Abounding in Love: A Call to Grow in Sacrificial Love for Your Church Community

Learning about sacrificial love can only be done through one Person — God Himself. As we learn through His Word and work in our lives, we can pour it out on others.

It’s not uncommon for me to converse with a woman about difficult people or challenging situations at her church. As I probe, I often discover that while she may be aware of many challenging things, she lacks awareness of herself in a particular area.

As women, we may naturally care about the life of our church, but sometimes without realizing it, we lack love. If we’re not careful, it can contribute to a lack of unity in the church.

Paul was concerned about this for the Philippians, and his entire letter is built on a few verses at the beginning:

“And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment,

so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ,

filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.” (Philippians 1:9-11, ESV)

Abound in Love

Right out of the gates, as Paul shares that he’s praying for the Philippians’ love to abound, we must recognize three important things:

  1. He demonstrates that he understands that for their love to grow, it must be accomplished by the Lord. He’s demonstrating dependence on the Lord in his very act of praying for it.
  2. When he says, “And it is my prayer that your love may abound,” he knows they already have love in their hearts.
  3. And three, love is meant to grow, and it can grow!

In the Gospels, when Jesus was asked what the greatest commandment was, he responded by saying that we should love the Lord with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength and love our neighbor as ourselves (Mark 12:28-30, ESV).  The reason is that love undergirds everything in the Christian life. In 1 Corinthians 13, Paul tells us that we can prophesy, speak in tongues, understand all mysteries and knowledge, have faith to move mountains, and can give away everything we have, BUT if we don’t have love, we’re nothing and gain nothing. In fact, we can have all those things, but they will pass away, and love will remain (1 Cor 13:8-10, ESV).

God prioritizes love over everything else.

What Kind of Love?

In this passage, Paul’s praying for agape love to grow: a willful, unselfish, benevolent love that is costly and sacrificial and does what’s best for the individual being loved.

This means that Paul is not calling them to grow in sentimental love. 

Agape love is demonstrated to us by God, who, when we were still sinners, sent Christ to die for us, making a way for a right relationship with Him again (John 3:16, Rom 5:8). He set His will to love us. His love always does what is best for man. It is the purest, unselfish love. This is what the first and second commandments to love God and others is to be like.

As a quick refresher, in Scripture, this love is described in the following ways (this is not an exhaustive list!):

  • Love God (this is how we do it and what it looks like):
    • with everything in us, by obedience – Mark 12:30, John 14:15, 1 John 5:3
      • wives submit to husbands
      • husbands love wives
      • children obey their parents
      • parents love and teach children
    • Love Others:
      • friends (John 15:3),
      • family,
      • others (Mark 12:31),
      • enemies (Matt 5:44)
    • Laying down our life
    • Genuine
    • Does no wrong
    • Patient
    • kind
    • Does not envy
    • Does not boast
    • Not arrogant
    • Not rude
    • Doesn’t insist on its own way
    • Not irritable
    • not resentful
    • Does not rejoice at wrongdoing
    • Rejoices with the truth
    • Bears all things
    • Believes all things
    • Hopes
    • Endures all things
    • We are to put it on
    • Stir up one another to love
    • Casts out fear

Dependent on Him

God’s standard for love is high! This is perfect love, according to Him. And the truth is, we cannot love according to God’s standard without His help. The reason for that isn’t for some amoral reason, like we’re too tired or weak, but because every part of our being is corrupted by sin. We are incapable; our flesh does not naturally want to do these things.

So, from the start of this passage, we can see our need for humility as we consider growing in love because we need his help to grow in love toward Him and others. Because we trust Jesus as our Savior, we have the Holy Spirit, the helper, living in our hearts to equip us to obey God. We can follow Paul’s example and pray for help!

In His Word

Continue studying Philippians 1:9-11. It’s a rich treasure trove that will amaze you and spur you on toward the love Paul speaks of.

In Your Life

How often do you pray for the members of your church? Revive Our Hearts has a wonderful guide titled, How to Pray for Your Church. Download it and tuck it into your Bible, and use it!

We Recommend

Learning to love the church is important! Two books that can inform and fuel your pursuit of love in this endeavor include Megan Hill’s, A Place to Belong, Tony Merida’s Love Your Church.

Let’s Connect

You can connect with Kelly through her blog, on Instagram, or the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors find a counselor page