February is generally thought of as “the month of love,” highlighted by Valentine’s Day on the 14th. We made Valentine’s cards for our classmates and teachers when we were in grade school, and we continue the tradition as adults, adding flowers, candy and a variety of gifts to the cards we give to those we love. February is a good time for remembering the importance and value of love in our lives and the lives of others.
For the Christian, every moment of every day is a time for remembering the importance and value of love in our lives because “God is love” (1 John 4:16). God demonstrated His inconceivable love for us by sending His beloved Son to die on a cross to pay the penalty for our sins. But that’s not all! All those who have placed their trust in the atoning death of Jesus Christ now live in the supernatural resurrection power that delivers us from both the pleasure and the power of sin, causing us to live “Cross-Shaped” lives — lives spent loving God and loving people.
One of the teachers of the law asked our Lord which was the most important of all the commandments. Jesus replied, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these” (Mark 12:30-31).
The focus of these monthly articles is apologetics — giving a reasonable and rational explanation of our hope in Jesus Christ (1 Peter 3:15). Jesus was the greatest prophet, priest, king, teacher, servant and friend the world has ever seen; He was also the greatest apologist. Jesus gave a reasonable and rational explanation of Christianity in both word (His preaching and teaching), and deed (His miracles and ministry). He connected with His audience at the deepest heart level because everything He did was rooted in His love for others.
To be sure, Jesus practiced what He preached. Every aspect of His human existence — from leaving the throne room of heaven . . . to being born in a manger . . . to His ministry of both physical and spiritual healing . . . to being betrayed, denied, deserted and crucified on a Roman cross for our sins — Jesus loved not only those who were lovable or who loved Him in return, but He loved His enemies! And it was the love that marked the life of our Lord that led others to follow Him. And that is why I am convinced that love is the greatest apologetic the world has ever seen. Jesus said love would be the mark that would distinguish Christians as His disciples to the watching world: “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:35).
Defending the faith
My own experience in apologetics is that far too many see “defending the faith” as nothing more than winning arguments. But when that is the goal, love is lost.
The great Christian apologist C. S. Lewis was absolutely right when he wrote, “Good philosophy must exist, if for no other reason, because bad philosophy needs to be answered.” We must be able to provide a reasonable and rational response to the critics and skeptics of Christianity. But if it is not done in love, we may win an argument, but we will never win the heart of the one we are speaking to.
Francis Schaeffer said succinctly that living a life marked by the love of Christ is “the final apologetic.” Schaeffer’s words remind me of the truth of a statement that is widely attributed to Theodore Roosevelt: “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”
A labor of love
Everyone who came in contact with Jesus Christ knew how much He cared, whether they believed His message or not. That must be the mark of our own outreach to this lost and broken world. We must no longer see people as prospects to be led to the Lord, but rather as people to be loved in the Lord. Make no mistake, the work of apologetics is one of the greatest demonstrations of our love for others. It is a labor of love to want to put in the time to study the truths of the Gospel and learn how to share them with others. But the love of Jesus will only be apparent to the watching world when we care more about winning hearts than we do about winning arguments.
There is nothing like the love of Christ shining through a Christian to cause people to consider Christianity. Christlike love is the key that unlocks the door to the head and the heart, and those who are willing to put that love on display, regardless of the cost or circumstance, will share what the world needs most: a love that even suffering cannot shut down. Only in Christ will your life have a happy ending. Let’s go tell the world about Him; and let’s tell His story with a heart filled with love for the lost.
In what is known as the “love chapter,” the apostle Paul shines the brightest light upon the greatness of love, “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love” (1 Corinthians 13:13). Remember, for “God so loved the world” . . . and YOU!
This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. Never forget that… Amen!
Tommy Boland is senior pastor of Cross Community Church in Deerfield Beach. He blogs regularly at tommyboland.com.