Yes, love seems like a journey to me. Sometimes the entire journey happens in but a moment … at other times hours, days, weeks, months and even years pass.
This post is me wrestling to understand a bit of that journey and where I might be faltering. If you have a different perspective, I would love to hear it. If I’ve interpreted something incorrectly I would love to hear about.
I usually don’t start with the conclusion, but the conclusion appears to be an appropriate place to start today. This is how I see the journey …
affection (the feeling of love)–>mercy–>grace–>forgiveness–>compassion–>love (action)
Now obviously, all those stops are not in every love journey the believer travels. I think many of us believe we are strong at love … but what we’re truly talking about is affection. On the journey from affection, we stumble at mercy, grace, forgiveness, and/or compassion rarely reaching love (as a verb) … especially with those we perceive as ‘unlovable’.
OK, I stumble.
Let’s start with a few definitions as they apply to this journey …
- Affection – a feeling of loving someone
- Mercy – not inflicting a punishment or other negative response that someone truly deserves
- Grace – bestowing something good or positive on someone that is truly undeserved
- Forgiveness – absolve someone from a penalty or punishment resulting from some wrong committed against you or God (that is God’s responsibility not ours)
- Compassion – seeing and understanding the need of another and wanting to do something about it
- Love – loving or caring for someone in action and truth (see 1 John 3:18)
Time for first checkpoints …
Do you agree or disagree with the order? Why or why not?
Do you agree or disagree with the definitions? Why or why not?
Is something included or omitted that needs to be taken care of?
Love is a motivation that begins the journey … as a motivation it seems best labeled as affection.
For God is my witness, how I long for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus. Philippians 1:8 (NASB)
The love of God moves us to act with mercy and grace.
Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest. But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. Ephesians 2:3-7 (NASB)
And one of the first good outcomes of grace is forgiveness …
IN Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace which He lavished on us. Ephesians 1:7-8 (NASB)
For me, oftentimes personal judgment becomes a roadblock to my journey through mercy, grace, forgiveness, and compassion … an obstacle that prevents me from reaching journey’s end. The Holy Spirit has frequently used the following passage to convict me regarding my embrace of judgment … with mixed results I must confess …
“Do not judge so that you will not be judged. For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you.” Matthew 7:1-2 (NASB)
Compassion is another outcome of grace, one often withheld in lieu of judgment … forgiveness lacking …
But when Jesus heard this, He said, “It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire compassion, and not sacrifice,’ for I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” Matthew 9:12-13 (NASB)
And compassion finally moves us to act in love. Consider how compassion moved the Samaritan …
“But a Samaritan, who was on a journey, came upon him; and when he saw him, he felt compassion, and came to him and bandaged up his wounds, pouring oil and wine on them; and he put him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn and took care of him.” Luke 10:33-34 (NASB)
Or how about the father of the prodigal son?
“So he got up and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion for him, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ But the father said to his slaves, ‘Quickly bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet; and bring the fattened calf, kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; for this son of mine was dead and has come to life again; he was lost and has been found.’ And they began to celebrate.” Luke 15:20-24 (NASB)
The apostle John defined love for us as children of God …
Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth. 1 John 3:18 (NASB)
Oh Lord, so many times I falter in this love journey … never reaching Your destination. May my flesh become fully surrendered and submitted to your indwelling presence. Help me to love others as you love me!