“A new command 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)
The command to love another is not a new command. To love another person is in some ways fundamental to the human experience. We have a sense, a yearning for other people. Even the most introverted of us craves another. The command to love is perhaps one of the most self-evident principles in human culture, but it is not easy to achieve.
There is great confusion about how to love, and what exactly is love. Each culture tries to work this out in its own way. However, no culture has ever really captured what it means to love another person. In Western Culture we believe love is carnal, or maybe romantic. Love can be commitment, niceness, or serving. Love can be flowers, hearts, or jewelry. Love can be loyalty, consideration, or provision.
We have been taught over the years, that love exists only in what a person can receive. For example, we think we are expressing love through service, while that person may actually want us to spend time with them. In English we use the same word to describe our affection for dinner as we do to describe our affection for our children. As you know, love is so very confusing.
Love from a Biblical perspective is something separate from all of these ideas. It seems to be less about emotion or feelings and more about decisions and actions. At its core is an authentic concern for the other. Love is a posture of the heart that is not dependent on the ups and downs of each day. Love is a constant. Love is generous, but not permissive. Love is something more than the pitiful emotion our culture has turned it into. It is not based on the whims of human frailty.
So the question remains, how do I know if I am loving someone else or not? Jesus gave us a command, and we would do well to understand how we should live it out. Of course, to love properly we must be fully immersed in Christ. We must study his actions, we must learn his heart, and we must be lead by the Holy Spirit.
Paul in 1 Corinthians 13 gave us a great discourse on love. This lesson was directed to a church, not a marriage. However, it works for marriages also. Primarily this passage is Paul’s understanding of that command Christ gave. We ought to see love as the highest calling in our lives.
Instead of trying to fully understand love, maybe we ought to consider “un-love.” Un-love is a concept we do not talk about yet remains familiar to us all. Un-love is not hate. Hate usually has a relational separation involved. Rather un-love is the aspect of our relationships where we are not fulfilling our requirements to love. Maybe we can recognize when we are living in un-love more easily, and it will allow us to love more accurately.
See if this helps:
Un-love is short and mean; un-love envies and boasts; it is arrogant and rude. It demands its own way; it is irritable and resentful. It rejoices with wrongdoing, and mourns the truth. Un-love cowers at all things, is skeptical at all things, despairs at all things, and gives up quickly. (taken from 1 Cor 13)
When we stop to consider these attributes of un-love it is clear how shallow is our love towards others. Read them again, and think about your parents, your friends, your spouse, your children, your church, and your coworkers. Every time I go over that list, the Lord places people on my heart.
We cannot say we act loving towards another person and participate in any of these actions.
So did Jesus really give us a New Command? The answer is yes, he did. First he displayed love (real love), then he taught us how to love, and then he tells us to love others.
Love others in Christ – It will change the world.