As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love. (John 15:9)
If we perform a quick search, we would find the word love with its various forms (love, loveth, etc.) close to 500 times in the Bible across over 400 verses. It’s pretty safe to say that love is an important subject to God. Many have even described the Bible as “God’s love letter to mankind.” It’s really no surprise when we remember that 1 John 4:8 says that “God is love” [emphasis mine].
Love is part of the very makeup of God. Since God created us in His image, we need to have love as part of our makeup if we want to please Him. God desires His children to be loving individuals—it’s what sets us apart from the rest of the world.
In a previous post, we discussed why we are to love others. Now, let us remind ourselves from God’s Word who we are to love:
We are to love God.
And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might. (Deuteronomy 6:5)
And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment. (Mark 12:30)
Well, of course, we know we’re supposed to love God—that’s Christianity 101! So, let’s concentrate on some additional words in these two verses: with all thy heart, soul, mind, and might/strength. Which of us could possibly say that we love God so completely? This is our challenge. This is our goal. Every day we must seek to love God fully and to prove that love in the way we live our lives.
We are to love the brethren.
Honour all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honour the king. (1 Peter 2:17)
The book of 1 Peter was written to believers. We learn from John 1:12 that when we believe in Christ for salvation, we become the children of God. In, Christ, all believers are brothers and sisters. So, we can easily infer from the verse above that, as Christians, we are to love fellow Christians.
In fact, 1 John 3:14 takes this love for the brethren a step further: We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother abideth in death.
John is stating in this verse that loving our fellow Christians, our brethren, is proof that we have accepted Christ as our Saviour. If we have difficulty loving members of our own spiritual family, then perhaps we ought to look at whether we have accepted Christ as Saviour in the first place.
We are to love our neighbors.
For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. (Galatians 5:14)
The word neighbour in the verse above can often be translated as friend. The Jews, in Bible times, believed it to mean any member of the Hebrew nation. However, Jesus gave us clear insight into exactly what God meant when He told us to love our neighbors.
In Luke 10:25-37, we read the account of the “Good Samaritan.” A lawyer asks the question of Jesus: “And who is my neighbour?” Jesus proceeds to answer his question in a way that challenged what most Jewish people believed at the time. You see, up until then, the Jews took the command to “love thy neighbour as thyself” to mean that they should love their Jewish brethren as much as they love themselves. Jesus challenged their whole way of thinking by showing someone not considered a brother, namely a Samaritan—someone the Jews thought very little of—being a better neighbor to a Jewish man than those of his own country and faith.
Surely, Jesus shocked that lawyer and those around him with what He implied. Jesus was setting a whole new precedent: Neighbors are not just people we know or people of whom we approve: neighbors are anyone with whom we come into contact. In short, God has commanded us to love everyone we meet.
We are to love our enemies.
Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; (Matthew 5:43-44)
This is not exactly what we want to hear. When someone wrongs us, we feel justified in our anger towards that person; the last thing we feel like doing is loving and forgiving that person. It is so easy to fall into this trap that Satan lays for us. However, if we stop and think about one very important fact, it may help us to make the right choice in future temptations.
That fact is—we are all sinners, and we all have wronged God on many occasions. Yet, God never treats us as enemies. Instead, He sent Jesus to die for us so that He could reconcile us to Himself.
And, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven. And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled In the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in his sight: (Colossians 1:20-22)
For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life. (Romans 5:10)
If there is no greater love than to die for a friend (John 15:13), then how great is Christ’s love to die for His enemies!
We must love our enemies because of Christ’s love for us. How dare we be so prideful and so ignorant as to think that people have wronged us more than we have wronged God!
No one said it would be easy; in fact, it is a monumental task. It means setting aside all of our own desires for the good of others. After all, isn’t that what love is anyway? Desiring what is best for someone even if it isn’t what is best for us? Again, no one said it would be easy, but with God’s help, it is possible.
But are we willing?