John 15:12 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.”
Something that has been on my heart for the past couple months is the importance of loving other believers. Yes, this seems generic, and I’m certainly not trying to put the cookies on the bottom shelf. I’m simply interested in returning to the fundamentals of being a follower of Christ: knowing what our role as followers is, understanding the importance of functioning in our role, and living our lives accordingly.
First, our role is to love. Love is not a suggestion for believers; it is a commandment. You know, like the 10 Commandments the Jews were required to follow…the ones that had life or death consequences?! If we fail to love other believers nobody will stone us, God won’t strike us down, and we won’t have to sacrifice our pet lamb. However, disobeying this mandate is still a SIN. There are so many harsh warnings about this that it must be taken more seriously. Here are just a few:
John 13:35 “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
1 John 3:17 “But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him?”
1 John 4:7-8 “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.”
1 John 4:20-21 “If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.”
Why so harsh? I believe it’s because we are not saved to live a life of isolated “holiness,” but rather saved to live as part of a family. Even the imagery of being part of the Body gives us an argument for being united. If you were to remove a body part, it instantly starts dying and ceases to be a part of the body. If you claim to be a Christian but don’t love the body, you may just be a prosthetic limb – useful to a certain extent, but ultimately a man-made substitute for a real limb.
Second, God is adamant about Church cohesiveness. I’ve been reminded over and over how loving one another (specifically believers) is second only to loving God (Mark 12:31). Jesus thinks it so important that it appears to be one of the main filters through which He will separate the believers from the unbelievers at the final judgment (Matthew 25). This obviously doesn’t mean that you are saved by loving others, but rather acts of love are the natural results of following Christ.
I’ll be the first to admit that this is really hard, and I don’t always feel very loving. I struggle with “finding the time” or even being observant enough to see and fill the needs of others outside my immediate family. Jesus does not allow us to excuse our way out of this command. He says in Matthew 25 that the sheep showed that they were actually sheep by doing the following within the body: feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, inviting in the stranger, clothing the naked, looking after the sick, and visiting those in prison. He then said, “unless you’re too busy or just don’t see the needs.” NO WAY! Jesus goes on to say that the goats proved to be goats by not doing those things. Those on the right are sheep. Those on the left are goats. That’s all. No excuses.
Finally, knowing that we are to love and that it is of utmost importance, we need to live our lives accordingly. I heard a speaker say recently that love is developed through action, in spite of whether we “feel like it” or not. He said that it wasn’t a “fake it till you make it” mentality, but rather practicing to produce a natural response/habit. Love is a choice, and it needs to be practiced to make it a habit. Need ideas of how to practice? I’m glad you asked. In Matthew 25 Jesus gave a very practical list, but He also said to love others the way we love ourselves (Mark 12:31), which broadens the list and gives us freedom to be creative in our expression of love. A list for Type A personalities and freedom for Type B…like I said, “No excuses!”
I’ll leave you with this passage:
1 Thessalonians 3:11-13 “Now may our God and Father himself, and our Lord Jesus, direct our way to you, and may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, as we do for you, so that he may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints.”