Here are five ways that God’s Word teaches us to love others.
Jesus commanded us, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” (Matthew 22:37); “this is the great and first commandment” (Matthew 22:38); “and the second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:39); “on these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 22:40). The priority starts vertically with loving God above all things (Matthew 6:33), including ourselves, but then extends horizontally to our neighbor. Who is our neighbor (Luke 10:25-37)? You won’t see anyone today who isn’t your neighbor.
We should “walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God” (Ephesians 5:2), which means “to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship” (Romans 12:1). Jesus reminds us that “greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). Some would die for a spouse or child, but how about an enemy? That’s what Jesus did while we were at one time His enemies (Romans 5:10). If we lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters, we imitate Christ, Who loved those who were at best unlovable and died to show it.
Paul reminds us why we have been called: “You were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another” (Galatians 5:13). The freedom to serve can also be freedom to sin. As the Apostle Paul writes, “through love serve one another,” meaning that love is the motivation to serve. Paul says elsewhere that we are to be “submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ” (Ephesians 5:21).
Since God is the God of all comfort, we ought to be comforting others with the same comfort we’ve been given. Just as Paul says of God, it is He “who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God” (2 Corinthians 1:4). Since it is “God, who comforts the downcast” (2 Corinthians 7:6), should we not be comforting one another, too? That is love in action.
Preferring Others’ Love
Isn’t it hard not to do things purely out of selfish ambition? I know it is for me, but the Bible tells us that we should “do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves” (Philippians 2:3). This means not interrupting others in their sentences, not dominating the conversation at a Bible study or Sunday school class, and opening the door for others to let them go in first. Our natural tendency is to focus on “me-ology” and not “theology,” but we’re to “love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor” (Romans 12:10). Sounds great but is hard to do, isn’t it?
Here is the order: Love God first, and love our neighbor in the same way we love ourselves. We make sure our needs are met, but what of those who have little or nothing? Can we love them with a sacrificial, giving love? Can we be a servant to all? Can we give comfort to others who need it? And can we put others ahead of ourselves? That’s a tall order, but we know we can’t do this without Christ strengthening us (Philippians 4:13).