You have had from the very beginning. This old commandment—to love one another—is the same message you heard before. 1 John 2:6-7 NLT
This is the strongest language you will find in the New Testament, a commandment, to love one another as Christ loved us. Whether to love or not is not an option if you are a follower of Christ. And notice the commandment isn’t to tolerate or just put up with others but to love as Christ did.
If you want to see how Christ loves, check out the Gospels, the first four books of the New Testament. Read the stories of Jesus and watch how He loved. In one place you will see Him touching the untouchables, the lepers. In another He has little children laughing on His lap. Next, He is forgiving a woman caught in adultery, and later He reinstates Peter after Peter abandoned Him. He challenges doubting Thomas to believe, and He makes sure His mother has a place to live before He ascends into heaven. And those are just the highlights. Jesus set the standard for loving, and He clearly calls us to extend His call to love.
It is not easy to love. It is easier to get our feelings hurt, to be selfish, and to demand our own way. I’ve had to do some major memorization of 1 Corinthians 13, the love chapter, to give me the application I needed.
The core part of the chapter, verses 4-7 NLT says, Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.
Someone once told me that 1 Corinthians 13 was the self-portrait of Jesus. Having heard that, and knowing that I’m accountable to love like Jesus loved in my relationships, I pray daily for help. One example is that I pray every day to see Belinda, my wife, as Jesus sees her and to love her like He loves her. And that’s not because she is difficult to love but because I am not naturally inclined to love like Jesus loves.
On top of the challenge to love as Jesus loved is the truth that we are called not just to love those who love us but even those that are difficult. When I have trouble loving, trying harder isn’t the only answer. I often say, “Jesus, love through me.” I’ll put myself in position to love and then invite the Holy Spirit to give me the words, actions, and prayers to love that person like God loves them. I offer to be His hands and feet so He can love through me. Often He has me start with forgiving that person and acknowledging that He has forgiven me and extended grace to me or I couldn’t even be in a right relationship with Him at the moment. Since He has so graciously forgiven me how could I withhold forgiveness from someone else? As hard as it might be to love at a given point in time, it is all worth it!
This is the beauty of the church: if we say we love God we are also called to love one another, so there is always someone to love me and there is always someone for me to love!