When asked about the greatest commandments, Jesus said this:
“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
Matthew 22:37-40 NIV
Notice that both commandments have something in common: love. By loving God and by loving others, you will obey all other commandments. Think about it. If you love others, you won’t lie to them. If you love others, you won’t commit adultery. If you love others, you won’t covet their things. If you love God with all your heart and soul and mind, you will be focused on what he wants and therefore will not sin.
Love is also how others will know that we are followers of Christ. In fact, it is so important that Jesus reiterated this multiple times. Because he loved us, we are to show love for one another.
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 ESV
But we all sin and we all break the commandments at some point in time. That means that in the moment, or all the time, we aren’t loving God and/or others. Let’s admit it, it is hardto be loving all the time. With some people, it is almost humanly impossible to love them at all. That is why we have the Holy Spirit to help us. In fact, the first fruit of the Holy Spirit is love. So let’s talk about what love is.
Love isn’t some mushy gushy feeling. It isn’t sex. So what is it? We’ve seen how God loves us. God is perfect love. So looking at Jesus’ life is a great way of looking at what love truly is. Although we will never love perfectly, the way God loves us, we can strive to be the best we can.
Paul wrote a letter to the Corinthians about being the body of Christ. In the midst of this letter, we get chapter 13, the love chapter. We often hear these verses in weddings, but these verses weren’t written for romantic love, they were written about Christian love. These verses are about how we, as Christians, are to act, and we are to act in love.
If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.
1 Corinthians 13:1-3 NIV
First, Paul talks about how important it is to have love. It doesn’t matter what you do, if you don’t have a motive of love behind it, those actions are for nothing. Notice that all these actions are considered “Godly” actions: speaking in tongues, prophesying, having great faith, giving to the poor, and suffering. Without love, those actions are nothing. It doesn’t matter whatyou are doing. Your intentand motiveare what matters. So what does love look like?
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
1 Corinthians 13:4-7 NIV
Jesus showed patience with Thomas. Jesus had just risen from the dead. When Thomas was told this, he doubted. However, Jesus did not get angry or impatient. He obliged Thomas’ request.
Now Thomas (also known as Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!”
But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”
A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”
John 20:24-27 NIV
In fact, all throughout Jesus’ life, we can see examples of him being extremely patient with the disciples. They faltered a lot, they doubted, they denied him, they seemed not ever get it, … but Jesus never got impatient with them or yelled at them. Even when he was about to be arrested and crucified, and his disciples could not stay awake while he prayed, he was patient.
Jesus was also kind. There are many instances in the Bible of Jesus healing people. All they did was ask, and Jesus did.
When Jesus came down from the mountainside, large crowds followed him. A man with leprosy came and knelt before him and said, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.”
Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” Immediately he was cleansed of his leprosy. Then Jesus said to him, “See that you don’t tell anyone. But go, show yourself to the priest and offer the gift Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.”
When Jesus had entered Capernaum, a centurion came to him, asking for help. “Lord,” he said, “my servant lies at home paralyzed, suffering terribly.”
Jesus said to him, “Shall I come and heal him?”
The centurion replied, “Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. But just say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and that one, ‘Come,’ and he comes. I say to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”
When Jesus heard this, he was amazed and said to those following him, “Truly I tell you, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith. I say to you that many will come from the east and the west, and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. But the subjects of the kingdom will be thrown outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
Then Jesus said to the centurion, “Go! Let it be done just as you believed it would.” And his servant was healed at that moment.
When Jesus came into Peter’s house, he saw Peter’s mother-in-law lying in bed with a fever. He touched her hand and the fever left her, and she got up and began to wait on him.
When evening came, many who were demon-possessed were brought to him, and he drove out the spirits with a word and healed all the sick.
Matthew 8:1-16 NIV
There are no instances where Jesus was envious, boastful or proud. He did not dishonor others and was not easily angered, as we saw in the patience section. Love is not self-seeking and neither was Jesus. Even when he was facing torture, scandal, dishonor, and death, he still sought the will of God the Father, not himself.
Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”
Matthew 26:39 NIV
Love is about truth, and truth is from God. Nothing evil is in truth. Jesus spoke a lot about truth, where it comes from, and how Christians are to be about truth. In fact, he even gave us the Holy Spirit so that we would know the truth, even after Jesus ascended to heaven.
Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me."
John 14:6 ESV
Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
John 8:31-32 NIV
“I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. He will glorify me because it is from me that he will receive what he will make known to you. All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will receive from me what he will make known to you.”
John 16:12-15 NIV
Love always protects, hopes, and perseveres. Jesus’ death and resurrection offers protection for our souls. If we believe in Jesus, our soul is protected from hell. Jesus literally felt the sting of death and conquered it in order to give our souls protection. We talked all last week about hope. Our love of God produces a hope within us. That hope helps us love others. Love also perseveres. It doesn’t give up. The Bible itself is God not giving up on humanity. Jesus’ life is example after example of him not giving up on the disciples, the Jewish people, and the Gentiles.
This is what love is. It is putting others before ourselves. It is putting God first and obeying him at all cost. Jesus knew how hard this would be for us. So he gave us the Holy Spirit to help guide us. Jesus loves us and wants us to love others. Focusing on him and following the promptings of the Holy Spirit will help us do this.
Thank you for loving me and showing me the perfect example of what love is. I know I can never have perfect love, like you have for me, but I want to have more love for others and for you. Grow my love. Help me to see the ways you love me, so that I can worship and praise you. Help me to see others the way you see them, so that I can be more loving toward them. As I learn about love this week, help me to internalize it so that I can follow your commands and your example.
I love you.
- How has Jesus shown you love? Take time to praise him for this.
- What parts of love do you struggle with? Pray over these, asking the Holy Spirit for help.