Taught by God to Love
Bible Reading: 1 Thessalonians 4:1-12
Many years ago I taught a beginning Algebra class in the local community college. It was a required class for nearly every course of study, and some of the students had little, or no interest, in math. On more than one occasion they expressed to me that they didn’t understand why they were required to take the class. I’d usually respond by jokingly telling them that they needed to take the class in order to move on to the next one.
If you are a believer in Christ you’ve been enrolled by God in a unique course of study. It is a study of the utmost importance, one which will work to instruct you in how to love like Jesus. The class began at the moment of your new birth and will extend in duration until you depart to be with Jesus.
Before we proceed further with that thought, let’s stop to consider the exceptional example set by the believers in the church in Thessalonica. Receiving no condemnation by the Apostle Paul, he instead commended them for their “work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope” (1 Thessalonians 1:3). And for their example of receptivity to the Word which was revealed “in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit,” the news of which had spread throughout the region (1 Thessalonians 1:6-8). Paul commended them in their practice of brotherly love. “Now concerning brotherly love you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love one another, for that indeed is what you are doing to all the brothers in Macedonia” (1 Thessalonians 4:9-10).
Let’s call our course of study Love 101. It is, as I mentioned before, a lifelong course. The believers in Thessalonica were practicing brotherly love, but still Paul admonished them to “excel still more” (1 Thessalonians 4:10b, NASB). No matter how much we know about love, or how much we grow in the practice of it, we’ll always have more room to grow, because our example is Jesus Himself. We have a tendency to measure our spirituality according to what we think it ought to be, or what we see in others (2 Corinthians 10:12). But Jesus is the standard!
Note that we have the best of teachers to lead us in our study–God himself. You “have been taught by God to love one another” (1 Thessalonians 4:9). There is no better teacher, for He is love (1 John 4:8). No other act of love can compare with the sacrifice of His own Son for our sins (John 3:16). From beginning to end, the Bible is replete with examples of His loving care. How amazing His patience as a teacher in His divine classroom! How many times has He repeated His lessons when we’ve been slow to learn! Yet still He is ever teaching us so we would be ultimately conformed to the image of His Son. In Jesus, God has set before us a perfect example when it comes to learning what love looks like.
Life is like a classroom. We interact with people in a myriad of ways. We are sometimes ignored, or treated badly and we’ve a sinful tendency to respond in kind when that happens. It is good to remind ourselves that our Divine Teacher is well able to use all our circumstances to advance us along in our course of study. Difficult situations provide unique opportunities for us to learn that which God has to teach us. In order for that to happen we must maintain a humble attitude and teachable spirit (1 Thessalonians 2:13). In challenging situations ask yourself, “What would be the Spirit-led, loving response, and then endeavor to respond accordingly.” In so doing, you will continue to advance in your course of study learning even more how to love like Jesus. And God will be honored in your life.
You Yourselves Have Been Taught by God to Love One Another
Heavenly Father. We were utterly sinful and selfish. That You would graciously intervene in our lives to forgive us is to the praise of the glory of Your grace. That You would purpose to change us and make us to be like Jesus is indeed an incredible thing! Forgive us for being such slow learners. You’ve well provisioned us, providing to us everything we need for life and godliness, but we oftentimes neglect the spiritual disciplines which would advance us along. Grant us a renewed vision of this amazing work You are doing in us, that we might pursue Christlikeness as eager students. May we listen attentively and learn readily, that we might put into practice the truths we learn from You. That others might see You in us and look to You for salvation. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.