“Dear friends, let’s love each other, because love is from God, and everyone who loves is born from God and knows God. The person who doesn’t love does not know God, because God is love. This is how the love of God is revealed to us: God has sent his only Son into the world so that we can live through him. This is love: it is not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son as the sacrifice that deals with our sins. Dear friends, if God loved us this way, we also ought to love each other. No one has ever seen God. If we love each other, God remains in us and his love is made perfect in us. This is how we know we remain in him and he remains in us, because he has given us a measure of his Spirit. We have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son to be the savior of the world. If any of us confess that Jesus is God’s Son, God remains in us and we remain in God. We have known and have believed the love that God has for us. God is love, and those who remain in love remain in God and God remains in them. This is how love has been perfected in us, so that we can have confidence on the Judgment Day, because we are exactly the same as God is in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear, because fear expects punishment. The person who is afraid has not been made perfect in love. We love because God first loved us. If anyone says, I love God, and hates a brother or sister, he is a liar, because the person who doesn’t love a brother or sister who can be seen can’t love God, who can’t be seen. This commandment we have from him: Those who claim to love God ought to love their brother and sister also.” – 1 John 4:7-21
Jesus said the greatest of the commandments was to love God with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength and to love our neighbor as ourselves. (Matthew 22:37-39) Jesus gave a new command; to love one another as He loved us. (John 13:34) Jesus said to love our enemies. (Matthew 5:44) Jesus wasn’t a one hit wonder, but there’s a theme to his teachings and life example.
Jesus had to be the fulfillment of the law because he knew that if he left us with more to do than loving God with our whole selves and loving our neighbors as ourselves, we’d never be able to live up to that standard. As it is, with just those two commands it’ll take us our entire lives to try to perfect them and still never get them right. Our sinfulness will always work its way into our hearts so that we fail God and hate people. I realize how much I am doing both of those when I’m driving and curse at someone. I instantly have to pray and ask for forgiveness.
Jesus said people will know we are his disciples by our love for one another (John 13:35). In the text above, John says if we claim to love God but hate our brothers and sisters we are lying.
Loving others is hard. From a fellow believer with theological differences, to politicians whose policies we don’t like, to real life threats halfway around the world, we are not great at loving people. We call christians heretics, accuse politicians of being liars and cheats, and we want to blow the Middle East sky-high and let God sort ’em out. I have been and am guilty of all of these and more. I have prayed more for Islamic State members than any member of congress this year. I get frustrated. And frustration is fine from time to time. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with disagreeing on ideology. But it CAN NOT change the way I love and interact with people. And it’s a tough line to walk because Jesus is on record as saying some pretty harsh things to the Pharisees.
All of us need to get better at the great commandment. We can never be too loving. Whether it’s the words we use online in reference to those who disagree with us or the statements we make involving political or cultural ideas, we have to find a way to curb our frustration and love better. At times that will mean we just walk away. The old adage of, “if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all” is true. Sometimes we just need to not comment on a blog post or news article. Sometimes we need to know when a conversation isn’t going to be handled with love and care and not broach it.
Perfect love casts out fear. That promise and confidence should be our catalyst to go love others. It’s what we’re called to do! Love should be our motivator. When we pray that God would break our hearts for the things that break His, we’re asking for a deeper level in which to love others. Love should be our driver day in and day out, in each interaction. It’s not easy, but it’s worth it.
“Love is patient, love is kind, it isn’t jealous, it doesn’t brag, it isn’t arrogant, it isn’t rude, it doesn’t seek its own advantage, it isn’t irritable, it doesn’t keep a record of complaints, it isn’t happy with injustice, but it is happy with the truth. Love puts up with all things, trusts in all things, hopes for all things, endures all things.” – 1 Corinthians 13:4-7