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Friday, May 25, 2012

The Connection Between Love and Faith



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Are you ready for the third empowering way to love well? (Read my previous two posts for the other two ways). I Timothy 1:5 gives it to us: "a sincere faith." 


At first I wondered how faith figures in with giving love for the benefit of the other person--and not ourselves. I realized there are several aspects and one requires that we look back at Paul's thoughts leading up to verse 5. Here are verses 3-5:

"As I urged you upon my departure for Macedonia, remain on at Ephesus so that you may instruct certain men not to teach strange doctrines, nor to pay attention to myths and endless genealogies, which give rise to mere speculation rather than furthering the administration of God which is by faith. But the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith." (NASB)
Paul is contrasting real love with strange doctrines. The "strange doctrines" depend on things that require our own efforts for salvation: knowing myths and genealogies. The Gospel on the other hand, is dependent upon God's work on our behalf. It's confidence dependent upon grace.

The Judaizers who Paul is refuting didn't love the people well because they were putting all manner of unrealistic expectations upon them by telling them they needed to return to the Law for salvation. In Greek, "sincere faith" is "faith unfeigned" or "not hypocritical." The Judaizers were telling the people to earn their salvation through the Law when they themselves couldn't be good enough to earn it. Talk about hypocrisy. Insincere faith and selfish "love" says "I've arrived (done it right) and deserve salvation but you haven't." Paul says true love is not hypocritical. The person with true love puts sincere faith to work. What does that look like?


Faith from the Gospel (not myths, genealogies or false teachings) means that we are all on equal ground. The Gospel says all of us are sinners in need of a Savior. Loving "well" doesn't expect more than is reasonable. Therefore, I don't put unreasonable expectations upon another person since I can't perform any better than they can. I see them through God's eyes and respond with grace like He does. I can even love myself "well" by giving myself grace. 


Secondly, sincere faith empowers loving "well" by trusting in God's powerful work in another person. If faith believes it's God's work, not my efforts (both for salvation and sanctification), I can also apply that faith to believing God will work in another person's life and I don't have to force them to change. Loving unselfishly means letting go of manipulation, anger, bitterness, and control. I no longer need to force things to happen because the Holy Spirit is a much better Holy Spirit than I am! 


In my first post in this series on loving well, I talked about trying to change Larry in our early marriage. Because he was rarely home (he worked two jobs and had a flying hobby), I was angry and bitter. I expected him to meet my needs because I believed he held the key to my happiness. 

In time, God convicted me of my selfish "love" and I turned to God to meet my needs. I released Larry from that responsibility and could love him "well" by being happy and pleasant toward him, no longer nagging, complaining and demanding perfection. I believed God would work according to His plan and even if He didn't do what I desired, I could trust God to meet my true needs.


About that time, Larry finalized his plans to resign as a Downey police officer because he was hired as a Huntington Beach police officer. But this required a cut in pay, which meant Larry no longer had the money to rent a plane to fly. Amazing! He was home more! God had provided what I wanted in His own timing and in His own way. But not because of my manipulation and control. Faith had empowered me to love Larry well. I had no guarantee Larry would change, therefore, I was willing to love well whether or not it "paid off." In time, Larry was willing to allow God to change him and the restoration of the love of our marriage began.  I'm so grateful.


I've learned a lot this week thinking about loving well from I Timothy 1:5. I've been challenged to grow in having a pure heart, a clear conscience and a sincere faith. I hope you have too. A good question to ask ourselves is: "Which of those three elements for loving well do I need to grow in?" I trust the people around us will notice!


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