 is sandwiched between passages that cover the ins-and-outs of how Christians should do church, worship and use their spiritual gifts. Paul understood probably better than anyone that love only works as a weapon when it impacts every part of our Christian lives. If we don’t get the “love” thing right our spiritual gifts become pointless parlor tricks, our worship never goes further than the ceiling and our churches are powerless to transform the lives of hurting people.
Love was Jesus’ weapon of choice.
Jesus knew everything there was to know about every person He encountered and He still loved each and every one of them deeply and fully (John 3:16). He loved everyone He met in a way they had never been loved before. He did not turn away from the woman caught in adultery (John 8), the demoniac (Mark 5:1-14) or Mary Magdalene (Luke 8:12) or anyone else and for that matter.
The almighty, all-holy, perfectly clean, absolutely sinless God of the Universe looked the worst humanity had to offer square in the face (literally) and because He was God He saw clearly the ugliness and sin in every person who crossed His path. He knew exactly how their choices had affected them
He loved them anyway. He loved them by looking beyond their sinful ugliness and the effects of their choices. He met them where they were at and in the process loved them into a state of wholeness and health. Then He went ahead and did the same thing for the whole human race by dying on the cross to pay the penalty of our sin (Romans 5:8)
Love is critical. It literally has the power to change the trajectory of a person’s life.
Here’s the thing, though.
Love alone— or at least the way our culture defines love is actually dangerous (and icky) because it tends to devolve into a grody form of sloppy sentimentalism. Twenty-first century love is like the drunk girl at the party who gushes sappy sentiment all over everybody but can’t remember any of what she said the next morning. Contemporary love is all about being okay with the worst in people instead of accepting people where they’re at AND helping them to reach new levels of growth, transformation and health. Sloppy sentimentalism feels delightful and appears to be noble but it isn’t really love because it lacks the power to save anyone from anything.
Authentic love: the kind of love that defeats the powers of darkness and changes the trajectory of people’s lives is firmly anchored in biblical truth (Colossians 1:13-14). True Christian love is always characterized by a willingness to resist current cultural beliefs that lead people away from God and into bondage to sin.
It’s the kind of love Jesus had for people.
When Jesus freed Mary Magdalene and the demoniac from their demon possession he did not encourage either one of them to go back to the choices that got them demon-possessed in the first place—although those choices may have still felt comfortable to them, even after meeting Jesus. Instead He showed them how they could live free from the sinful choices that led them to a life of bondage and despair. Jesus did not forgive the woman caught in adultery (John 8) and send her back to her latest partner— instead He told her she should “go and sin no more” because that’s what warfare kind of love does.
Warfare kind of love sets the captives free with equal measures of truth and grace (Isaiah 42:6-9).
Jesus would never have been okay with our culture’s contemporary definition of love. He would be disgusted with drug programs that help people to do drugs “safely” rather than free them from the oppression of their drug use. Jesus is undoubtedly appalled at the notion of encouraging someone confused about their gender to transition because transitioning doesn’t deal with the root hurt, pain or sin that led to their confused state in the first place (Jude 23)
Jesus grieves deeply when Christians choose to love like the world loves because He knows that real love fights for the best heaven and earth have to offer; instead of simply settling for something easy but vastly inferior to what God wants for all people (2nd Timothy 2:3-5).
Everyone who has been truly touched by the love of Jesus wants to love like He loved: with a warfare kind of love. We love like Jesus loved by living out the Bible’s standard of righteousness, fearlessly telling people the truth in the most loving way possible and sticking with them through the sometimes-long process of finding authentic freedom and growing into the image of Jesus (2nd Corinthians 3:18, Colossians 3:1-25).