We all have our favourite Bible passages. Some because of their personal significance are important words of encouragement in times of crisis or need. The truth is, every word in Scripture is important because they are all inspired by the Holy Spirit. If we were asked what our favourite single word of the Bible was, what would be our answer? Maybe it would, and of course it should, be ‘Jesus’. There is no other word / name more precious than that. “Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name” (Philippians 2:9). How often do we sing, “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, there’s just something about that name”? But there is another all-important word that teaches us about our relationship with God and our interaction with man.
This word is actually a commandment found in Deuteronomy 6:5, but let us look at Jesus’ commentary of this in Matthew 22:37-40; “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” The apostle Paul reveals that nothing we say or do is of any value unless we have such love, for even our greatest sacrifice “profiteth … nothing” without it (1 Corinthians 13:3). He goes on to say that the greatest word that must be applied to the Christian life is “charity [love]“ (1 Corinthians 13:13). No wonder then that love is the very first segment mentioned in the “Fruit of the Spirit” (Galatians 5:22-23).
Who should we love?
Jesus made this very plain – love God and love your neighbour. This covers every aspect of our earthly lives, both spiritual and physical. In 1 Corinthians 13:13 Paul says that this love “abideth”, therefore it is eternal in nature. While we live here on earth love must be the glue that binds believers together. “Let brotherly love continue” (Hebrews 13:1). Since God is the “strength” of our lives (Psalm 27:1) and since He “is love” (1 John 4:8), we can clearly see that Christianity is weakened without love. Imagine the strength the church would have if it regained all-important love! In truth, we are not Christians at all if it is missing from our lives. “If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen? And this commandment have we from him, That he who loveth God love his brother also” (1 John 4:20-21).
Let us not forget that Jesus told us to love our enemies too! If we find it difficult to maintain a loving attitude towards our brethren in Christ, it is surely going to be impossible to love those who hate and persecute us. Of course, it is possible to love the world from an ungodly position, but that is hardly the love spoken of here. “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him” (1 John 2:15).Jesus told us that we should love even our worst 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; That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matthew 5:44-45). This is probably one of the most difficult commandments to obey, but Jesus gives us His power to do it.
How should we love?
The sorry truth is that we talk more about love than actually showing it. We have all heard the expressions, “Talk is cheap” and “Actions speak louder than words”; it is certainly true when it comes to love. God did not just talk about love, He gave it. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16) … “For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly” (Romans 5:6).
So how do these verses help us know how to show love? We notice that God’s love was sacrificial, which in turn reveals the true nature of love. “Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. But whoso hath this world’s good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him?” (1 John 3:16-17), Love without action is as valueless as unmined gold. “My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth” (1 John 3:18). If we loved in this fashion it is likely that the world would take notice that there are still true followers of Christ around. “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another” (John 13:34-35).
For love to be pure and holy it must be unconditional. God’s love for us is not dependant on what we can or cannot do. If He loved us before we ever knew Him, it is sure that His love for us has nothing to do with our obedience or faithfulness, but because of what Jesus accomplished for us on the cross.. When we show that kind of love, we reveal that He is truly our Lord and Saviour. We ought not stop loving others because they offend, annoy or even persecute us. The love we display might just turn them to Christ. “Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head. Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:20). That all-important word ‘love’ is an absolute necessity if we are going to function in this world as Christ intended.