"A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples if you love one another." John 13:34-35 NIV
It's almost Valentine's Day, when our thoughts turn to love. So with that in mind, I began to wonder how many times the word "love" appears in the bible. After all, God is love and the Bible is His Word. The number of times "love" appears varies by translation, but, according to reference.com, the word "love" appears 551 times in the New International Version. That's a lot of love!
In John 13:34-35, Jesus told His disciples, "A new command I give you: Love one another." I wonder why He had to command them to love one another. Weren't they already friends? They had been following Jesus for 3 years. Had there been disagreements or bickering? Or was it that as He prepared to die, Jesus knew the difficult road that lay ahead for these men and that their love for each other would be crucial to their mission. These men would carry the gospel to the known world. They would be responsible for propagating the teachings of Jesus to the multitudes. They HAD to love each other; it was crucial.
Fast forward 2000 years. It's still crucial today that followers of Jesus love one another. First of all because we need to set the example for a dark world that is dying it it's sin. Secondly, countless numbers of people have been turned off to the church and ultimately to Jesus because church members didn't love one another. That shouldn't happen, but unfortunately it does. How sad it must make the Lord to see His children hurt each other. The plain and simple truth is that when we don't love each other, we sin. Love is the distinguishing mark of followers of Christ. When we love one another and those around us we show the world not only that we follow Jesus, we show them Jesus and we earn the privilege of introducing them to Him.
How do we love one another, especially those who are hard to love in a very divided society? The answer lies in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8a. In those few verses we find the essence of love, what it is and what it isn't. Love is patient and kind, it doesn't envy or boast. It is not proud, rude, or self-seeking. It is not easily angered and is forgiving. It doesn't delight in evil, but rejoices in the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.
Don't be afraid to love one another, even the ones who are hard to love. If you've been hurt, forgive and love anyway. We love because He first loved us (1John 4:19) God has proven His own love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us! (Romans 5:8). Allow the great love and grace of God to impact and influence your life. When you do, you will find ways to love others. Just give them what you have received. Be the hands and feet of Jesus and love those around you. By doing this they will know that you are His followers. Show them Jesus!
Susan Sims Meyer
Thoughts and paintings from my personal quiet time and Bible study