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Real Love Lasts

"Let brotherly love continue." Four simple words that take less than two seconds to say, but a lifetime to work out. These words come from Hebrews 13:1. They verbalize a frequent command found scores of times in the New Testament — the command to love. The words recorded in Hebrews 13:1 contain an obvious and important implication. They infer that love had, at some point in the past, begun among the Christians being addressed. They had proven to be a loving congregation (see Hebrews 10:32-34).

But there is another important inference in the verse we must not overlook. The inspired writer is concerned that the Christian love they have experienced and expressed in the past must "continue." More pointedly, they must "let" brotherly love continue. It will continue if they let it. It can continue, but whether or not it does is a choice they must make. Why in the world would God need to tell His people to let love continue? Don't Christians automatically love? Isn't that what they do? Doesn't the Bible say, "Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God, for God is love" (1 John 4:7-8)? And don't Christians sing, "Love one another, thus saith the Savior. Children obey the Father's blest command"? If you have been a Christian very long you don't need a preacher to tell you why God repeatedly commands us to love, and especially to "let brotherly love continue." The biggest hurdle in obeying that command is that sometimes my brother is not very brotherly and not very loveable! As it turns out, the church pews are fairly filled with people who prove to be imperfect and more than a little difficult to love at times! Not me or you now, mind you. But there are occasions when everybody else acts in unloving and unlovely ways! And God tells me when that happens I have a choice: either "Let brotherly love continue" or act unlovingly and let it come to an end. Like a Roman candle, what people call love often springs into life in a ball of fire and blaze of glory only to die almost as quickly as soon as it is offended or disappointed.

A team of professional researchers posed this question to a group of 4 to 8 year-olds: "What does love mean?" Six year-old Tammy gave this hard-to-improve-on answer: "Love is like a little old woman and a little old man who are still friends even after they know each other so well." That reminds me of the story of an elderly couple paying for groceries at the checkout while they discussed the celebration for their approaching 50th wedding anniversary. A young woman at the cash register shook her head and said, "I can't imagine being married to the same man for fifty years!" The sweet old lady looked her straight in the eye and gave some stern but needed advice: "Well, honey, don't get married until you can." The cross of Christ confronts us with a powerful truth — God-like love is not a feeling that fizzles when the going gets tough. It is a force that even nails can't hold back or destroy. As little 5 year-old Max said in the aforementioned survey: "God could have said magic words to make the nails fall off the cross, but He didn't. That's love." Max is right. Real love really lasts. "Let brotherly love continue."

Dan Gulley
Smithville church of Christ