What Does Love Mean?
Jesus gave his disciples a New Commandment as part of His final instructions after the Last Supper. He said in John 13:34-35, “I give you a new command: Love one another. Just as I have loved you, you are also to love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” This was not meant to be instructions or a command given exclusively for His disciples. It should be an integral part of every believer’s life. It is the central theme and message of our faith: "God is love,” “The greatest of these is love,” “Love your neighbor,” “Love your enemy!” A church that demonstrates this kind of love is usually an indicator of a healthy church. I am encouraged to see many in our church body who exemplify this in their walk. As I say this, I also ask myself, can we be more loving? Each one of us should consider, can I love better and more than I am now? I believe the answer is, absolutely!
In a world where love is defined in so many ways, we need to be clear about our understanding of biblical love; especially since the command to love is the most frequently given command in Scripture. Love defines the essence of Christianity — God’s love for us, our love for God, our love for one another. The characteristics of love is described by the apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 13, usually called the love chapter. Love is patient, kind, does not envy, is not boastful…and the list goes on.
This kind of love (agape), is not just about feelings and emotions. Often times it is demonstrated or defined in the context of action.
“For God loved the world in this way: He GAVE his one and only Son (John 3:16)
“But God proves His own love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Rom 5:8)
“No one has greater love than this: to lay down his life for his friends (John 15:13)
As we think about how we can love better and more, I think it’s important to recognize that love has to be intentional. It doesn’t happen by accident. We can’t expect it to come to us naturally every day and in every situation. Love happens because it is planned and premeditated. We need to pray about it, set it as a priority in our daily walk, and recognize that we need the help of the Holy Spirit. We also need to understand that we need to demonstrate this kind of love regardless of the cost or consequence towards ourselves. This implies that sometimes it needs to be sacrificial. That is what is meant by considering others and their needs more important than our own as Paul instructs in Philippians 2:3. A prerequisite for this kind of behavior is humility. Something I still have a lot to learn about.
As I mentioned earlier, love is action. We shouldn’t just talk about it. “Little children, let us not love in word or speech, but in action and in truth.” (1 John 3:18) The source and greatest example of this kind of love and caring is Jesus Christ. “This is how we have come to know love: He laid down His life for us.” And our response should be, “We should also lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.” (1John 3:16)
Love is always focused on another person. It doesn’t exist in a vacuum and we can’t isolate ourselves, be alone and love. “Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matt 22:39)
If this is the most important thing that Jesus instructed his disciples to do after loving God, if we are commanded to do this, and if there are so many passages in Scripture instructing us to do this, I think it’s important that we learn more about this action word and learn how to be better at it, even at a huge cost. Like most skills, it takes practice and we get better at it over time.