What Does It Mean to Abide in Love?

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At the beginning of every year, I ask God for a word.

I do not ask for a list of resolutions, or even a set of spiritual goals, but a single word. At the end of every year, I find that my word has penetrated every area of my life, from how I treat my family to how I tackle my homework. This year, my word is “abide.”

Naturally, after confirming that “abide” is the word God wants me to meditate on, I sought to define it. After finding the dictionary definition irrelevant, I decided to draw my own definition from reading what the Bible says about abiding. While I have only brushed the surface of this study so far, I was surprised by what I found. I figured abiding in God simply meant spending more time with Him. What I found in the Scriptures, though, is that abiding is much more than that. In short, abiding in Christ is all about love: His love for us, our love for Him, and our love for others. Thus, by a happy coincidence, the second day of February finds me considering the ever-complex topic of Biblical love.

The book of first John is where I began my study of the word “abide.” I went through the book several times, circling every instance of “abide” in the passage. Glancing at the few short pages in my Bible that make up 1 John, I can count at least 22 occurrences of the word. Interestingly, almost every time John uses the word “abide,” it is accompanied by another word— “love.” Recently, my pastor gave a beginning-off-the-year sermon on the two biggest focuses that every Christian should have: loving God and loving others. It is the greatest commandment and encompasses the purpose of the Christian life. It seems so simple, but how is it done? We are such selfish beings—how are we supposed to deny ourselves to love others?

As I continued my study, I came upon another vital passage about abiding in Christ: John 15. Jesus’ familiar illustration about the vine and its branches took on a whole new meaning for me. I felt so incapable of loving God and loving others. But when I read verse four, I began to understand the key to denying myself. It says, “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me” (ESV). Ironically, we as humans are so desperately inept that we cannot love God, let alone others, without His help and power. We are so purely selfish that we cannot deny ourselves without His assistance. Backing up to verses 2-3, which declare believers as completely clean by the power of God, I found once again that it has nothing to do with my efforts and everything to do with Christ’s sacrifice. This is true love. This is the love that Jesus invites us to abide in, free from guilt and sin (v.9).

The passage ends with a command: “love one another as I have loved you” (v.12). Thus, to truly abide in Christ means to grasp, accept, and thrive off of His love so much that it overflows out of my life and into the people around me. Abiding in Christ means that I cannot help but love God and love people because of His inexplicable love for me.

As many times as I have read the book of 1 John as well as John 15, I have not stopped learning new things about what it means to abide in love. Throughout the month of February, I plan to share these simple lessons with you by studying God’s love for us, our love for God, and our love for others. I hope you will join me in humble adoration of the Savior that loved us enough to die for us, and, in turn, make us worthy of sharing His love with others.

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