I don’t know about you but most churches are obsessed about loving each other. Every church I know talks about how we need to love each other. more and more. I remember that our theme for one year was “Love in action”. It’s a nice theme and, like every other church we want to try our best to be biblical and promote a theme which the bible is very big on. Consider the following passages:
“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.
“I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.”
John 17:22, 23, NIV.
“Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.”
1 John 4:7, 8, NIV.
“And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”
1 Corinthians 13:13, NIV.
“Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.”
1 Peter 4:8, NIV.
However despite all our talk about being more loving to each other in order to be a witness to the world the reality is that it keeps turning people off and driving them away from the church. Huh? So what’s going on here?
I think the problem is that we haven’t really understood Jesus’ command properly. If we go back to John 13:34, 35 there is a very very important phrase that most ‘loving’ church people keep missing out on. It’s the phrase
“…as I have loved you.”
In other words what Jesus is commanding his disciples to do is not simply to love each other. He is asking them to do so much more. He is commanding them to love each other in the Jesus way. In other words what Jesus highlights is that there is more that one type of love floating in our world.
There is the type of love which the world operates by. Remember Matthew 5:46, 47? Jesus tells us that even the pagans and tax collectors love their own. How so? It’s very simple – I will love you if you are loveable and good and nice to me otherwise get out of my way and get lost. It’s the typical “You scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours”. Now if this is how the world’s love operates, what happens if you are not good and nice to me? Then I will be bad and nasty to you. In the end we end up arguing, killing each other, back stabbing, etc etc. And when this happens what’s next on the agenda? If you can’t resolve it, which, unfortunately is generally what happens, you split. For all the endless talks about love, for all the songs we sing about love, in practice our world continues to war with each other – in the family, in the workplace, in our community. Sadly this is what happens far too often in the Churches. For all our talk about loving each other, it is nothing other than loving each in the way the world does it. Sadly that is not very very impressive.
In contrast Jesus is telling us, NOT to love each like the world, but to love the Jesus way.How did Jesus loved us? He did not love his friends. Rather he loved his enemies and turned them into friends.
“43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbour and hate your enemy.’44 But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47 And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
Matthew 5:43-48, NIV.
or what about this passage from Romans:
“7 Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. 8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! 10 For if, when we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!”
Romans 5:7-10, NIV.
Loving the Jesus way is not about loving those who are nice to us. Quite the opposite. Loving the Jesus way is loving those who are nasty and unkind to us. it is only when we can love the Jesus way that people will look at the church and be astonished how people from hostile background can get along with each in such a loving way.
We can talk all we like about love – indeed the Beatles constantly sang about love and tells us that all we need is love, love, love. But their brand of love was never able to make a difference. Jesus commands us to love his way and it is only when we love his way that the world will know that we are his disciples.