• alyssa conlee

practical love

What is love?

There is potential for about a million different answers to this question. And many of those answers would be feelings or ideals rather than actions.

Even in the church world, I feel like we often discuss love in a theological, conceptual, and abstract manner.

What if we began to approach love more practically? Would that change the way we live life?

Love in the Abstract

God is love. Have you ever just pondered this ridiculously profound statement? It’s not that God has a loving personality, or that He does loving things, or that He tells us that He loves us. (Though all of these things are true.)

God is the essence of love. Every breath He breathes is love. He is the ultimate manifestation of this attribute. He cannot not love.

His eternal state of love perfectly compliments His other attributes. Even in His holiness and justice and perfection… He is still love. Even when we don’t understand how, God’s every movement proclaims His love. His love goes far beyond what we can even envision, because His ways are much bigger than our own.

What a marvelous God we serve!

God's Love in Practice

I don’t know about you, but I could easily be consumed by these theological concepts for the rest of eternity. But His love is not just an idea.

Because God is love, He defines the terms of what love looks like. And His love isn’t abstract and unseeable.

“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” (1 Corinthians 13:4-7, ESV.)

These aren’t abstract, theological concepts. These statements are reflected in His everyday dealings with us. Love is manifested in the person of Christ. It’s ever present in His birth, life, death, and resurrection. Jesus didn’t just come and speak of lofty ideas of what love should be. He was love—in His earthly ministry, and of course in His bodily sacrifice for sinners’ sake.

Christ’s inherit essence of love compelled Him to live a life of practical love.

Practical Love: A Life of Service

So what then does this mean for us, as followers of Christ?

“Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.” (1 John 4:11-12.)

We must love one another. Let’s remember what love is: it’s patent, kind, enduring… it’s not arrogant, rude, or boastful. Love is putting another’s needs above your own. It’s service.

As the body of Christ, our love for one another is the evidence of the living God abiding in us. It makes the unseen seen. When we serve one another, we truly become the hands and feet of Jesus. And the thing is, service is not only beneficial in a practical sense. It’s more than that. When we practically love, we reflect the eternal, conceptual, astounding love of God. Our love in action becomes a small picture of the One one we serve.

What does it mean, to love practically?

This is by no means a standard prescription for every believer, but the Lord’s been showing me that to love others well, I need to practice hospitality.

Hospitality is an interesting command for single twenty-somethings without homes or steady incomes. I wrestled with this for a while, wondering why God would tell me to be hospitable, knowing my current situation.

Turns out, it’s pretty simple. Hospitality, like every other Christian practice, is a matter of the heart, not resources. It’s the little things we can do for others to fulfill their present needs. While I may not be able to have people over to my non-existent home, I can still make food for friends. I can do everything in my power to make people feel welcome, even if it’s not my home I’m welcoming them into. I’m not perfect at this, but I’ve realized that small acts of kindness can be more impactful than we think—it can be such a fruitful ministry!

These aren’t new thoughts. Deep-thinking believers have pondered these abstractions for centuries, and have shared much more profound and eloquent words than I have. But I’ve recently found it necessary to allow these thoughts to consume my mind for the sake of my tired soul… and maybe these thoughts will be beneficial to you too.

Let’s be a people known by our service. Let’s be the hands and feet of Jesus. Let’s love, practically.

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