Jun28WedJune 28, 2017
As we have been focusing on prayer through this year, my eyes have been on the lookout for various prayers that are offered to the Lord from the various writers of Scripture. This week, I was struck by the prayer which the Apostle Paul prayed for the church of the Thessalonians at the end of chapter 3.
He wrote, “May the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all…so that He may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father” (1 Thessalonians 3:12-13a).
In this prayer, the Holy Spirit, through Paul, is emphasizing the need for believers to grow in love for one another AND in holiness before God. In fact, there appears to be a direct correlation between the two – as if one is dependent upon another. Holiness before God requires a loving heart towards all people. Love for all people also requires a genuine desire for holiness through a relationship with our God and Father. The two are interrelated.
This particular point jumped off the page at me as I was reading the Scriptures between our twin boys and their cereal bars. I certainly love the way which the Lord reveals Himself in His word even through passages I have read several times before!
Consider this: holiness and love are both crucial components of the Christian life. The writer of Hebrews summarized this by saying that we should “strive for peace with everyone” (through love) “and for holiness” (Hebrews 12:14). Yet, these two characteristics – love and holiness – cannot be achieved on their own. Let me explain that. If someone is determined to love and drives straight towards it, they will likely fail to accumulate a holy heart along the way. They will likely be sidetracked with the desire to please people (see 1 Thessalonians 2:4), because, if we are honest, pleasing people often feels like genuine love. But real love doesn’t let a child play in the road even if they persist, nor does it let an alcoholic fill the house with bottles even if it makes them smile. Loving people with authentic love requires a heart rooted in Godly holiness.
Likewise, if someone is determined to live a holy life and drives straight towards it, they will likely fail to accumulate a loving heart along the way. Why? Because without love, the journey towards holiness is easily sidetracked by the temptations towards isolation, legalism and arrogance. If one says, “I will be holy” without a desire to show love to others, they will easily pray, “I am so glad that I’m not like other men!” – a prayer which Jesus condemns (Luke 18:9-15). Without love, even acts of pious giving or selfless martyrdom, has no eternal reward (1 Corinthians 13:3). Holy living needs love.
As you face this week, I invite you to consider the interconnected paths of love and holiness. If you have placed your faith in Jesus, He invites you to live into both of these characteristics, by the power of His Spirit. We know this because Jesus modeled love and holiness perfectly – and never one without the other. So, join me in praying, “May the Lord make me increase and abound in love for one another and for all…so that He may establish my heart blameless in holiness before our God and Father” (1 Thessalonians 3:12-13a). Amen!