What is the culminating hallmark, the most important expression of the Christian faith? The Bible tells us it's love. As 1 Corinthians 13 says, "Now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love" (v. 13).
When the apostle Paul wrote to the Philippian church, he let them know that he was specifically praying for their love. In his prayer we find four attributes of mature Christian love that we would do well to aim for today:
1. Our love should be plentiful. "This I pray, that your love may abound still more and more" (Philippians 1:9). The word abound means to exceed a fixed measure. This implies that the Philippians already loved one another, and Paul wanted them to continue to do it and to do it more (see 1 Thessalonians 3:12).
Think about your own love toward your spouse, your children, your parents, and your friends. Are you the kind of person whose love abounds more and more? Romans 5:5 says that "the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit." If God's love flows into your life, it ought to flow out of your life.
2. Our love should be perceptive. "That your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment" (Philippians 1:9). Love needs to flow within those two riverbanks—knowledge and discernment—to be safe. If our love is just pure feelings without discretion or direction, it can be devastating (see Romans 10:2).
Mature love is not sentimentality, nor is it emotion. It needs to be insightful and have sensitive moral perception. This is so "that you may approve the things that are excellent" (Philippians 1:10), meaning you carefully examine every expression of your love in the light of God's Word: "Does the Bible prohibit this? Does it encourage this?"
3. Our love should be pure. "That you may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ" (Philippians 1:10). The idea here is to make sure your love isn't phony. Romans 12:9 says, "Let love be without hypocrisy." The best testimony is a genuine, authentic Christian life lived with pure motives.
4. Our love should be purposeful. "Being filled with the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God" (Philippians 1:11). This simply means that when our love abounds, when it's kept within the banks of knowledge and discernment, and when it's pure, then God is glorified.
That, by the way, is the purpose of all love—to glorify God—because that's the purpose of all life (see Revelation 4:11). "Whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God" (1 Corinthians 10:31). Last time I checked, love is under the category of "whatever you do."
So this is the ultimate test to know if an expression of our love is mature: Does it glorify Jesus Christ? If it does, then everyone around us is going to be loved, we're going to stick out like a sore thumb in this world—in a good way—and God is going to get the glory. It really doesn't get better than that.