You see, love is like oxygen. It’s essential for the Christian life. We can’t live without it. We can’t breathe without it. And here’s the thing about breathing: It gives us life, but holding our breath won’t do any good. There’s a rhythm to it. We breathe in, and we breathe out. God’s love isn’t meant to be held in; it’s something we exhale to the world around us. We can’t help it. That’s just how we breathe.
Pass the Torch
You might be wondering, Okay, so how do I love God? What does that even mean? Do I sit around thinking good, “loving” thoughts about him? Or do I love him through actions? How does it work? Jesus gives us a very clear answer. In Matthew 25, he tells the people gathered around him that one day he will come back and say to those who fed the hungry, showed hospitality to the stranger, clothed the naked, cared for the sick, and visited the imprisoned: “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me” (verse 40, niv). The gospel of Jesus is complex and full of layers, but the application we are to follow is nothing more than basic direction: Love God, love people. Or as Dwight L. Moody framed it,
If we have got the true love of God shed abroad in our hearts we will show it in our lives. We will not have to go up and down the earth proclaiming it. We will show it in everything we say or do.12
By loving others in the most simple and hands-on ways, we also love God. We are bringing glory to his name, glory to the Cross, and glory to his Son, Jesus. We fuel the fire even more. Loving him isn’t an abstract exercise of the mind. It’s an action that takes place through our relationships and interactions with other people—it’s taking the fire to others.
I think of it a little bit like a wildfire. It’s not a perfect analogy—wildfires, after all, can be scary and destructive—but wildfires can also have an incredible purpose: They burn up what’s dead in a forest and make way for new life that wouldn’t yet be able to flourish. My uncle is a firefighter who spent most of his early career working with a team that fights California forest fires. He’d be the first to tell you that wildfires, especially ones with the wind to their backs, are unrelenting. They have the power to climb hills and jump across interstates. And the more fuel a fire has, the wilder it gets, the faster it moves, and the larger of an area it will affect and consume. The same is true about our relationships with God and our effectiveness as Christians.
Loving others by extending the love of God through our actions, words, and everyday lives is not only contagious but also brings life to those giving and those on the receiving end. It lifts them up to new heights. God’s love is like a wildfire—expansive, consuming, and reckless. And with the Holy Spirit to our backs, unstoppable. God created his people in his image so that they could love, help those in need, and expand the great commission to all nations, as we see in the New Testament. Our calling as Christians is to love those we come into contact with, share the message of Jesus, and worship with all that we are, no matter the circumstance. It’s not always easy, but remember this: We were created to love. It’s our purpose in life. To love others, making much of Jesus’ name. And with Jesus, it’s possible. As minister Samuel Chadwick said,
Spirit-filled souls are ablaze for God. They love with a love that glows. They believe with a faith that kindles. They serve with a devotion that consumes. They hate sin with a fierceness that burns. They rejoice with a joy that radiates. Love is perfected in the Fire of God.13
This fire is all-consuming—everything near it gets drawn in. When we’re close to this fire—when we open ourselves up to learning about Jesus—we can’t help but be pulled into it and want others to feel its warm embrace. We love because he loved us first. We forgive because he forgave us first. We serve others because Jesus served us first. Our love is because of God. Our servanthood is because of God. Our being is because of God. When we model ourselves after this truth, we allow God’s love to spark the power into our lives that keeps us moving forward. Jesus, and only Jesus, can provide us with the fuel we need to love others well. When we truly encounter Jesus, we will never be without that fuel.
We can’t love others without the love of God. The love of God is kind and compassionate. No matter how deep or truthful we may think our words are, if we’re speaking and acting without love, no one can hear us. Anything said without love isn’t worth saying at all. Anything done without love isn’t worth doing at all. And you can imagine what it must feel like for those being criticized by people who think they are doing so in “love,” when really it’s just out of a misplaced sense of pride or superiority or judgment. Those being criticized hear nothing but the crashing of cymbals. But the moment love enters the picture, the clanging stops. Our voices become clear.
Without love, we can’t fulfill God’s calling for our lives. Without love, we can’t engage in the relationship that God yearns for. And without love, we can’t truly reflect God’s image at all. Try to think of a single person who is doing incredible things for the Kingdom of God without the love of God. That person doesn’t exist. Life without the love of God will let you down and lead you in the wrong direction. We were meant for a life empowered by love, in which God’s love affects every little thing we do.
Loving others isn’t always going to be easy. And just because you are following God’s direction doesn’t mean everything is going to go the way you planned. We have to look at the bigger picture. God is in complete control—our only job is to make ourselves available to love people who are in need. That’s such a big and beautiful part of the Christian life that so many people seem to forget. Following Jesus is about God loving you, you loving God, and you loving people in the name of God.
Every day we will have opportunities to breathe out love onto people who are in need, hurting, and broken. We should not beg God to use us and then ignore the opportunities to love the people in front of us. Being used by God doesn’t always mean doing what we perceive as “big” things. Being used by God means taking every opportunity, no matter how big or small, and truly investing our time and energy into them.
A Final Word
This journey into living in God’s love will take the rest of our lives.
Taken from Love Is Oxygen by Jarrid Wilson. Copyright © 2017. Used by permission of NavPress. All rights reserved. Represented by Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.