Listen closely to what Paul said in 1 Thessalonians 3:12 - “and may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, as we do for you.” If their love is to increase, indeed if our love for one another is to increase, God has to make it happen.
Yes, we are responsible to love others, to do whatever is needed to clear away obstacles and to extend forgiveness and to overcome bitterness and jealousy and envy and rivalry and all the sinful impulses that hinder us from loving others. Yet it is clear that Paul believed God must be present and prior, working in our hearts to make this possible.
After all, if love were entirely within our power to produce, why would Paul have bothered in praying for it? He goes to the throne of grace and asks God to work in the hearts of these people to alert them to ways in which their love is weak and self-serving, asks him to enlighten their minds to see the depths of how God has loved them in Christ, and pleads with God that his Spirit might convict them and stir them and empower them and enable them to overcome the defensiveness and selfishness that so often hinders our love for others.
Love can increase far beyond what we think is possible. We may believe that we have loved to the full extent possible for us, that our hearts are stretched to the breaking, that we have at some point reached the limit of what is reasonable to ask of a human being, but Paul evidently believed that love could grow and expand and become increasingly more passionate and authentic and could express itself in far more concrete and tangible ways than we have even begun to imagine. Here’s how he put it in Philippians 1:9-11 –
“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