When do you find out what someone really thinks of you? When is a person’s character revealed? I think all of us would agree that it is when things get difficult, that’s when we see what we’re made of and our true feelings about others come to light.
One of God’s defining attributes is His unconditional, unmerited, eternal love for mankind as demonstrated at the cross. God saw us at our very worst – rebellious, angry, filled with disdain and hate for all that He says and stands for – and decided to save us anyway because He loved us. When things are at their ugliest, God’s love shines the brightest.
Perhaps that’s why scripture teaches that there will be a stark difference in how people treat one another in the last days, and this will reveal who we belong to, and where our hearts really are. When the hard times come, will we turn on one another in an effort of self-preservation, or will we circle the wagons and love each other fiercely in the face of persecution, enabling and encouraging the endurance required to cross the finish line?
In 2 Thessalonians 1:3-4, Paul describes the believers at Thessalonica in stark contrast to the way Jesus describes the condition of the unbelieving world in the last days.
2 Thessalonians 1:3-4 – We ought always to give thanks to God for you, brethren, as is only fitting, because your faith is greatly enlarged, and the love of each one of you toward one another grows ever greater; therefore, we ourselves speak proudly of you among the churches of God for your perseverance and faith in the midst of all your persecutions and afflictions which you endure.
Matthew 24:12-13 – Because lawlessness is increased, most people’s love will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end, he will be saved.
Those who love God and whose faith is increasing, have a love that grows ever greater.
Whatever love existed in the hearts of those who reject God’s authority over their lives (increasing lawlessness) will grow cold.
You’ve seen this play out. A couple hits a hard place in their marriage, and instead of leaning into their faith, repenting of their sin, and acknowledge God’s authority over their marriage covenant, their love for one another grows cold, and divorce seems the only solution. Another couple experiences the same kind of challenges but decides to seek God’s heart and pursue Him as Lord in their marriage; their love deepens and grows, both for God and for each other, and the relationship is restored.
It happens in families, in business partnerships, in churches. Hard times come, even persecution. Faith is challenged, and endurance is required. Whether or not a person truly loves God first and foremost will determine if he or she is able to love the other person and persevere.
The kind of love Paul and Jesus are talking about does not extend just to those who claim faith in Christ. It is a love that enables us to love those who are not like us at all, even the very ones we are at odds with. Paul addressed this in his first letter to the Thessalonian believers.
1 Thessalonians 3:11-13 – Now may our God and Father Himself and Jesus our Lord direct our way to you; and may the Lord cause you to increase and abound in love for one another, and for all people, just as we also do for you; so that He may establish your hearts without blame in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all His saints.
How’s your love for others? This year, we’ve seen lawlessness increase like never before. We’re watching as the suppression of truth and freedom lays the foundation for the persecution that is coming for those who disagree with the people in charge of our lives. Will we see those who are against us through the love of Christ? Will we continue to love one another as brothers and sisters in Christ enough to risk being together as a body, even when we’re told to isolate and stay away from each other? Will we love those in the body of Christ who are not “like us,” who have different ideas and thoughts about lesser, unimportant things, but are in agreement on the essentials about Jesus?
Now, more than ever, the world needs to see the body of Christ love each other, and they need to experience God’s love through our words and actions. It is the greatest testimony we have that we ourselves have been transformed by God’s love and will endure to the end and be saved.
1 John 3:23 – This is His commandment, that we believe in the name of His Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, just as He commanded us.
John 13:34-35 – I am giving you a new commandment, that you love one another; just as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all people will know that you are My disciples: if you have love for one another.