Why our Lord requires that we “love one another”

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.  By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another  (John 13:34-35).

For good reason the Lord Jesus instructed His followers to take good care of one another.

No one else was going to do it.

Unless they loved one another, following Jesus was going to be a mighty lonely proposition.

The followers of our Lord were hounded, persecuted, ridiculed, harassed, and even martyred.  If they looked to the world to appreciate their efforts to bring the gospel of peace and love their way, they would be sadly disappointed.

The fellow believers were all they had. They were family.

The only family some had.

This is what I want you to do, said the Lord Jesus.  Love each other.

This is what proves your identity as my disciples, He said. My people love one another.

This is what discipleship looks like.

This is the proof of your love for Me, Jesus said.  When we show love to each other, He actually takes that as our loving Him.

Christians have often wondered what love-language Jesus spoke.  Now we know.

–It’s obedience.  “If you love me, keep my commandments” He said in various ways four or five times throughout chapters 14 and 15 of John’s Gospel.

–And no command was given as often or as forcefully as the command to love one another.  The little epistles of I, II, and III John reinforce this.

It’s important that we remember something about love. Whether we are talking about love for God, for fellow disciples, for family, neighbors, or even enemies, love is something we do.

Scripturally, love is not so much an emotion as an action.  It’s something we do.  We may or may not feel the emotion.  But we do it regardless.

Nowhere does our Lord speak more clearly about the love He is requiring than in Luke’s shortened version of the Sermon on the Mount, found in chapter 6 of his gospel.

But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.  Whoever hits you on the cheek, offer him the other also.  Whoever takes away your coat, do not withhold your shirt from him either. 

Give to everyone who asks of you, and whoever takes away what is yours, do not demand it back.  Treat others the same way you want them to treat you (Luke 6:27-31).

At least four activities of love are mentioned here.  Do good works, say good things (bless them), pray for them, and give to them.

These are the four most basic acts of love, things we would do to anyone.   Anyone we valued–family members, neighbors, even strangers–we would do these things. And here in this passage, the Lord Jesus is instructing the disciples to do loving things to people who are trying to destroy them, their enemies.

Tough assignment, huh?

Clearly, such love-showing does not require an emotional investment to pull it off.  We can do good works, say good things, ask God to do godly things in their lives, and give gifts of some kind to anyone at all without any difficulty.

In fact, we’d go so far as to say these actions are easy to do.

Anyone can do them.  Those with a loving child in their lives will do them to the little one–helpful acts, loving words, prayerful intercessions, and gifts of all kinds.  We do much more than this for the children, of course.  But these four most basic acts of love are doable for anyone.  Even our enemies.

How much more for our brothers and sisters in Christ.

We are to love our fellow believers.  Even as Christ loved them, said our Lord in John 13:35.  That’s a mighty high standard, but until we have reached that goal we should keep striving.

The premise of this little piece is something questionable.  I said Jesus wants His children to love each other simply because there is no one else to love them, that they are being hounded across the land and persecuted for Jesus’ sake.  But in our day, particularly in our land, that is actually a rarity.

True, in many lands where living the Christian faith can get you ostracized from society or even jailed these words of our Lord are as applicable as they were in the First Century.  So, I am not calling for persecution in our land just so our love to one another would be more needed and appreciated.

But still.

It’s always important that in any country God’s people, the redeemed in Jesus, go out of their way to love each other. And that means doing loving things toward each other.

Clearly, that instruction is not limited to the people sitting in your own church, but to all who name the name of Jesus.  And that’s a big group.

Nor should we investigate to make sure a neighbor or co-worker is actually of the same brand of Christian faith as we before deciding to show love in their direction.

Pay attention to the Spirit.  He will guide you in this. As He does in all other matters.

Love widely.  Love fully.  Love like Jesus.

You’ll never regret it.


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