So, the search for real love is complete in Christ. What we desire most with all our hearts is freely available in him, but does it stop there? John, one of the first folowers of Jesus, continues his loving letter to his spiritual children in order that they should practice real love.

My dear children, let’s not just talk about love; let’s practice real love. This is the only way we’ll know we’re living truly, living in God’s reality. It’s also the way to shut down debilitating self-criticism, even when there is something to it. For God is greater than our worried hearts and knows more about us than we do ourselves. And friends, once that’s taken care of and we’re no longer accusing or condemning ourselves, we’re bold and free before God! We’re able to stretch our hands out and receive what we asked for because we’re doing what he said, doing what pleases him. Again, this is God’s command: to believe in his personally named Son, Jesus Christ. He told us to love each other, in line with the original command. As we keep his commands, we live deeply and surely in him, and he lives in us. And this is how we experience his deep and abiding presence in us: by the Spirit he gave us. 1 John 3:17-24 (The Message)

When we know we are fully loved in life it is easier to love fully. One of the most difficult things is to maintain a loving relationship. Distractions and temptations come our way and we lose the sense of loving fully. Our ego makes us want something new to excite and stimulate. Yet, if we are fully loved and fully loving we will keep practicing real love. What is real love? It is the sacrificial love of God found in Jesus Christ, it is the example and the action of Jesus in loving all humanity in his life, death, and resurrection. Believing in him creates in us the need to show such love to others as we live each day. We are not to be those who witness our faith in Christ to others by words alone but by our attitude and deeds being like Christ. This is what is meant by being ‘incarnational’ because it is not something we can do by ourselves, through being humanly nice, kind, and good, it is something that needs an extra dimension in our lives. It is formed through that deep and abiding presence of God in us through his Spirit.

Of course there will be many and varied ways of understanding the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives, from the energetic and provocative worship of Pentecostals and Charismatics, to the profound and deeply demanding disciplines of the Monastic traditions. What is at the heart of any Spirit filled life, however, is practicing real love. Jesus said that the fulfillment of the Jewish law could be summarized in one sentence, ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength and love your neighbour as yourself.’ Practicing real love means loving God, neighbour, and self without prioritizing one to the detriment of any other. So, if we are to love God then it does not mean we do so in four walls on a Sunday but we do so every day by loving our neigbour, and if we are to love our neigbour as an act of worship toward God then we need to love ourselves too in the same way. Neglect of neighbour, or of self for that instance, isn’t going to make us love God fully as he fully loves us and knowing we are fully loved by God should make us more able to love fully.

God who is real and perfect love, thank you for loving me fully, help me to fully love. Amen.

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