Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. – John 15:13 – Crucifixion of Jesus by Gustave Doré 1866 – Source.

by Brian Shilhavy

Knowledge makes arrogant, but love edifies. If anyone supposes that he knows anything, he has not yet known as he ought to know; but if anyone loves God, he is known by Him. (1 Corinthians 8:1-3)

What do you think is more important: being smart, or being known as someone who has great love for others? What is more important to community and society: someone with great knowledge, or someone who displays great compassion and love for others?

The Bible is very clear on this matter:

For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. (1 Corinthians 13:9-13)

As we read through the apostle Paul’s letters in the New Testament portion of the Bible that were written to the early churches, we see a common theme and problem that existed in those early churches. There were divisions and factions, instead of unity. The primary cause of those divisions was giving more importance to “knowledge” instead of love.

As the verse quoted above to start this article states, knowledge makes one arrogant by fooling you to think you know more and are better than someone else, whereas love (agape love which is an unconditional love) seeks to build up a person and to be more concerned about them than we are about ourselves.

The biggest divisions in the early church fellowships were divisions between Jewish believers and Gentile (non-Jewish) believers. It was a titanic clash of cultures! This was especially true when it came to eating foods. Paul deals with these divisions head on in Romans chapter 14:

Now accept the one who is weak in faith, but not for the purpose of passing judgment on his opinions. One person has faith that he may eat all things, but he who is weak eats vegetables only. The one who eats is not to regard with contempt the one who does not eat, and the one who does not eat is not to judge the one who eats, for God has accepted him. Who are you to judge the servant of another? To his own master he stands or falls; and he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand. (Romans 14:1-4)

God loves us and accepts us just the way we are. His love is unconditional and free. All the requirements of the law, and its punishment for failing to keep all the standards of the law, were dealt with once and for all by Jesus Christ through his death and resurrection. Therefore, since God has not judged us according to our sins, we in turn are not to judge others according to their sins or shortcomings, but rather accept them with unconditional love:

Therefore let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother. I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself, but it is unclean for anyone who thinks it unclean. For if your brother is grieved by what you eat, you are no longer walking in love. By what you eat, do not destroy the one for whom Christ died. (Romans 14:13-15)

There is just as much division among believers today as there ever has been. But God is not impressed with how much we know, or how good we think we are. The mark of a mature believer is NOT purity of doctrine, knowledge of the Bible, or having the “correct” position on social or political issues (as important as those things are.) Jesus said it best when he said: “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:35)

I have had the opportunity to live in countries and visit countries where believers in Jesus Christ are the persecuted minority people. In these places there is usually tremendous unity among believers. They draw strength from their love for one another and their common strong bond as part of the body of Christ. Differences become inconsequential in the context of those who belong to the Kingdom of Light and have become part of God’s family through spiritual rebirth.

But in countries like the United States, even among those of us who have been reborn into Jesus’ Kingdom, we tend to emphasize our differences and wrongly think that our particular doctrine or denomination has a corner on the truth, and look down upon all others who do not agree with us.

I was listening to a Christian radio station one day, and the person on the air publically criticized another church in their area for what they considered a “heresy” by promoting a certain Christian book that they didn’t like. This seemed to me to be a clear example of where”knowledge makes arrogant,” and I could fill up pages and pages of other examples where groups of Christians in America today spend an enormous amount of time criticizing and attacking other Christians, instead of using that time to demonstrate the love of Christ.

The popular American culture loves to debate and ridicule those who don’t agree with their positions (just turn on any news program or talk show program), and this same attitude seems to dominate believers as well. How can those who still walk in the darkness see our love for one another when we are so busy debating and condemning each other?!

As our opening verse states:

Knowledge makes arrogant, but love edifies. If anyone supposes that he knows anything, he has not yet known as he ought to know; but if anyone loves God, he is known by Him. (1 Corinthians 8:1-3)

The mature believers are the ones who are known by God and also have a strong relationship with him. As I have previously written, “what” you may know is not nearly as important as “who” you know, and how well you know God. And the measurement of those who know God best is not their intellectual understanding of the Bible, or social issues, or political issues. Instead, those who know God best show it in their love for one another! And Jesus was our supreme example, showing us a love the world had never seen before (see: The New Standard for Love).

By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another. (John 13:35)

This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. (John 15:12-13)

Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins. (1 Peter 4:8)

Equipped to Love:
Building Idolatry-free Relationships

Equipped to Love by Norm Wakefield book cover image

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