Consider these well-known scriptures: "And I have declared to them Your name, and will declare it, that the love with which You loved Me may be in them, and I in them." (John 17:26) "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. In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another." (1 John 4:7-11) "And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love." (1 Corinthians 13:13)
These and many other scriptures convey to us the mind of God regarding the supremacy of love. The very nature of God is love, and He is bringing us to a full expression of that love in the body of Christ. No matter what we do or what we hold dear, if it is not infused with a divine love that originates in God himself, it has no value to God. "Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing." (1 Corinthians 13:1-3)
What is the nature of this love? Paul expresses it this way: "Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails... " (1 Corinthians 13:4-8) Knowing the nature of this love does not in itself give us the ability to express this love, but it does give us a standard by which we may evaluate. Each of these statements about love strikes right at the heart. They raise a standard that seems impossible, and separate from God it is impossible. This is a supernatural work that only the Spirit of God can do in us--no man can do it on his own. Yet a full expression of this love is what God is looking for in the body of Christ. It is what gives power to the testimony of the church.
We are commanded to keep ourselves in this love which originates in God himself (see Jude 21). This is very different from trying to attain to our own understanding of the love of God. We can never love in this manner by our own ability. Our place is to abide in Christ and allow Him to express His love through us. As we abide in union with God, the Holy Spirit will pour this love into our hearts, and our place then is to allow this love to be expressed through obedience. "As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love. If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father's commandments and abide in His love." (John 15:9-10)
Not only can we not express this love separate from God; neither can we express this love separate from one another. Listen carefully again to Paul: "...but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head--Christ--from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love." (Ephesians 4:15-16) Love by its very nature must have an object of expression to be seen. God wants His love revealed, and the primary place it is to be seen is in the church, the body of Christ. This is our place in the plan of God: to reveal God's nature together.
As the body of Christ here on this earth, we are called to declare truth. Jesus said that He is the truth, so a declaration of truth is never separate from a declaration of the person of Christ. But Jesus is also God and His nature is love, so a declaration of Jesus will also never be void of love. Someone has said that if truth is declared without love it is no longer truth, and if love does not declare the truth it is no longer love. They always go together. We must know the truth, walk in truth, and speak the truth, but love must be there at every point. This is often the reason we do not grow as we ought. We try to speak the truth with the best intentions, but if it is not infused with the love of God, it will not be received. It is as we speak the truth in love that we will grow up in all things unto Him. Are we willing to look diligently to God about these things, that God may have a full expression of love in a many-membered body?
According to Paul's teaching, a growing expression of this love is linked to the proper functioning of each member of the body. This is not a simple matter. Every member must maintain a pure relationship with God. Every relationship in the body must be brought to a spiritual level, where we accept each other as Christ has accepted us. We each must know our measure of grace and be willing to function in it. We cannot think that we are sufficient in ourselves; neither can we think that we are nothing and our participation does not count. If God has given each one a measure of grace to function, we need everything God has given. Speaking the truth in love on a consistent basis as God brings the body to full maturity is a great working in every way. Yet this is the plan and purpose of God, and this is how He has designed to reveal who He is. It is in this context of unity and love that we will experience all that God is and has for us. It is here that God is glorified.