“Love one another”, that is what Jesus said. All Christians believe it, but there is often a disconnect between what folks believe and what they practice. The greatest revival in my life-time happened between 1968 and 1980. It was the ‘Jesus People Revolution’. There was such a freshness in the air, and so many young people came to the Lord. Also, a great number of mainline church goers experienced a Holy Spirit renewal. It was fantastic. The overwhelming theme of those days was taken from John 13. Jesus says, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you … By this all men will know that you are my disciples.” Jn. 13:34-35 Loving others became our watch, word, and song, and the church flourished. In time, heavy structure, legalistic rules, and organization moved it. People tried to package what God was doing and in the process people were hurt and disillusioned, and the Charismatic Movement lost it’s appeal.
God Taught Israel to Love
Jesus said it was a new commandment, but why was this new? God told us in the Old Testament to love one another.
His word about love was very practical. He taught the Jews to help the poor. He said that when you gather the harvest, leave the corners of the field, the second picking, and also whatever falls on the ground for the poor to collect. He told them not to steal, lie, gossip or hold back money from an employee. He instructed them to treat the poor, the widow, the orphan and the immigrant with generosity and kindness. To sum it up he said, “Do not hate your brother in your heart … Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge … but love your neighbor as yourself.” Lev. 19:9-18
Jesus Taught Us to Love
Jesus, however, took these Old Testament words to a new level, He said, “Love one another, as I have loved you.”
An expert of the law asked Jesus how one could have eternal life. Jesus answered, “What does the Law say?”
The man said, “Love the Lord your God, with all of your heart and your neighbor as yourself.” Lk. 10:24
Then Jesus said, “Go and do it.” Lk. 10:26
There are two main doctrines in the Bible; to love God and to love people. On these two commandments, all of the words of the Law and the prophets hang. In other words, the entire Bible has been given to us to teach us about loving God and loving people. If we get other doctrines wrong, but love God and love people, we will still be in good standing with the Lord. The expert of the Law had asked Jesus how he could have eternal life. The answer is in these verses: “love God and love people.”
How to Love a Stranger
The expert of the Law knew the truth, but was not doing it. As they continued to talk, Jesus clarified the matter of love with the story of the Good Samaritan. In the story, a man fell among thieves, but a priest and a Levite passed by without helping the man. Then a Samaritan came and rescued the fallen man. In essence, Jesus was saying, that was the way to love your neighbor. That is the kind of love one needs to extend to a stranger. Many people know about it, but few people do it. We need God’s help.
How to Love a Relative
Jesus not only taught us how to love strangers, he also taught us how to love our closest relatives. He gave us the story of the prodigal son. In the story a father had two sons. One of the sons asked for his share of the inheritance. He did not want to wait for the father to die, he wanted it right away. Although this was very painful for the father, he gave his son his inheritance before the appropriate time.
Then, the son took the money and left for a far away country. While there, he spent all of his inheritance on riotous living. Prostitutes, drunken parties and gambling soon left him with nothing. He was a disgrace to his father, to his family and to his people.
Soon a famine covered the land and the son was starving. The only food he had to eat was the pig’s food, and only if he would stay and watch over them. Finally, he humbled himself and went home to his father. He intended to beg his father to receive him, not as a son, but as a hired servant.
From a long way off, his father saw him approaching. He gathered some things and rushed out to meet him. He gave him new shoes, new clothes and put a ring on his finger. He ordered his servants to roast a calf and throw a big party; his son was back. His love for his son was generous to a fault; it was always hopeful, and always forgiving. His love was always working toward restoration, and once the son was ready to turn his life around, the amazing love of the father was given and received.
It is not easy to love a close relative when they betray the family and hurt a lot of people who are close to them. Jesus showed us the hero of the story. It was a father who had an extravagant love for his son. The story was told to show us how God loves us, and also to show us how to love our families. We are taught to love our families, like this father loved his son.
The Church is Taught to Love
Jesus said, “By this all men will know that you are my disciples.” Jn. 13:35
We can tell who the church is, by seeing if people have love one for another. If that love is missing, how do we know if it is really the church? Love is the tell-tale sign. Without love it is just a religious club.
This is further emphasized in 1st Corinthians. We read, “If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.” 1Cor. 13:1-3
The scriptures show us four kinds of churches that have a good emphasis, but if they lack love, they have failed and are considered as nothing before the Lord.
1. The Prophetic Church is no good if it does not have love
2. The Right Doctrine Church may have correct academic understanding to rightly divide the word of God, but if it does not have love, it has nothing.
3. The Faith Church may see miracles and have the strength of the overcomer, but if they do not love people, they have nothing.
4. The Compassionate Church that helps the poor can still do it without loving people, and if they do not love people, they are nothing.
The teaching on love is extremely practical. It tells us what love is and expects us to do it. We read, “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. … And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” 1Cor. 13:4-13
The love doctrine is monumental with God, and it should be with us. Jesus commanded us to love one another, but not in doctrine alone. We are to do it as He has loved us.
We are changing every day. We are learning to love as Jesus loved. This kind of love is possible if we live a consecrated life unto the Lord and have the power of the Holy Spirit in us.