"A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another." -John 13:34-35
This past Sunday Pastor Marshall kicked off a new message series called “The Gift of Love.” This series is focusing on the love between husband and wife, and in week one he detailed how love works in connection with the Christian life.
He hit on two crucial points:
- Love requires words AND action
- That our actions (deeds) ARE acts of love.
— If you’d like to get caught up on the message series, you can check out the podcast here —
These two points led me to some thoughts on what it would mean if you are a Christian who does not operate out of love. We all get that Christians should be loving, but what if a person calls themselves a Christian but does not have love? And if they don’t, how can they obtain it? And what does love look like in a practical way?
Over the next several weeks I’ll be exploring this topic in more detail, but today I wanted to start with one important question: Can you be a disciple of Jesus and not love others?
“Do or Do Not. There Is No Try”- Yoda
If I were to create a step by step process for the Christian life, it would look something like this.
Step One: Believe in Jesus
Step Three: Love others
The word love is mentioned 235 times in the New Testament alone. Only Spirit, Faith, Lord, Jesus, and God are used more often. The Gospel of John accounts for 39 of the 235 with 1st John coming in at close 2nd with 26, followed by Romans (16), and 1 Corinthians and Ephesians (15).
Now this word count exercise is a simplistic view of the word love. The greeks have many uses of the word love, but the two most heavily used in the Bible are agape (a selfless, unemotional or nonsexual type of love) and phileo (emotional love towards a friend). If you’d like to read further on this topic, here are two great discussion on the two uses of the word Agape and Phileo in the Bible. One and Two
But regardless of its use, given how often the word love is used in the Bible, we can easily surmise that one of the building blocks of Christianity is the very idea of love. We are told to love our enemies and do good to those who hate you. We are to love our neighbors as ourselves and we should love God with all out heart, soul, and mind. We show that we love God by carrying out his commands. And if we don’t love, we do not know God. That the two greatest commandments are to love your God and others. Love is the key to the parent child/relationship and that we should love others because Christ first loved us. We should love our wives just as Christ loved the church. We know it was love that brought Jesus to earth and is was love that sent him to the cross. In fact, there may be no greater theme in all of the Bible than love.
But if this is true, that love is the cornerstone of our faith [remember Jesus, the cornerstone, is the embodiment of God’s love] then the answer to the question above is: No, it would seem impossible for a person to call themselves a Christian without love.
But that seems a bit harsh. Is it really fair to judge a person’s faith based on their inability to love others? Well, James basically says so. But I’m certainly not making the claim that I know a person’s salvation or that it’s impossible to refuse to love and still be a Christian. I’m just pointing out that scripture and Jesus are clear, you’ll be known as one of his disciples by your love for others.
To take it one step further, loving others means loving those who make it difficult to love. Jesus says in Luke 6:31-33 "And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them. “If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same."
Jesus is saying we don’t get a pass on this “love others” commandment just because we loved our kids, our wives, or our parents. No, we must love how he loved. And how does Jesus love? Unconditionally. Jesus’ love is unconditional.
And let’s not passover that Jesus is calling this a commandment and not an option. Certainly, there are things in the Bible that can be left up to interpretation or explained as just a sign of the times, e.g., women not speaking in church, have tongues ceased, was the earth created in 6 literal days, etc. There is no interpreting love because love itself is transcendent. So when Jesus says we should love just as he loved us, then we must love. After-all, in the wise words of Yoda, there is no try, only do.
"If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing." - 1 Corinthians 13:1-3
To love is to be Christ-like. To love is to be Christian. But to be without love is to be nothing.
So we must love.