“And this commandment we have from Him: that he who loves God must love his brother also.” (1 John 4:21).
I have to admit that this is a difficult passage for me. As a heartfelt Christian, I want to take the precepts of the Bible seriously, and this happens to be a pretty serious command (at least for me). Love your brother. Or, to put it in a more general way, “Love your brothers and sisters in Christ”. 1 John 3:16 says, “By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren” and John 15 :13 says, “greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.” Love your brother. It doesn’t say, “be kind to your brother”, or, “be generous”. Those things I CAN do. It’s easy for me to be kind to people- at least to their face. Isn’t that kind of the Midwestern protestant way? We’re nice? In fact, it says we are to love- and the greatest love one can show is to “lay down your life”. What does that mean? My study bible says, “True Christian faith results in loving behavior; that is why John says that the way we act can give us assurance that we belong to Christ” and “We are to love each other as Jesus loved us, and he loved us enough to give his life for us.” This doesn’t mean we have to die in order to show love- well, yeah, we do. It means we have to die to OURSELVES. It means we love in such an unselfish way that we put others needs before our own. My study Bible notes that “It is impossible to have this love unless God helps us set aside our own natural desires so that we can love and not expect anything in return. Thus, the more we become like Christ, the more love we will show to others.” So, how does this love manifest itself in our daily relationships? This is the hard part for me. We have at our fingertips a detailed list of what love IS. It’s in that well known passage 1 Corinthians 13. I like the way my Bible phrases it-
“Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. Love does not demand its own way. Love is not irritable, and it keeps no record of when it has been wronged. It is never glad about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.”
Read this a couple of times through. Is it a tough one? It is for me. The patient and kind part I can do… the rest of the list becomes a bit more challenging. In fact, I can honestly say I am a miserable failure. For instance, “Love keeps no record of when it has been wronged”. Or how about “It is never glad about injustice”? Don’t we all wish someone who has wronged us would pay for their sins? Have you failed to forgive someone? I have. It’s really hard to live according to love. It means I have to give up my selfish wants- it means I have to put others ahead of myself. It means I have to love “through every circumstance”. In this season of my life, I want to learn how to truly love others. I want to learn how to forgive, how to leave my feelings at the feet of the cross, and learn to lay down my life for my friends, just as Christ gave His life for me. Paul wrote in the preceding verse “but if I didn’t love others, I would be of no value whatsoever” (1 Corinthians 13:3). My skills, my gifts, my desires- they mean nothing if I don’t love the people in my life.
1 John 4:8 says “But anyone who does not love does not know God- for God is love”. I pray that I may know God- I pray that God’s love would be made manifest in my actions and attitudes towards others. And I pray that I would know what true love is- to lay down my life for my friends.
Bible passages and notes are taken from Tyndale’s New Living Translation- Life Application Study Bible.