In the Gospel of John, John records a command that he had received from Jesus Christ. He writes, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another (John 13:34-35).”
What a powerful statement from our Lord and Savior. Christians ought to be a loving people because we have been greatly loved. The gospel of Jesus Christ is both the foundation and the motivation for us to be a loving people. In the book of Exodus, God gives a set of laws to Moses after He has given him the 10 Commandments. One of the laws that God gives pertains to social justice. In this section, God says, “You shall not wrong a sojourner or oppress him, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt (Ex. 22:21).” God adds, “You shall not mistreat any widow or fatherless child (v.22).”
Did you catch the beauty of what God just said? He said that His people must not wrong or oppress a sojourner and they may not mistreat any widow or fatherless child. If you’re like me, when I hear a command, my first reaction is to ask “why?” God gives the reason for the command to act justly: For you were sojourners in the land of Egypt. The Israelites were oppressed slaves under the hand of Pharaoh in the land of Egypt. Yet, God graciously delivered them out of their oppression. What we see from Scripture is that the gospel of Jesus Christ has implications for our lives. One of those implications is love. Christians ought to be the most loving and caring people because God cared for us when we were in desperate need.
The Apostle John states, “Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another (1 John 4:11).” The love of the Father demonstrated in the sending of His Son is the fuel for Holy and righteous Christian living. When we were fatherless, God adopted us. Paul writes, “For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father! (Rom. 8:15)” When we were widows, God became our groom. When we were strangers to His covenant promise of grace, He welcomed us in. Christians ought to be a loving people because we have experienced the greatest act of love found in the person and work of Jesus Christ. Let us praise God for this love and steward it well for His glory!
This leads me to ask the question, “How are we to love?”
First, I believe that we can love others by caring for their needs. We see this in the book of Acts. Luke writes, “And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need (Acts 2:45).” We love others by caring for their physical needs. If we see our brother or sister in need, we ought to have the desire to care for them in this way. Although we are called to help our brothers and sisters in need, this won’t happen if we’re not concerned about them, or if we’re ignorant of their needs. Caring for the physical needs requires a relationship with them. We won’t know how to care for their needs if we’re not involved in their lives. Do you love your brothers/sisters enough to be involved in their lives? This sort of love goes beyond the corporate gathering of the saints. If we wish to love others well, we must be involved in their lives.
Second, we must not gossip about or slander others. One of the quickest ways to destroy a church’s unity is to gossip or slander against another. We are called to be united in the body of Christ. Paul says, “So then you are no longer strangers or aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God (Eph. 2:19).” Are we active in spreading gossip and slander among the body of Christ? Do we find ourselves constantly talking behind others’ backs? Do we find ourselves constantly complaining about others? Jesus says that we are to love others as we love ourselves. Do we feel loved when we discover that there are some talking about us behind our backs? Why then do we actively do this to others? Perhaps you’re saying, “I don’t talk about others, I just listen to the gossip.” I believe that if that’s you, then you are active in participating in gossip. Are we loving others when we give ears to gossip and slander? I would argue that actively listening to gossip is not demonstrating love.
We should immediately cut off this conversation when others begin to speak in this way. We should immediately tell those that are speaking in this way to go and confront their brother or sister that they are complaining about. If it’s important enough to talk to others about, it’s important enough to confront the individual directly. May we be loving in the way that we speak about others and listen to others.
Third, we love others by forgiving them when they have wronged us. I know, this is difficult. However, the gospel should fuel us into being a forgiving people. We should forgive others when they have wronged us, even before they ask for it. May we be constantly reminded that God, in His rich mercy and grace, reached down and saved us when we didn’t deserve to be loved. Are we harboring bitterness in our hearts this morning towards others? Let us love others well through forgiving them of their wrongs against us realizing that their sin is primarily against God.
Fourth, we love others by asking for forgiveness when we have wronged them. Our hearts should not be content knowing that we have wronged our brother and sister. Strife in the body of Christ should cause an uneasiness in our souls because we love our brothers and sisters. Jesus spoke directly on this issue when He said,
“So if you are offering a gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift (Matt. 5:23-24).”
We should be quick to ask for forgiveness when we have wronged others. Are we demonstrating love in this way?
These are a few practical ways that we can love others. But before we end, I’d like to speak to what love is not.
Loving others does not mean that we fail to call them to repentance. We must do this. The world may argue that our call to repentance is unloving and judgmental, but I would argue that calling others to repent and trust in Christ is one of the most loving things we can do for them. I think about it like this, if I were to see my family walking down the road onto railroad tracks where a train is coming, would it be unloving of me to yell out to them to watch out? Absolutely not. We would say that it would be unloving of me if I were to see this and remain silent. Why then are we silent when others are walking in sin? There is something far worse than an oncoming train waiting for those that walk in sin and unrepentance, namely, the wrath of God.
Love is not remaining silent when others are walking in sin; love is calling people to repentance when we see this dangerous activity in their lives. Yes, Christians ought to be full of joy because we have been saved by grace through faith in Christ. However, if your understanding of salvation causes your heart to be hardened towards others in sin, have you truly understood this glorious truth of salvation? May the grace and forgiveness that we have received in Christ compel us to care for others’ souls.
The Apostle John calls us to walk as Jesus walked (1 John 2:6). One of the ways that we do this is by loving others. May people see in us the effect of a regenerated heart. I leave you with a prayer found in the Valley of Vision titled “Christian Love”:
Thou art the end of all means, for if they lead me not to thee, I go away empty. Order all my ways by thy Holy Word and make thy commandments the joy of my heart, that by them I may have happy converse with thee. May I grow in thy love and manifest it to mankind.
Spirit of love, make me like the loving Jesus; give me his benevolent temper, his beneficent actions, that I may shine before men to thy glory. The more thou doest in love in me and by me, humble me the more; keep me meek, lowly, and always ready to give thee honor.
Soli Deo Gloria
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