Despite Christ’s command that Christians love one another it seems the entire western culture is addicted to loving ‘self’ and not others. So it is no surprise that many Christians don’t have a clue what it means to actually love those around them.
“A new commandment I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so also you must love one another. By this all men will know you are My disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:34,35
Note a couple of things that are obvious in Jesus’ command. Firstly, this is not a nice suggestion, or something for extra spiritual people to do. It is a Command for all followers of Christ – all Christians. We can’t put it off and say we’ll get to it some day.
Note too that loving one another is something quite remarkable. Jesus said the world would recognise Christians because of their love for one another. That means, people in the world won’t do it, but only Christians will. We will stand out because we treat each other differently to the way non-Christians treat each other.
A further note is Christ’s description of how we are to love. We are to love one another in the same way Christ loved us. Jesus died for us. So the love He has for us is total and sacrificial. Jesus loved us with a ‘no-holds-barred’ commitment, going all the way for us.
That lines up with a working definition for love which I find very helpful. The kind of love we are to have for God and others is defined as ‘wanting the best for others, despite how much it costs us’. So there is sacrifice required for that kind of love.
No wonder love is not practiced by selfish people. No wonder loving one another is not normal in the world. No wonder we all struggle to get around to loving each other like that.
We are raised to think about ourselves from an early age. Yet not that long ago there was a stronger Christian ethos in society. Serving and caring were much higher values just a few generations ago. As the West became richer, with more toys and distractions to focus on, we all became more selfish and insular. We are now far less likely to care or to help those in need.
An evidence of that is the disappearance of volunteerism. It was once normal for people to volunteer to help charities, or their local schools and so on. Now we find charities hiring people to collect for them, or giving the collectors part of what is collected.
Our selfishness is at quite a high tide.
So, what would it look like if we were to care about others, wanting what was best for them, despite how much that challenged us?
I expect our care would first show up for those in need. We would be ready to get in our cars, get on the phone, or otherwise get to it to help those less fortunate than us.
In the early church those who had assets sold them and brought the money along to help those less well off. That was a clear expression of caring about others and not thinking only of self.
“There was not a needy person among them, for those who owned lands or houses sold them and brought the money and put it at the apostles’ feet to distribute to those who had need.” Acts 4:34,35
With all you possess, how many things would you readily sell up to give the money away? I’m not saying you have to, but I’m prompting you to consider your heart attitude toward really caring about those around you, especially fellow Christians.
Other ways to show love were revealed by Jesus in a parable of Sheep and Goats. A godly King told the righteous ones they had blessed him by doing certain things.
“I was naked and you clothed Me, I was sick and you looked after Me, I was in prison and you visited Me.” Matthew 25:36
The righteous ones asked when they had done that and the reply is quite telling.
“Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.” Matthew 25:40
So God is expecting us to show love to one another by clothing them, caring for them when they are sick and visiting them in prison.
However it is terribly inconvenient to have to do those things. And that’s a real sticking point for spoiled people. They don’t want to be disturbed or interrupted from the important business of chasing their dreams or indulging their pleasures.
I am not attacking you if you are like that. I was raised in the same self-serving culture. But I am challenging you to realise Christ has given you a command. It is a command you can’t ignore. It is the command that you love fellow Christians. It is the command that you want the best for them, despite the personal cost to you. Despite your discomfort. Despite the fact that you won’t have as much time for your favourite pursuits. Despite the fact that you will give away some of your hard won assets. Despite the fact that you might miss your favourite treats at times.
One way that might help you address this command is to see it as an act of worship. How about giving up one night a week, or one day a month, to go and serve those in need. Make it an offering of your time and talents – offered to God. Worship God by taking time out to bless other Christians.
You can invite them for a meal, help them achieve an unfinished task, give them a boost by meeting some need they are stuck with, give them an outing, or help them in any of a thousand ways.
Some people miss things in life due to financial limits, or lack of transport, or weak health or strength. Some people need someone to speak up for them, even going to court for them. Others need wisdom to work through messy situations too complex for them.
Note that Christ’s command that we love one another is not about us going on a foreign mission trip. It’s about us doing things in our own home town, among those we know and meet regularly. It’s about caring for those who are right at hand, who could do with a little bit of love along the way.
I urge you to hear what Christ has commanded and to begin getting good at Loving Others.