We all have ideas about love – what it is, what it isn't, what it should and should not be, how to love well, what it looks like to be loved… and the list goes on. But as followers of Jesus, and people who are living our lives for the Kingdom of God, what we really should be asking ourselves is, what does the Bible say about love, and what do we know about Jesus and love?
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Love the Lord and Love Your Neighbor
If we're talking about Jesus and love, and what the Bible has to say about love, a good place to start would be with what Jesus called “the greatest commandments.”
In Matthew 22 we find the religious leaders of the time, doing what they did best when it came to Jesus – trying to find a way to bring Him down. Certain He would not know how to answer, one of them asked Jesus to identify the greatest, or most important commandment.
Unfazed by their schemes, Jesus quickly answered,
You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.' The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.”
Matthew 22:37-40 (NLT)
But when it comes to Jesus and love, love the Lord, and love your neighbor was just the starting point of what He taught. He was using the law, which the people of God were already familiar with, to lay a foundation for something new. We're going to dig into that new teaching here, but if you want to first learn more about how God's people have always been called to love through the commandment to love the Lord, and love your neighbor, you can check out a series on my blog called A New Kind of Love, especially the second part, The Greatest Commandments – Called to Love.
Jesus and Love – Selfless, Reckless, Sacrificial Love
So anyhow, back to Jesus and love. The life of Christ here on earth can hardly be summed up better in one single word than with the word, LOVE! Every single aspect of His earthly ministry was absolutely dripping with deep, passionate, and what some might even call reckless love for His creation, and especially for His people.
To be reckless is to give no weight to the consequences of one's actions. As far as it applied to Himself, and His own life and comfort, Jesus did not allow the consequences of the actions inspired by His love to stop Him from seeing those actions through. He sacrificed Himself in more ways than we can even understand simply because His love for us compelled Him to do it.
The Bible tells us there isn't anything; not ANYTHING in all creation that can come between our God and His love for us. Not death, and perhaps more astonishing when we really think about it, not life. The worries and fears we have here on earth, they can't separate us from God's love either. Angels, demons, and even the power of hell itself CAN NOT come in between us and the selfless, reckless, sacrificial love of our Lord and Savior, which the Bible tells us was revealed in Christ Jesus Himself! (Romans 8:38-39)
That, friends, is the relationship between Jesus and love.
Jesus and Love – Love as I have Loved You
That's why it is such a big deal when Jesus tells us, as He prepares for His imminent death, that He is giving us a new commandment. His teaching had already affirmed the ancient commandments to love the Lord and love your neighbor. Whatever this new commandment was, it was not going to negate that law. But there was more to Jesus and love than simply putting others on the same level as ourselves.
So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.”
John 13:34-35 (NLT)
This new commandment started out sounding not that new. Love each other.
“Yeah. We already know we're supposed to love each other,” the disciples probably thought, “that's not exactly a new commandment. Love your neighbor as yourself. Right?”
But then the zinger, “Love as I have loved you.”
Whoa… now that's not the same thing. That IS new! And… well… basically impossible. Right?
A New Way to Love
But isn't that sort of the point of being a follower of Jesus? I mean if He only asked us to do things that were easy, what would set us apart from the rest of the world?
A life made new by the salvation of Jesus Christ is a life set apart to do miraculous things that can only be explained through the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit which God gifts to us the moment we believe and are saved. As this new creation, we're called to things like righteousness (impossible on our own), humility (not natural to humans), and unconditional, sacrificial love that reminds people of Jesus.
It is, indeed, a new way to love! No longer are we called to simply love our neighbors as ourselves. (Though we ARE still called to do that too) Now we are called to sacrifice self and put others in the family of Christ far above ourselves.
That means their interests trump our interests. Their well-being is more important than our well being. If we can go without in order to bless a brother or sister, we do. Just as in the example of Jesus and love, we are called to offer our own lives as forfeit in order to bless the people of God, the body of Christ, the church.
Known By Our Love
Jesus's new commandment included a little point I don't want us to miss. He said this new way to love would prove to the world that we are His disciples. In other words, as followers of God, we should be KNOWN by our love for one another!
Love was a defining aspect of the life of Christ, and God Himself IS the definition of love. As His followers, love should define us too!
And just as we cannot be separated from Jesus and His love, there isn't anything that should be able to separate the church (every fellow believer on earth) from our love. Not death and not life, not our worries or our fears, not angels, demons, or the power of hell. Indeed, if we are living in obedience to this new commandment of Jesus and love, NOTHING in all creation should be able to separate us from our love for one another.
It is a new way to love. Friends, may we be known for it! May it be a beacon of light in this dark world that illuminates the path from death to life. May it show the world how to move from the condemnation of sin to the magnificent freedom found in Jesus and His wonderful, sacrificial, unconditional love!