“Pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart” (2 Timothy 2:22).
LOVE LIBERATES US FROM THE MAIN THING WE NEED TO BE LIBERATED FROM: ABSORPTION WITH OURSELVES. Sin turns us dangerously inward; it twists our thinking into a selfish shape. And if we’ve been sinning long enough that it’s become a habit, our thinking and our values, motives, desires, and goals have probably come under the control of one basic consideration: what we want. Even when we do good deeds for others, we may do them because, basically, such acts of kindness help us to feel about ourselves the way we want to feel. Sin captures us in a very selfish cage.
One of the grand effects of the gospel of Christ is that it frees us from this preoccupation with ourselves. Paul said that the goal or object of Christian teaching is love: “The purpose of the commandment is love from a pure heart, from a good conscience, and from sincere faith” (1 Timothy 1:5). This kind of love is the very antithesis of selfishness. It lifts us out of the bog of self-centered thinking and sets us free to enjoy a new and better focus. It gets us out of ourselves and into a connection with all those things external to ourselves that we were meant to be related to.
Love is clearly vital to our connection to other human beings, especially our fellow Christians. Without the self-sacrificial love produced by the gospel, we wouldn’t be able to love others, at least with the highest kind of love (John 13:34,35). But what a difference the gospel makes! “Since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit in sincere love of the brethren, love one another fervently with a pure heart” (1 Peter 1:22).
But more importantly, love is vital to our connection to God. Sin is the root of the problem, certainly, and until that barrier is removed by the gospel, we can’t have any fellowship with God. But even with our past sins forgiven, there can be no fellowship if we remain self-centered. So if we’re Christians, we need to let our hearts be transformed — opened up — by love. “Let all those who seek You rejoice and be glad in You; and let those who love Your salvation say continually, ‘Let God be magnified!’ ” (Psalm 70:4).
“O pure and sacred love! It frees us from personal vanity. It is cleansing” (Bernard of Clairvaux).