The Bible says we are to love one another. Sounds good, but can we do it? Whoever said, "I love mankind; it's people I can't stand," was about right.
Some people are just irritating. I agree with the guy who said, "To live above with those we love, oh, how that will be glory. To live below with those we know, now that's another story. Even people at church can be difficult to love. Sometimes it's hard enough to love our own family.
Indeed, loving people is difficult. Yet this is what the Bible commands. "For this is the message you have heard from the beginning: we should love one another" (1 John 3:11). We spend time on what we deem important. Scripture reminds us, "And if I donate all my goods to feed the poor, and if I give my body in order to boast but do not have love, I gain nothing" (1 Cor. 13:3).
Yes, we have the freedom to set our own priorities, Jesus made a point of defining certain ones of them for us: "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.' This is the greatest and most important commandment. The second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself'" (Matt. 22:37-39). Love, then, is not a gray area the Scriptures. Jesus gave love priority over all other Christian virtues. Every thought, response, and act of goodwill must first pass through the fine filter of love, or it means nothing at all.
When Jesus spoke to the disciples regarding the first and second greatest commands, he explained that "All the Law and the Prophets depend on these two commands" (Matt. 22:40).
To the people of Israel, as well as for many believers today, it would seem more logical for obedience to be the peg from which the Law hangs, since the point of writing a law is adherence to it. And it is written, "If you love Me, you will keep My commandments" (John 14:15). Yet Jesus also said, "I give you a new commandment: love one another. Just as I have loved you, you must also love one another" (John 13:34). The apostle Paul goes on to tell us "Love does no wrong to a neighbor. Love, therefore, is the fulfillment of the law" (Rom. 13:10).
The logic of Paul's interpretation of Jesus' command that love fulfills the Law seems equally simple. Love fulfills the law, because if we truly love every person because he is a person, we will not desire to hurt or violate him or her, thus never break the law. God established love as the impetus for obedience.
When we demonstrate Christian love, it distinguishes believers from the rest of the world. Jesus goes on to say, "By this [love] all people will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another" (John 13:35). A watching world will be persuaded not when our values are promoted but when we become purveyors of love. It is as though Jesus has given the entire world the right to judge whether or not one is His follower simply on the basis of their love for fellow human beings. The one virtue of love distinguishes the Christian.
From the very beginning, God's plan was to develop a people that reflected his character. And what is his character? Love. "God is love, and the one who remains in love remains in God, and God remains in him. In this, love is perfected with us so that we may have confidence in the day of judgment; for we are as He is in this world" (1 John 4:16-17). Believers are God's advertisement to a watching society as to how individuals could best live in that society. In fact, Christian love will always be the best that the church has.
We are his ambassadors, representing him to the world. And when we love as he as loved us, it will make the difference. People will notice. Christian love is indispensable.
Let's not confuse Christian love with its modern counterfeits. According to the Bible, love is primarily an active interest in the well-being of another person. Love acts for the benefit of others. God loved us not because we had something to offer him, but rather because He had something to offer us. "For God loved the world in this way: He gave His One and Only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life" (John 3:16). God loved us so that He could demonstrate His mercy to us in the person of His Son.
Everyone around us is of incredible value to God as a potential object of His mercy. His one and only Son died in their place. Because people matter so much to him, they ought to matter to us. And, we, therefore, need to love them as he loves them.
In other words, love opens up its life to another person. It goes beyond sentimental feelings. It breaks down barriers. It exposes the heart.
Think about Jesus. He left the glory of heaven to come to earth. He veiled His divinity and took on humanity. And what did it get him? "He came to His own, and His own people did not receive Him" (John 1:11). Surely that must have hurt. Then, as Jesus hung on the cross, dying for these people that he loved, they hurled abuses, scorn, and ridicule. His heart was broken. And yet, He forgave them.
Christian love is the most costly investment you will ever make.
Love one can say gets its hands dirty. It takes a chance. It goes out on a limb. It takes a gamble. Love makes a statement and leaves a legacy. It does the unexpected, surprising, and stirring. It performs acts that steal the heart and leaves an impression on the soul. Often these acts are never forgotten.
I'm not saying that we should constantly abuse ourselves or become passive doormats. But Christian love inevitably carries costs. Even when the cost is high, we can nevertheless count on God to bring fulfillment to His followers. True love always costs. If there is no cost there is no love.
In the end, the goal of the Christian life is love. The measure of our maturity is our love for God and our love for others. If we fail in our love we have missed what it means to be a Christian.
There is hope for the one who has failed in love. At the beginning I asked the question, "Can we do it?" Can we love others in this way? The answer, I'm afraid, is "No." We cannot love others like Christ - without Christ. The Lord, who forgave even those who crucified Him, stands ready to forgive you of your lack of love.
And so my hope for all of you is that you leave in your footprints you leave behind for other to follow in is a Christ-like legacy - to leave footprints that will last. Leave a legacy of faithfulness, of commitment and one of love… Receive Christ's offer of mercy, let Him fill you with His Spirit, and then watch as He empowers and teaches you how to love Him and others.