Love flourishes and grows in relational soil rich with trust. As long as sufficient trust is present in a relationship, love is likely to be healthy and resilient. But if trust erodes, love withers. Too much erosion and it dies.
Satan knows this — which is why he works diligently, subtly, and insidiously to incite and encourage the erosion of our trust in one another. He wants to kill love.
Most Powerful Apologetic
Since God is love (1 John 4:7–8), it is no exaggeration to say that love is the greatest thing in the world. Love is the omnipotent cohesive core of intra-Trinitarian relations and the explosive impetus for the triune God putting his glory on display in creation (John 17:24–26; John 1:1–3; Colossians 1:15–17; John 15:9–10; 3:35).
Love motivated the Father to initiate his plan to redeem lost, rebellious people (John 3:16). Love motivated the Son to lay his life down for us (John 15:13). Loving God and other people were the greatest commandments under the old covenant (Matthew 22:36–40) and remain the greatest commandments under the new covenant (John 14:15; 15:12).
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16
Love is the single greatest distinguishing mark of a disciple of Jesus (John 13:35). The one who is born of God and knows God loves (1 John 4:7). Love is the foremost fruit the Holy Spirit bears in us (Galatians 5:22–23). Love is more excellent than any gift or miracle of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:31). It does not matter how spiritually gifted we are or how much we achieve or how much we sacrifice in Jesus’s name, if we do not have love, we are nothing and gain nothing (1 Corinthians 13:1-3).
Christ-like, sacrificial, forbearing, hopeful, enduring love is the greatest apologetic to the existence and nature of God on earth. It is more compelling than brilliant, well-reasoned arguments (which can be brilliantly countered) and more powerful than signs and wonders (which can be counterfeited — Matthew 24:24). And any Spirit-filled Christian of any gender, ethnicity, social class, age demographic, intellectual capacity, or spiritual gifting can demonstrate love.
Christian love is the force most threatening to Satan’s kingdom and therefore what he seeks most to disarm and destroy.
Satan Takes Aim at Trust
But when Satan attempts to kill love, he frequently aims at trust. He knows better than we do how trust can affect love.
The more we trust someone, the easier it is for us to love them. We feel confident in and safe with those we trust, and we can bear with a lot of their idiosyncrasies, foibles, and even sinful stumbles. And we tend to be far more willing to receive correction from them.
But it’s harder for us to love someone when we lack trust in them. We are more guarded and prone to question their judgment. It’s far easier to see potentially serious moral issues lurking in their idiosyncrasies, foibles, and sinful stumbles, and we are much quicker to suspect sinister motives when they bring us correction. A trust deficit usually results in strained relational distance, and broken trust usually results in a broken relationship.
This means our relationships are quite vulnerable. It does not take much to damage trust and cool our love for another. We are incredibly finite beings whose sin natures have a monstrous sized ego, making us highly prone to take offense. It only requires a misunderstanding or presumption to begin changing the prescription lenses of our trust in one another. When trust begins to erode, love begins to wither. And when love begins to wither, the greatest evidence of the reality and nature of God on earth becomes obscured.
That’s why Satan is always trying to erode our trust in God and one another. He’s seeking to obscure the glory of Jesus by killing love. If he can do that, he can render our gospel witness impotent, fragment our churches, and isolate us, making us increasingly vulnerable to his temptations, while keeping us preoccupied with justifying ourselves and suspecting others.
More than anything — anything— we must “pursue love” (1 Corinthians 14:1). We must pursue love with a jealous zeal for the glory of Christ and the good and advance of his church. We must be doggedly determined and unswervingly committed in our pursuit of love because Satan will aim at our trust in every relationship in effort to destroy or at least severely weaken love, especially our relationships in the church. We must not let him outwit us or be ignorant of his schemes (2 Corinthians 2:11).
We must beware of allowing minor differences to grow out of proportion in our imaginations. We must resist assigning sinful motives to others’ actions based on our assumptions. If we suspect sin may be present, we must not remain silent, allowing those suspicions to fester. We must not trust our perceptions, but ask clarifying questions with humility. And if we become aware that someone has something against us, we must go quickly to them and seek resolution (Matthew 5:23–24).
Wherever we have damaged relationships due to trust erosion, particularly with other Christians, Christ and the apostles call us to pursue reconciliation — to pursue love. It’s not an option. We must live at peace with all as far as it depends upon us (Romans 12:18).
18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.
In cases where severe damage has been done due to very real serious sin, we must seek sound pastoral counsel and facilitators skilled at peace-making. But most of our trust erosion happens due to common-to-man, garden-variety sins of pride, exacerbated by uncharitable judgment, gossip, slander, and resentment, which Satan encourages and exploits.
Punch Him in the Mouth
It’s possible that the greatest act of spiritual warfare we can engage in right now, the greatest blow we can deal Satan, is pursuing love by humbling ourselves and seeking reconciliation with an estranged or relationally strained brother or sister in Christ. Who knows what breakthroughs might be achieved by such obedience?
Love is the greatest thing in the world, because God is love and love comes from him (1 John 4:7–8). To love is the greatest commandment God ever gave us. And the glory of Christ, the proclamation of his gospel, and our testimonies as his disciples are at stake in the way we love one another.
So let us pursue love with all our might, and in doing so, punch Satan in the mouth.