This pastoral passage was first written for LRBC on August 7 2016. The series of posts ‘Diagnosing Spiritual Health’ is drawn from Donald Whitney’s book Ten Questions to Diagnose Your Spiritual Health (Navpress, 2001).
Love is the most important Christian character trait (although ‘love’ is not a virtue unique to Christianity, it will be defined differently). The importance and imperative to demonstrate love to others is widespread throughout Scripture, and trumps all other qualities that could be presented as marks of spiritual attainment – whether remarkable talents or spiritual gifts or great understanding or tremendous faith or self-sacrifice (1Cor. 13:1-3). Growth in love to other people is a mark of spiritual health.
Jesus challenges people to consider the kind of love they show. He asks us not merely to love those who are our family and friends (Matt. 5:43-48); even the worst of people can do that! Jesus asks us to love those who we would not normally love. Those that we disagree with. Those that hate us. This is a difficult love to feel, and an even more difficult love to show. It is a supernatural affection that displays the continued work of grace in our lives.
Yet this is what is required of us. To love other Christians we are at odds with. To forgive those we have personal grievances with. To show care and concern for those who we have no obligation to. The love that Jesus asks us to have for others is ready to care for spiritual needs (such as the amnesty and eternal life presented in the gospel) and for temporal needs (including food, shelter, clothing, health, friendship and help in difficulties). This shows growth in grace, and is a sure sign of spiritual health. Are you becoming more loving?