“Beloved, let us love one another…”
1 John 4:7
There is no better testimony of the love we have for God in Jesus Christ than the way in which we show our love for one another. Jesus said to His disciples, “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 love to which we are called as the body of Christ is an uncommon love, to be sure. It is not the kind of thing the world expects or even knows to look for. This love is demonstrated as we willingly forgive one another serious offenses, as we refuse to speak harshly to or about one another, and as we give sacrificially to help one another. This love is demonstrated as we gather regularly to encourage, correct, and pray for one another as we are lead by God’s Word and God’s Spirit. This love is shocking, unnerving, unsettling. Many will be suspicious, certain that there is some catch; this kind of love is too good to be true.
I encountered this love, and the world’s reaction to it just last night. I made the mistake of telling the Deacons of my church as they were helping to move us into our new house that I wanted to remove the trees that surrounded our house. The old pine trees were dying, and obstructed the house, but still didn’t really provide any shade. They needed to go.
Well, last night, 14 church members showed up with chain saws, trailers, tractors, and willing hearts and hands. In 3 hours they removed 13 pine trees.
Here’s some before and after shots.
As the trees were coming down, the neighbors all came out to see what was happening, and all were glad to see the trees go. I told them all about how kind and gracious the Deacons of my church are, and how loving the congregation has been. To which one neighbor said, “Give them time, that will stop.” Unconvinced that this kind of love and service could be genuine and lasting, the man walked away in disbelief.
Tertullian, the early Church Father (2nd and 3rd cent), once wrote of the Roman culture’s curiosity regarding the Christian community:
“Look,” they say, “how they love one another” (for they themselves hate one another); “and how they are ready to die for each other” (for they themselves are readier to kill each other).”
A culture that sought honor and power above everything else was witnessing the Christian community where brothers and sisters in Christ shared freely of their possessions, provided for the needs of the poor, and were not just willing but eager to stand together in the face of persecution.
This love is rooted and established in the love that we know in Christ. It is not an effort to win God’s favor. We are not trying to prove our goodness by showing pity on those around us so that God will count us worthy.
No, it is just the opposite. We recognize that, in our sinfulness and rebellion, we were unlovely and unlovable. But God, who is rich in mercy, who has loved us with a steadfast love, did prove His love for us in that while we were sinners, Christ died for us (Rom 5:8).
Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. (1 John 4:7–11)
In the love that we share in Jesus Christ, we love one another. We serve one another. We encourage one another. We provide for the needs of one another. We share God’s Word with one another. We count others as more significant than ourselves, and are willing to bear with the failings and shortcomings of one another.
When we love one another, the world will be amazed. They may be suspicious. They may be curious. But they will know we are the disciples of Jesus because of the great love we have for one another.
Grace and peace,