May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you. (1 Thessalonians 3:12 NIV)
Love for those of our own company may not be so difficult. But the Word adds "and toward all men." That goes deeper. I have of late felt more deeply and strongly than ever before the force of very familiar words – "Knowledge puffeth up, but love buildeth up" (1 Cor. 8:1), and other words such as "maketh the increase of the body unto the building up of itself in love" (Eph. 4:16). If we are going to be affected by that which is present in other people, all those features in Christians and in Christian work and activity which are repugnant to us, we are going to close up and withdraw in heart and nothing is going to be done in the way of mutual helpfulness and edification. Again and again the very practical question arises – because of this or that which we meet in another can anything be done, is anything possible? And very often, in the acute consciousness of so much that appears on the surface, we have revolted against it; and then, going to the Lord about it and facing it out with Him, we have been enabled to go on, and something has happened and the Lord has wrought, and we have been surprised, and rebuked for our original offendedness. We have to look through all that to the heart, and be reminded every time that the Lord looks on the heart. We are looking on all this which is largely the result of ignorance, lack of proper teaching and so on, and this can offend us. But the Lord looks on the heart; He sees if there is something deep down under all these preponderances, if there is a real heart love for Him, and He knows if this is really the endeavor to express that love.
There may be misapprehension, there may be ignorance, there may be other causes, but this which offends us is, on the part of those concerned, their way of showing their love for the Lord, and we must not be turned aside – we must get close to them and find what possibilities there are for the Lord. He is going on, He is not giving up; He is making all He possibly can of the least bit of heart love for Himself and for all men. The challenge of this is very practical and very searching for us.
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