There is so much involved in what it means to genuinely love others this “exam” will have to be broken up into a two day post. The second part will come tomorrow or Monday.
When asked what the greatest commandment in the Law was, Jesus said it was to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. He said the second was like it and it was to love your neighbor as you love yourself (Mark 12:30-31).
That is probably not new information to anyone reading this. However, that in its self could be a problem. Most of us have probably heard this truth hundreds of times. We have heard it from Sunday school teachers, preachers, our parents and we have read it ourselves many times.
The problem that this can cause is a sense of over familiarity. We are so familiar with this teaching that we stop thinking about it. We stop thinking about the importance of loving one another. Sometimes we skim through familiar teachings like this so that we can get into something a little “deeper.” The tragic result of this is that we end up spending very little time thinking about the meaning and application of loving each other. But when it comes to examining ourselves to see if Jesus is in us, we can’t get away with this.
“We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love his brother abides in death. 1 John 3:14 (NKJV)
Throughout the book of 1 John, John continually paints a contrast between genuine believers and nominal believers. Genuine believers have eternal life and know God. Genuine believers know they have eternal life and know God because their faith motivates them to do certain things that prove they have eternal life. Nominal believers on the other hand, say they have eternal life and know God when they really don’t. Their faith does not prompt them to do anything but say they have eternal life and know God. These proofs of life are completely missing. Therefore, John says, they do not have eternal life and they do not know God.
One of the proofs of life is a genuine love for others. One of the points that John has repeated made is that it isn’t an occasional act of obedience or an occasional act of holiness that was a proof of eternal life. It is a consistent lifestyle of obedience and holiness that is the proof of eternal life. In the same way it is not an occasional act of love is a proof of eternal life. It is a consistent lifestyle of loving other Christians that is the proof of eternal life.
I’ve always wondered how having love for other believers shows eternal life. I mean, I’ve known it was true, but the why or how, that I didn’t know. Thankfully the Bible gives us the answer to these questions.
“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. 8 He who does not love does not know God, for God is love.” 1 John 4:7-8 (NKJV)
You see love is a defining characteristic of God. Therefore, anyone who genuinely knows God—has eternal life—will reflect this characteristic of God. You cannot know the God of love without having love for other believers.
In the Greek language there were three basic words that were used for love. One is the word “eros” which referred to sexual or erotic love. This is a love that is based upon sexual attraction. Another is the word “phileo” which referred to brotherly love. This is a reciprocal love that is based on friendship.
Then there is the word “agape” which is an unselfish and sacrificial love. This is a love that loves regardless of feelings—whether a person feels like loving or not. It loves a person even if the person does not deserve to be loved. It actually loves the person who is utterly unworthy of being loved. Unless I am mistaken this word is always the word used when speaking about God’s love for us.
It is this word “agape” that is used here. A major part of the idea here is that we are to love others with the same kind of unselfish and sacrificial love that God has loved us with. Think about what that means to us.
This means in part that we don’t get to pick and choose who it is that we want to love. We are to love everyone regardless of anything else. So what the Bible is telling us here is not that we are to have a brotherly love for other Christians—I like you—but that we are to have a deep, abiding, self-sacrificing love for other Christians.
Is it important for Christians to love others, particularly other Christians? Yes it is. A genuine love for others should characterize those who have been genuinely saved. A person who feels no genuine love for others, particularly other Christians should question the genuineness of his or her salvation.
For further study read 1 Corinthians 13:1-8. How important is love? What does love do? What does love not do? Read verses 4-8 and replace love with your name. Does that ring true or bring conviction?
Read 1 John 3:16-18. Do believers have any sort of obligation to help those in need? What does it say about us if we see someone in need, have the ability to help and do nothing?