Because God loves us, We can love one another. 1 John 4:11 states, “Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.”
Here is the progression of love we have explored so far: God first loves us, which empowers us to love Him in return, and then to love ourselves. This progression is to continue. Loving ourselves is a necessary step, but we don’t live in isolation; we live in community. As we look through the lens of love at the faces surrounding us, we see them in an entirely new light. These are people for whom Christ died. Now that we have received God’s love, we are empowered to love, and we even want to love. We long to embody Christ and take His love to those around us.
The New Testament is an “us” book written for people together, not for individuals in isolation. This becomes apparent when we consider the “one another” concept that is so significant in the New Testament Epistles. That phrase occurs some sixty-one times, almost all of which have to do with how Christians relate to one another. For example, we read that we are to pray for one another, encourage one another, greet one another, and forgive one another. These statements form a kind of road map of godly relationships, showing the little highways of caring that connect us. All those roads lead to this destination: “Love one another.”
In Jesus’ last great address to His disciples, delivered in that Upper Room with His closest companions, “Love one another” was a major theme. In fact, He established it as “a new commandment” (John 13:34-35). What was new about it? It was the fact that the source of all love had personally modeled the way to love. Jesus practiced “loving one another” perfectly in His three years with those men. He cut a highway of love through the wilderness of a broken world and demonstrated the sacrificial nature of love for others.
Now, on His last night on earth before His crucifixion, Jesus urges His disciples to carry this love forward. He repeats the commandment (John 15:12-13) and tells His disciples (and us as well) to imitate Him in our love for one another. “I have shown you My love,” He is saying. “Now you follow My lead. You love one another in the same way.” He is identifying love for others as the trademark of His true disciples. In other words, people will know we are Christians by our love.
Peter, who was present for this discussion, got the point. Later, he wrote, “Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins (1 Peter 4:8). Peter learned the truth of this verse through a bitter experience he would never forget. In a moment of fear, he denied that he even knew Jesus. The overcoming power of love was driven home when Jesus later sought him out and forgave him.
It’s obvious that Jesus’ command to love one another also deeply impressed John. After reiterating the commandment twice in chapter 3 of his first letter (1 John 3:11, 23), he says in chapter 4, “Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us (1 John 4:11-12).
In other words, God is invisible, but His love flowing through us makes His presence tangible to others, much like the rustling leaves gives tangible evidence to the presence of the wind. When we truly love, John says, God lives within us and builds up our capacity for love, making it more powerful and dynamic all the time.
More on “loving one another” next time …