Our imitation of Jesus’s love must also be seen in our love for others. John makes this very clear ‘Beloved, if God has loved us, we also ought to love on another’ (1 John 4:11). In fact, the Bible makes it clear that, our love for others inside the fellowship of believers is so evidently an imitation of Christ that by it the world recognizes us as his: ‘’By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love one for another’ (John 13:35).
The spiritual principle is quite simple: We cannot exercise love unless we are experiencing grace. You cannot truly love others unless you are convinced that God’s love for you is unconditional, based solely on the merit of Christ, not on your performance. John said, “We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19). Our love, either to God or to others, can only be a response to His love for us.
It wasn’t for lovely people He died; it was for ungodly people, for His enemies. It was for law breakers that He suffered. He loved us, in spite of how unlovely we were. Just as He loved us, Paul insists we are to love one another. God himself gives of his love to enable us to love each other (John 17:26, Romans 5:5).
The way to open our hearts to others is by receiving afresh the grace of God and appreciating what it means: seeing our own need of Christ; coming to receive His mercy; sensing how undeserved His love for us is; remembering how He has also opened His heart to those whose hearts are closed against us. Then we will see that the heart which is too narrow to receive a fellow Christian is too narrow to enthrone the Lord Jesus Christ. But the heart that is opened to receive the grace of Christ will learn to welcome all those whom Christ Himself has welcomed.
The second commandment: Love your neighbour as yourself. Among other things this would mean:
- You have for your neighbours the very same love that you bear toward yourself.
- In your dealings with them you never show selfishness, irritability, peevishness, or indifference.
- You take a genuine interest in their welfare and seek to promote their interests, honour, and well-being.
- We pray for them – John Calvin talking about prayer said ‘Our prayer must not be self-centred. … to make intercession for men is the most powerful and practical way in which we can express our love for them.’ William Law shares this view ‘there is nothing that makes us love a man so much as praying for him’.
- You never regard them with a feeling of prideful superiority, nor do you focus on their failings.
- You never resent any wrongs they do to you, but instead are always ready to forgive.
- You always treat them as you would have them treat you.
- To paraphrase 1 Corinthians 13:4-5, you are always patient and kind, never envious or boastful, never proud or rude, never self-seeking. You are not easily angered and you keep no record, even in your mind, of wrongs done to you.
WOW – What a challenge, to love God is one thing, but to love others is a whole new level. Tomorrow we will see that the Bible actually doesn’t even stop there.